The Traditional Justice of Nandi


The Nandi community is from the Kalenjin tribe which belong to the Highland Nilotes ethnicity group. The traditional system of the Nandi is similar to that of other Kalenjin communities. The territory is divided into counties known as emet(pl.emotinuek). The emotinwek is divided into districts known as bororiet (pl.borororisiek) and these are divided into villages known as kokwet (pl. kokotinwek). The Nandi administrative system was unique among the Kalenjin in having the bororiosiek as the administrative layer.


The justice system of the Nandi is decentralized. It has the smallest unit as the Homestead (Kaita, pl. Koriik) headed by the father who deals with internal matters like inheritance, allocation of family property and instillation of discipline. The Clan (Oret; pl. Ortinwek) led by the clans chief, Kirwogindet has powers to settle disputes between members of the clan and to oversee estate administration in situations where a man died before sharing out inheritance among his sons.

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Neighbourhood (Kokwet pl. Kokwotinwek) refer to both the neighbourhood and the place where a council of elders meet to administer their services. A village elder known as the Boiyot ab Kok is the leader of this council who relayed the decisions collectively arrived at by the council of elders.

The council allocated land for cultivation and handled any matter that could not be addressed by the clan. Indiscipline cases are brought to this council and only initiated members can be punished. Coming above the Kokwet is the Region (Bororiet pl.

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Bororiosiek). They settle disputes between several neighbourhoods. The highest system is the country,(Emet, pl. Emotinwek). The spokesman is the great chief(kirwogindet neo). He merely moderates the meetings and communicates the verdict that is jointly arrived at. The council acts like the Supreme Court and the highest political office in the country.


The procedure for reporting the offences is almost similar in all Kalenjin tribes and other tribes as well. The complainant reports the matter to the village elder, who then notifies the Kokwet. The matter should be that which can not be solved at the family level. One of the members of the kokwet is then sent to the accused to notify him of the charges and the set time and date which he should appear before the council. This is usually a day or two after the notification, the dispute is heard and determined. The complainant on the material day has to make payments before it commences. The payment is called “kimagutti” and is in form of traditional milk about five litres. It is usually valued at about 150/= and is a way of compensation to the elders so that they can offer justice. Each party is allowed to call a witness and evidence can be shown as proof. It is then that a ruling is passed, fine or punishment depending on the circumstances.

The deliberations and verdicts of the kokwet are not recorded and it relies on human memory. However, the chiefs have begun recording the cases for future references and can also be used in courts as evidence if an attempt of resolving the disputes traditionally fails. This is, however, rare since the complex court process makes one not to defy the kokwet. If a fine was the verdict, the offender is allowed reasonable time to pay. Should he default, the clan members are called to deliberate the matter and how compensation will be made. In cases of over delayed settlements, the kokwet sends an elder to the chief or the police so that the offender is arrested and charged in court. It however doesn’t go that far since the kokwet is believed to be fair. In cases where the offender denies charges, a local village curser was called upon to administer a curse and if he did not commit the crime he will be spared. This is usually common for cattle thieves especially among the kipsigis.

The time taken to resolve a dispute depends on the nature of the dispute. Simple disputes like petty thefts, women fighting and indiscipline are dealt with in hours and do involve only few members of the kokwet. Complicate issues like murder, rape, land disputes, assaults or wife beatings may take longer time to resolve but not than two weeks. Justice is dispended early and makes it preferable to sort out disputes in the kokwet that waiting for months in modern courts.


Cattle theft.

This was and still is considered a serious offense in the Nandi community. The reporting procedure is however the same as the other offenses. The victim reports the case to the village elder who then informs the Kokwet. If the victim is aware of the offender he names them and is summoned by the Kokwet. The offender pays the equivalent of the cattle stolen or returns the stolen in addition to another number decided depending of the circumstances. This compensation usually goes to the victim and not the Kokwet. In the case where the offender is unknown, village elders carry out an investigation, a verdict is arrived at. On the material day of the ‘hearing’, the Kokwet convenes and passes a curse. If no one owns up, a second curse performed by special members is passed. This curse is effective and once passed it can not be retracted and the offender usually dies. However, offenders usually show up before a second curse is delivered for fear of death.


In a murder case, the family of the victim informs the village elder who informs the Kokwet. If the murderer is known, his or her family and relatives, Oret, must compensate the victim’s family before the case is even heard before the council of elders. The requirement is that they should take a herd of cows to the victim’s compound in the evening and tie them to gate. This should be done during dawn before everyone wakes up. The victim’s family will then have to accept the fine which is called Kebasta. The purpose of this is to stop the victim’s family from taking revenge. A meeting between the two clans will be held and the solution lies with the two clans. The compensation for killing a man is usually nine heads of cattle to the deceased clan and that of a woman is seven heads of cattle. The cattle are distributed among the members reason being the deceased belonged to the clan and not to the family alone.

Domestic violence.

Women are usually the victims of domestic violence in the community. This is because they are usually vulnerable to the arrogant misogynist men. The woman reports the matter to the age mate of the husband and this is essentially someone they were circumcised with on the same day and stayed on the same hut. The person will then inform the village elder who will inform the Kokwet, which convenes a hearing session. The offender is usually reprimanded or counselled depending on the gravity of the case. In extreme cases where the offender hurts the victim physically, a separation between the two is reached when both parties consent to it. The separation is preceded by clansmen from both families. If the separation is successful, the woman will return to her parents with all her children while the bride price is returned to the man’s clan.


Cite this page

The Traditional Justice of Nandi. (2021, Sep 22). Retrieved from

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