Queen's Death Renews Calls For Return of Kenyan Leader's Head

Kenyans are calling for Britain to return the head of a revered tribal leader who led a bloody resistance movement against colonial rule more than a century ago, after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Koitalel Arap Samoei spearheaded fierce opposition to the construction of the so-called "Lunatic Express," a railway from Kenya's Indian Ocean port of Mombasa through Nandi in the Rift Valley to Lake Victoria in Uganda.

Many thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the more than decade-long struggle that began in 1895 when surveyors first marked out land in Nandi as a route for the railway.

Kenyan historians say British colonial authorities lured Samoei to a meeting in October 1905 ostensibly to negotiate a truce but instead he and a number of fellow warriors were shot dead.

 Samoei, an Orkoiyot or spiritual leader of the Nandi people, was decapitated and his head taken to England as a war trophy, according to Nandi elders.

The death of Queen Elizabeth II, who was on a visit to Kenya in 1952 when she became monarch, has reignited demands for Britain to face up to the horrors of its colonial past.


Map of the Uganda Railway, Mombasa to Port Florence, British East Africa, 1909.

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