The Kipsigis people are a Kenyan ethnic group that have a rich and diverse history. Among them, Kipchomber Araap Koilege stands out as a historical war hero who played a significant role in the spiritual and political leadership of the Kipsigis people.
Kipchomber Araap Koilege, who was also known by his nickname Kochichilem, was born into the Talai clan in Cheriri, Kiptere, Belgut, around the 1840s. His family was well-known within the Talai lineage, with his father, Orkoiyot Kimnyole Araap Turkat, being from the famous Nandi Talai clan. Kipchomber had two brothers, Koitalel Araap Samoei and Kipngetich Araap Boisio.
Before his death in 1890, Kimnyole had instructed his sons not to accept any leadership positions within the Nandi community. This was because the Orkoiyot, or spiritual and political leader, of the Nandi people were seen as a threat to the British colonialists, who were determined to impose their authority in Kenya.
Despite his father’s instructions, Kipchomber took over the spiritual and political leadership of the Kipsigis people, who were close to the Nandi. He expanded their territories by pushing the Luos and Abugusi further away, earning him the nickname Kochichilem.
The Kipsigis people believed that Kipchomber’s prophetic powers came from Asis (God), and he himself is reported to have said that he was Asis’s son. As a result, he became a powerful spiritual and political leader who played a significant role in the Kipsigis community.
However, Kipchomber and his brothers faced persecution after the British discovered the lethal power the Orkoik had. His brother Koitalel Araap Samoei, who was the Nandi community Orkoiyot as his father’s successor, was killed in 1905. Kipchomber himself was exiled to central Kenya, where he died in 1916. Kipngetich Araap Boisio was exiled to Moyale, where he too died. Their son Barsirian Araap Manyei holds the record for the longest detained political prisoner in Kenya.
Kipchomber Araap Koilege’s legacy lives on, and he remains an important figure in Kenyan history. His contributions to the spiritual and political leadership of the Kipsigis people cannot be overstated. He was a man of vision, courage, and determination, who helped to shape the destiny of his people.
Today, Kipchomber Araap Koilege serves as an inspiration to many, particularly within the Kipsigis community. His life and legacy remind us of the importance of fighting for what we believe in, even in the face of adversity. He remains a symbol of hope and resilience, and his story deserves to be told and remembered for generations to come.