Kenya: Kitale Club - the Stopover for Slave Merchants

17 September 2019

More than a century after the abolition of slave trade, a building that hosted slave merchants still stands in Trans Nzoia County.

What is today known as the Kitale Club was a stopover for the merchants.

When Kitale Town, originally known as "Quitale", was founded in 1908 by white settlers, it was a relay station on the slave route between Uganda and Tanzania.

It was here that slave merchants would stay and enjoy refreshments as the slaves remained outside, chained to a tree.

The club was established in 1924 by British soldiers and was strictly patronised by whites.

Its pioneer members say there used to be a ring in the club's parking lot around the large indigenous tree to which the slaves would be chained, and which still stands.

"A group of European farmers requested for about 100 hectares of land to build the club and the golf course, which was granted," Mr John Kasyoka, the club's manager, told the Nation last week.

GOLF COURSE

Mr A.Q. Roberts was in charge of the construction of the golf course.

It originally had nine holes, but in 1932, more land was added to the original parcel with the intention of creating 18 holes.

By 1938, four more holes had been added. However, the project was abandoned when the World War II broke out.

In 1951, the 13th the Duke of Manchester, Alexander Montagu, and two other members contributed money to complete the remaining holes.

Kenya's war of independence in the early 1960s prompted many white settler farmers to leave the country. By early 1970s, Kitale Club's membership had declined drastically.

But the few remaining, with help from of Kitale Sports Club, currently St Anthony Boys High School, managed to save it.

EXPANSION

In the 1990s, the club recovered and started doing business.

Travellers from Uganda, Sudan and Lake Turkana began visiting Kitale, and since there were no good hotels at the time, Kitale Club came in handy.

The club expanded over the years, providing accommodation ranging from modern rooms to traditional huts that give it its unique feel.

It also has a modern swimming pool and a wood-heated sauna.

The 18-hole golf club with a scenic view of Mt Elgon is the largest in the North Rift, Nyanza and Western Kenya.

It boasts natural features like gullies, a forest, and nature trails that make for challenging games that attract not just local golfers, but those from neighbouring countries.

SWIMMING POOL

The sports bar at the clubhouse is beautiful, with the wood panelling on the walls and hardwood floors well-maintained.

A big stone fireplace sits at one end of the room, with names of past golf captains or winners of various cups embossed on it.

The bar was strictly for men as women sat in the general bar. If a woman wanted to leave, she peeped through the small glass panel on the door to signal her husband, who would signal back.

Near the sports bar is a room with well-maintained and expensive snooker tables made of mahogany from the Congo forest.

Each weighs about 600 kilos. "The Snooker Tables are priceless. They are so precious that no one can really attach a price value to them," club chairman Richard Kamau Njenga said.

And outside, near the swimming pool and children's playground is a model of the tractor used by the first white settlers.

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