Kipsigis - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. There are seven sequentially recurring age sets, called ipinda. One is free to dance, drink, and carry on with age mates but ought to be more circumspect in the company of seniors. Men should not marry the daughters of their age mates. Women are also initiated into age sets, but they take the age-set status of their husbands when they marry. Kipsigis men also belong to patrilineal associations called boriet, which, in the past, served as regiments in times of war. The kokwet is the hub of community life. People call on their fellow kokwet members for mutual aid. Members of the kokwet or of neighboring kokwotinwek also cooperate in public projects such as building schools. Church groups, particularly those formed by Protestant sects, are becoming important forms of association. Church women have organized cooperative groups that crosscut kokwet ties. The social and economic distance between prosperous farmers and those who are less fortunate is growing. The social implications of such differentiation are as yet unclear, but the emergence of a landless or land-poor rural proletariat seems a likely prospect.

Political Organization. Kipsigis place great value on personal autonomy and are reticent to interfere in one another's affairs. Men may be respected for their achievements and admired for their persuasive oratory, but they do not receive consistent support for their positions at public gatherings. Cliques and political factions are ad hoc and unstable. The basic forum of political participation is the kokwet council, which is composed of all adult men within the kokwet. These men appoint a "village elder," who serves as a liaison to the local subchief appointed by the Kenyan government. The subchief or the local chief may call a kokwet meeting to communicate government policy.

Social Control. Kipsigis place great stock in their notion of respect. A sister respects her brother by dropping her playful attitude toward him once he is initiated. A man respects his mother-in-law by keeping his distance from her. Elders always command respect. Losing one's temper is considered an unfortunate and embarrassing lapse. Angry words are rarely spoken; they may cause physical harm. Serious arguments are mended by a formal apology. The ultimate sanction of serious misconduct is a father s or elder's curse. It is believed that some elders have the power to curse even unknown culprits to death. Criminal conduct is defined by the Kenyan government, and local administration police handle it.

Conflict. In cases of chronic marital discord, a man may send his wife back to her natal home, or she may elect to go herself. Disputes between neighbors involving boundaries, property damage, and the like are heard by the kokwet council. Jealousy or hidden enmity may provoke witchcraft, which can be directed at people or cattle, but witchcraft accusations are rare. Sanctions include shunning or, in extreme cases, banishment. Cattle raiding, a once-popular pursuit of Kipsigis warriors, is no longer tolerated.

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Mar 3, 2011 @ 2:14 pm
Good work.add information about clans as they form important administrative units now.thank you
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Nov 12, 2011 @ 8:08 am
Nice stuff. Please add information about the 200 Clans. Thanks.
damaris chepngeno
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Nov 21, 2013 @ 2:02 am
Educating information.Its good for the new generation.Please add more information on causes of conflict and give us method of conflicts resolution used by kipsigis community

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