Crucial wells that provide non-stop water in dry Wajir

Wednesday March 18 2020
well

Some of the water wells at the Wajir Orahey grounds. PHOTO | BRUHAN MAKONG | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By BRUHAN MAKONG

Deep at the heart of Wajir town, sits a ground revered by many-the Wajir Orahey grounds. The word ‘Orahey’ means a place with a lot of sun.

Whenever drought hits the county, it is on this land that the residents pray to God for rain and Muslim faithful also converge here to celebrate their holidays.

Apart from the religious functions, the ground is also used during public functions because of its strategic location and ability to hold a large crowd.

But the question is, why would people treasure just a bare land covered with sand and scattered acacia trees? The answer lies just 10 metres below the ground.

DROUGHT
Below the surface sits the Orahey water wells, which have been in existence for more than 100 years. The wells are a lifeline for residents within and outside Wajir town, most of whom rely on pastoralism for a livelihood.

It is believed that there are at least 10 water wells spread across the villages around Wajir town.

In the land where perennial drought is the order of the day, grounds like this are vital for their ability to provide non-stop water in all seasons.

The residents count on this ground to provide them with water whenever nowhere else can.

It is currently the only gazetted site by the National Museums of Kenya in Wajir but little has been done to save it.

The grounds around the wells are generally dry most times of the year but during rainy seasons, a large pool of water forms around the sandy surface.
Decades ago, herders would converge at the site to water their animals, since it acted as the main water point, but today things are different; boreholes and water pans have been developed near their settlements far from the town.

QUEEN OF SHEBA
It is also believed that the, the Queen of Sheba-the monarch mentioned in the Bible who later travelled to Jerusalem to experience the wisdom of King Solomon- is believed to have watered her herd of camels at the wells.

The wells cover an area marked by concrete pillars every 200 metres. There are eight wells belonging to different clans within the pastoral community. They are round, of different sizes and were all cemented in the 1940s.

But it remains an important heritage site that reminds the community of their rich cultural history. But, how far are the residents willing to go to protect this heritage site?

A few years ago, after the onset of devolution, residents around Wajir town held protests in a bid to prevent the county government from fencing the land, terming it as a plot by some individuals to grab the said land.

Despite the county administration explaining to them of their ‘good intentions’ the residents would have none of it.

Orahey is also well known for its role during World War when the Italians fought the British and Commonwealth forces along the borders of Kenya.

BOMBERS

It is one of the desert military stations where the Italian Caproni bombers put up a defensive military operation to prevent the advancement of the British forces in 1940.

They constructed trenches and bunkers in a number of places in Northern Kenya. Today, a bunker used by the Italians during the war visible in Orahey wells.

The site also hosts the Wagalla massacre monument which is a reminder of the 1984 incident when security forces murdered between 1,000 to 3,000 people in what was supposed to be a disarmament exercise.

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