#Suicide in African Cultures – The Kalenjin (Kenya)


20 kilometers West of Eldoret, along the Sosiani River, there is a waterfall, a 70-metre cliff separating a flat land from the rocky escarpment. They call it Koromosho or Chepkit Waterfalls. Old men and women would gather here, convinced that they had become a burden to the community, that they had become too dependent, they would gather here to sing their last songs. It was a ritual, known to many as Sheu.

On these banks, the old of the old, people who felt they had outlived their expectations gathered here voluntarily, sometimes in groups, to hold hands and hurtle down the cliff to their deaths. Their bodies would then be washed by the river downstream and be eaten by wild animals. This was their way of dying in peace without putting undue demand on the community to perform funeral rites, of having complete autonomy of their own lives. This was a common practice among the people we call today as the Kalenjin.

I hear that in Kapsimotwa, located on the Nandi Escarpment in the Great Rift Valley, there is another rocky cliff where old men performed the Sheu Morobi – meaning “there we go forever” in Nandi – jumping 450-metres to their ends.

They did this after ritualistic celebration, of delicacies, honey, and milk, and ceremonies with relatives, who’d feed them with a last delicious meal. They did this to relieve their loved ones from the pain of caring for their old dying bodies. It was an honourable act for an elder to jump off Sheu Morobi.

This ritual, Sheu/ Sheu Morobi, is what we call euthanasia in modern times, practiced here tens and hundreds of years ago.

One thought on “#Suicide in African Cultures – The Kalenjin (Kenya)

  1. Thank you for this post. I find it interesting how many of the old cultures saw/see suicide for the good of the tribe/group in a positive light. I think it’s the advent of the Patriarchal religions that see suffering as an ideal to strive for, not the salvation of the tribe. Native Americans, Eskimos, Asians, &c, all had these beautiful rituals. (By the way, according to my online dictionary, euthanasia is a form of mercy killing, not suicide.)

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