Manguliechi succession: Tracing the life and times of Omukuuka Omukambisi Joseph Natembeya, a traditional preacher in the succession race
Written by Nandemu Barasa and Timothy Makokha
Read 1984 Times
Traditional preacher Omukambisi Joseph Natembeya with his second wife Mrs. Margaret Nanjala at their home. [Photo|Nandemu Barasa|West Fm]
The demise of Bukusu traditional preacher Wanyonyi Manguliechi has left a void that has elicited deep deliberations among members of the community on who will be the appropriate candidate to fill the now empty position.
Todate, since Manguliechi passed on early July 2012, a series of names of potential traditional preachers has been floated among the many preachers available but who largely vary in their styles of preaching with some being well versed with the community’s culture than others to match the late Mzee Wanyonyi Manguliechi.
The Bukusu people have different gifts of the spirits which they call Kimisambwa and one of them is Khuswala kumusee or Esimbo which entails traditional preaching which the late Mzee Manguliechi used to perform.
Not all the clans among Bukusu people can conduct traditional preaching. Those clans which are well known for producing traditional preachers include Bakitang`a, Baluleti, Babulo, Bakwangwa, Babuya, Bameme, Bamusomi, Bachemwile,Babichachi and Bakhwami among others.
There is an official ceremony that is conducted before one starts preaching where he is given all the paraphernalia, (Bikekwa) that he will use when performing his duties.
There are also rules to be followed before one is ordained to be a traditional preacher among the Bukusu people. To highlight a few, if one is baldheaded, he cannot be ordained to be a preacher. One must have a boy child as his first born, marry a woman who had not been earlier on married anywhere, who had not given birth earlier or a widow.
One cannot also be ordained if there are still people older than him in the clan. Note that women are not ordained to preach.
Back to the late Mzee Manguliechi succession, one of the preachers who has been mentioned as one of the possible successors of the late Manguliechi is Mzee Joseph Natembeya.
Omukambisi Joseph Natembeya was born in the year 1945 in Matili, Esibanga village. His father was Israeli Khaoya of Batukwika - Bakitang’a clan and the mother was called Ann Nekesa Sichangi of Bakokho clan.
His father was the son of Weyenjesia Omwiwana Muchemayi Omwichukhulu Mukiyabi. Natembeya was the second born in a family of six children, but four of his siblings died leaving him with his sister.
He is known from his childhood as a person who is very talkative and free with people and sociable.
Mr. Natembeya recalls his childhood days when one day while he was in the house at home with his father when a cock entered the house and jumped on his head after which the cock crowed while on his head.
A similar scenario occurred recently when a pigeon landed on his head which made him to consult with elders about it but he was told it means he has blessings of his ancestors. On a different occasion another pigeon landed on his head and the interpretation by elders was that he has kumukasa of cultural spirits.
He was circumcised in the year 1956 putting him in the age set of Babanyange.
He started his schooling in the year 1953 at Toloso Primary School in Busakala, Sirisia Constituency. He then transferred to Matili Friends’ Primary school in 1955 to class 3 to proceed with his education.
Generally he was an average pupil academically, although he was the best in History subject. He participated actively in co-curricular activities while in school as he was a footballer and an actor in drama competitions.
In 1959 he transferred to Misikhu Friends and later in 1964 went to Maeni Friends in class 8, did his KAPE exam in 1965 and joined St. Andrews College Uganda in form one.
While in Uganda there was an announcement that the Kenyan government was recruiting people to train as police officers. He was attracted to the police service and therefore opted for it.
He was recruited in the Kenya Police at Kiganjo in 1966 after which he was posted at Kiambu, Thika, Gatundu as one of the security team for then President Jomo Kenyatta.
He was later made the body guard of James Gichuru, Charles Njonjo and Mbiu Koinange. He served in various police posts including Juja, Nacho, Dagoreti, Thika, Nyeri, and Mukurweini. He then retired in 1982 after serving for 18 years.
Later in 1982, he joined security groups and worked for private security companies for some years.
He later joined Hotel Norfolk where he had an opportunity to meet African presidents who were meeting at the hotel with president Daniel Moi on several occasions.
He married his first wife, Rosemary Nashikawi in 1967 and was blessed with 10 children.
He then married his second wife Margret Nanjala in 1984 and were blessed with 8 children although 2 died leaving him with 6.
In general he has a total of 14 children that is 8 sons and 6 daughters.
The nature of his work enabled him to travel widely in Africa as he recalls going to Tanzania, Zambia among other African nations.
He was always seen as a resourceful person especially to tourists who were interested in learning Bukusu culture.
His service at Norfolk Hotel made him to join Utalii College in 1997 to do a course in hotel hospitality and tourist management.
He is member of Dini ya Musambwa and is proud to be a follower of the religion as he said the nature of his occupation requires that he respects all the Kimisambwa of the Bukusu people.
He retired in 2001 and returned home from Nairobi to Matili Village, Kimilili Constituencey of Bungoma County.
Traditional hat made from cowrie shells won by Mr. Natembeya when he conducts his preachings with a fly-whisk made from Buffalo tail. [PHOTO|Nandemu Barasa|West Fm]
He then moved at his present residence - Khamulati village - in 2004 but the village was split recently into two hence they are in Buyanji village whose village elder is his wife. The other section of the village was named Sawa village.
He started conducting the traditional preaching among the Bukusu Community in 2006 although he has not been inaugurated officially by the Bukusu council of elders but he is hopeful that next year he will be crowned officially in a cultural ceremony.
Mzee Natembeya’s clan Batukwika – Bakitang’a is well known among Bukusu people in traditional preaching, Khuswala kumuse and therefore everyone is waiting to see if he will fit in the late Mzee Manguliechi’s shoes.
Other than coming from Batukwika – Bakitang’a clan among Bukusu people which is mostly known for traditional preaching, Natembeya’s father Israeli Khaoya was among the founders of Dini Ya Musambwa which focuses strictly on cultural values, teachings and gifts of their spirits.
Basing on that, Mzee Natembeya is seen to have been brought up in a very cultural way keenly following the footsteps of his father.
However there are other preachers who are older than Mzee Natembeya in the community and we are going to profile them as well. In our profiling next time we shall be featuring Mzee Yonah Namuli who is also a traditional preacher from Chwele.