Warfare in the luhya community

War was a fact of life more so in the olden days than it is now. Among the Luhya, the community would choose warriors between the ages of 18 and 40. Rules and regulations would be laid down during war time for the warriors to adhere to. Some of these rules included not associating with women or girls and being prepared in the art of war enough to know how to manage themselves in the battlefield.

In other circumstances where war was a constant fact, young men between the ages of 18 and 21 would be taken to and enlisted into a sort of ‘boot camp’ where they would then be trained in warfare and fighting techniques.

Warriors would go out in full regalia and paint was a big part of the military costume. Face paint would be adorned as a method of camouflage or as a means to frighten the enemy. Warriors would be encouraged to look as intimidating as possible in order to demoralise the opponents.

Villages would be protected from outsiders by a ditch known as olukoba or a high wall that would surround the entire settlement.

As a rule there were certain people who would be spared as the war ensued. Women and messengers were usually exempt from being killed and from imprisonment. The men who were captured would turn into slaves and would work for their masters as abasumba or bachelors. If the prisoner performed in a satisfactory manner they would in time be given some land and a wife to marry with his children becoming a part of the tribe.


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