top of page
  • Writer's pictureStephen Osieyo


Updated: Jul 9, 2020

I once asked in a Dholuo forum the translation for the word rachier and several answers were Gor Mahia chairman. Not far from the home of the chairman of Gor Mahia F C is the setting of this story. In fact I think when he was a young boy he must have cycled to go and pay for his school fees at the district headquarters of Central Nyanza by then. I also think that this story by Grace Ogot was set slightly earlier than Ambrose Mole Rachier’s time. In fact this story was way before Gor Mahia Football Club, Ambrose Rachier and author Grace Ogot. However Ukwala Boma the Siaya District headquarters was already there serving the muzungu. I am not sure in what role or capacity.

My story is re-telling from 40 year memory of Grace Ogot’s short story of The Basket in a book of short stories titled Land Without Thunder. I read this book may be a couple of times in my life. But the effect it had on me is that anytime someone asks which the greatest story you have read, I always say it is one story in a collection by Grace Ogot titled Land Without Thunder. If I could write a script for a thriller bigger than Jaws it would have to be this story. If any movie were to outdo Steven Spielberg’s great Hollywood block busters it will have to be this story.

I last read it 40 years ago but it stays engraved with the same effect. I will try to retell it vaguely plus a little bit of imagination of mine. After all tales of mysteries and imagination is what life is about. You know like they say, the belief in life is the essence of youth.Most of all I have localised into and introduced words that you were not supposed to as Africa was still suffering from an overdose of colonialism.


ACT 1:

It’s a Saturday like any other in greenery may and Ogenya walks to his Musung boss and asks to leave early to go and see his wife in Kagonya on the outskirts of Ukwala boma. Ogenya was a Tribal Police stationed at Ukwala. They were housed in round huts facing the Alego Komenya. All you have to do is to trek past Sumur sub location, cross river Ndhoya and you are in Komenya. Komenya has several reputations. And depending on your age it can be splendidly delightful. When I was young you could say Komenya was like East Sussex of England.

Ogenya had not slept well the last night, he had nightmares of what he could not see. An elusive opponent as if the night runners were having a field day around his government provided hut. Being a Saturday he knew Bwana would not object to him leaving early. So he set off on the Ukwala- Aboke road past the now Matibabu Hospital on the left to get to his home and take the usual salt to his wife. He was never worried about being away from his wife. Ugenya as a frontier group is full of intelligence gathering jauok (night runners) and dissemination network of jokong’o. Indeed every Luo land locality has inbuilt intelligence gathering network of jajuk. They have a bit of fun but are a deterrent to incest, infidelity, treachery, stock theft, hooliganism. They are a necessary inconvenience in a community. Ogenya would get to know anything he wanted to know but as part of manning to manhood he had been so many times drilled in ethics such as ka irango gima gweno chamo to dak icham gweno. (It’s unmanly to poke your nose in a wife’s personal affairs).

Ogenya’s wife Nyakaradolo, felt some fatigue and laziness and could not harrow any more, she decided to haro, the green leafy boo vegetable. The first green boo cooked with thudho is a delicacy of Ogenya. Actually Ogenya also prefers that the now plentiful Odhadho (Nam Lolwe salmon) is first dried after basting with its kedhno (bile) then cooked with thudho. In that way kedhno chemicals will combat any kwiri (poisonous bit) it may have encountered while in the waters. And the thudho will burn down the fat that the spawning Odhadho have in abundance at this time of rainy season. If you add that to regular weekly Karadolo asphyxia, there was no chance of heart ailments.

So Nyakaradolo set off to go back home early. In any case it’s a Saturday and Ogenya ja Boma will be coming for his weekly tour of duty. She needed to look her best when welcoming him. As she approached the village she saw people huddled in front of her house. Ogenya had not yet built a house and they were still in the simba (not Lion, you dummy). In any case he would only need to move out when the children neared marrying age and that was 20 or so years to go.

She could recognize everybody and since there was no wailing, she knew nothing was wrong with the health of the baby or she assured herself. But something was awfully not right. Her upper eyelid had been dancing for a week and that meant good tidings so she did not talk about it. It was a way try to tempt good tidings that was signaling on her dancing eyelid. She had dreamt of a snake but she discounted it because she had just seen the ‘leaves’ a week ago. So this snake in her dreams was irrelevant.

As she neared the gate she saw the need to brush the little girl and hurry past her. Just at the gate she stumbled hitting her right toe on a pebble. The pain was numbed with the realization that she was named after a man. So if she stumbled on the left would have to be bad omen but still hastened her pace.

Then Aoche (Aor), the baby sitter pulled from the crowd and ran towards her with tears in her eyes. Aoche was speaking but she could not hear a thing except the baby is sleeping in the bed. Aoche was a good omen. In Aoche's clan no japidi lost a child in infancy. Losing a child as a baby sitter will hang around a family line for a generation at least. That is why she was very comfortable that whatever it, was not Aoche’s making.

On reaching lihar she threw down her luggage. Then with one glare the murmurs went dead. It’s the mother in law who had the courage to speak first. “Nyathi dhako wadwa, my grandchild is asleep in the bed and on the bed there is a rachier (not the chairman of Gor Mahia FC).

She took the next three steps but she was literally gliding to the door way that the snake had no chance to feel her movement with the flicking tongue. Rachier was taken by surprise. This entry was a game changer. Suddenly the snake noticed a new combatant had engaged the door way, with a completely fresh whiff of freshly dug soil and a scent of thick green vegetation. Is this a mongoose or another snake or a giant snake eating carnival? Whatever the new star player is, it must be ground player who dwells and commands the play on  the ground. Its time for change of rules of engagement.

Nyakaradolo looked at her infant not aware that the threat of danger had her bladder let loose with urine streaming her otherwise curvy legs. She had just had a baby and it left her legs nicely toned and enticing like that of a manyuru. Then in less than one second she turned her gaze to rachier (for the last time, Not the Gor Mahia FC chairman). And right on the bed of nyakaradolo the snake had decided to do its own dolo thach into a heap. Nyakaradolo stared back without flinching the snake’s stare for a minute. Not batting an eyelid. The snake buckled first. It attempted to jet that stinging 2-meter spits at Nyakaradolo but nothing came out. It tried again opening it dark coloured mouth. Still no fluids jetted out at Nyakaradolo. The black mamba knew the real ‘karadolo’ was here. Nyakaradolo knew this is deadly combat. She heaved a deep heavy sigh that was more a hiss than a sigh, partly forcing the air through her pretty small nose. With the silence in the court yard the sound was audible even to the snake.

Meanwhile behind Nyakaradolo there was a deadly silence with the brother in-laws and co wives dumbfounded. She turned around to look at who was brave enough to see her die for her child but they could not even look her in the eye. Then she spoke, “Why did I leave my ja kager suitor for a clan of fellow women. Is this the clan I married into”? Nobody spoke as her words had cut through them. Then she turned around to face the snake in self-sacrifice.

When she turned around the snake feeling threatened by the gaze, the soil scent, the strange hiss and dry spit had uncoiled itself and was slithering away to get a strategic corner behind the bed, far away from all. It really did not matter Nyakaradolo had declared that rachier will bite and spit on her but “my baby comes with me right now. Now, not yesterday, now!”

With one swoop nyakaradolo took just one step, grabbed the baby and she was out in the courtyard with the baby.



Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page