Kisii and Meru people of Kenya and Mentuhotep II of Ancient Egypt
Kisii and Meru : A Misri origin
Updated 7th April 2011
The Kisii, also called Gusii are a highland Bantu agriculturalist community like the Kikuyu. The proto Kisii entered western Kenya from Uganda to the foothills of Mount Elgon. The Kisii live in Nyanza province, bordering the Luo to the south and Maasai and Kipsigis to the East and Southeast. They are separated from their closely related Abakuria (Tende) by the Luo to the South. Their language is commonly called Ekegusii. The Kisii have adopted customs and names of their Luo neighbours. They are noted for their soapstone sculpture which now goes by the name ‘Kisii stone.’ The Kisii believed in a supreme God called Engoro. Death in general was "unnatural" and was believed to have been caused by witchcraft.
The Kisii who gave their myth of origins to Prof. Were, mentioned a place called Misri as their place of origin." The Gusii themselves speak of Mogusii as the founder of their society and the person after whom they are named."
According to the story collected by Ochieng (Ogot et al 1976) in the past Gusii were the same people as the Kuria, Logoli, Suba, Kikuyu, Meru, Embu and Kamba, and that from the land of 'Misri' they migrated to the foothils of Mount Elgon. Dispersal then took place from there. Below is the genealogy of the Kisii. Their ealiest known acestor was Kintu, also known as Muntu. It is noteworthy that ‘Mentuhotep’ was a pharaonic name in the 10th dynasty.
Kintu begat Ribiaka, who begat Kigoma, who begat Molughuhia. This man Molughuhia had five sons; Osogo, Mogusii, Kuria, Mogikoyo, and Logoli. Mogikoyo is the forefather of the Kikuyu, Embu, Meru and Kamba.
Evidence in ancient Egypt indicates that Pharaoh Mentuhotep was also called Kintu besides the anusual title of Uah-Kara. We shall see this strange name recurring in the oral history of the Meru below. It is well know that the ancient Egyptians were sun worshippers with many Gods who were not previously assocated with the sun being ‘solarised’ with the RA suffix (AmeuRA, AtenRA, etc.) A vestige of sun worship can be seen Among the Kuria, who offer milk and honey to the sun during the morning prayer to god (Enokwe). They say that the sun (Erioba rie merengarie) is an embodiment of Enokwe.
The Meru people
The Meru - The Meru are closely related to the Kikuyu. They do not subscribe to the Kikuyu story of origin. Their origin includes a place called Mbwaa with some respondents mentioning Misri.
Meru traditions record that mbwaa was an island from which they could see wildlife on the mainland. There were two other Islands near Mbwaa. One of this is known to the Meru as Bua and was inhabited by a group remembered as Buu. Buu Is the current name of a division of the Pokomo". Note that the Embu were called Kembu in the distant past, a name that is similar to Mbuu. The Embu were allied to the Kikuyu and speak a Kikuyu dialect. A division of present day Kikuyu are called kiambuu, probably to indicate their position in the boundary where alarms had to be sounded during enemy attacks. Alarm sounds are called ‘mbu’ in Kikuyu. It is interesting to note that the Taita also lived next to the ‘Kilio’ (those who cry) people which implies that many communities lived next to one that gave warning cries as a survival strategy. Perhaps in the case of the Meru in ancient times, the Buu were part of a garrison with soldiers who would raise an alarm if the the captive groups attempted to escape. Perhaps these groups, once free, adopted a triumvirate system where one community played the role of ‘Buu’ – alarm raisers or the first line of defence. The Kiambu kikuyu according to Leakey were a first line of defence for the Kikuyu when the Maasai attacked. Help would soon come from the interior after information of the attack was relayed.
The word Mbwaa shares the same root with the word for dog or dog-like animal in several Bantu languages (mbwa – dog in Swahili; Mbweha – jackal in Swahili; Mbwe- jackal in kikuyu). The word for dog in Meru however is Kuru. The Agumba who were referred to by the Kikuyu as the owners of the land were also called ‘Umpua,' and Koru. Note that Anubis was also known as Yinepu, Anpu, Kenti Amentiu … lord of the Westerners.’
Some Meru informants told early ethnographers that they came from Misri, Mbwaa or Mbweni (Ogot et al 1976). The Meru, according to Nyaga, came from Mbwaa with a young girl and a young boy. According to Ogot, (1976), this word Mbwaa may originally have been spoken as "Mbwara" There exists an area known as Mbwara Matanga on Manda's western peninsula, which is the part of the Island closest to the mainland. "(Ogot et al, 1976, p. 140).
Note that Matanga means burial and that this location was on the 'western side' In conformity with Egyptian beliefs that the western side of the Nile was reserved for burial grounds. Besides, the Meru say that they came from the right side which is actually west when you are caming to Kenya from the North.
The most powerful people recalled to have lived near Mbwa were known as Nguo Ntuni (spelled by Nyaga as Nguo Ntune) - the red clothes.
At their present location, the Meru newcomers found people who were variously referred to as Ikara, Ukara, Athamagi and Mwoko. In Imenti they are remembered as Mu-uthiu or Mogukuru, allied to Agira. In Tigania, as Mukuru, Mugukuru and Aruguru allied to Mwoko.
Fadiman Identifies the Mukuru, Mu-uthiu as kitu or Tu, terms which are similar to one of the ancestors of the Gusii who, according to the Gusii, was the ancestor of the Kikuyu and Meru as well.
Mentuhotep II (whose throne name was Nebhepetre ) was a Pharaoh in the middle kingdom in the 11th dynasty. He ruled for approximately 51 years between 2061 BC and 2010 BC. His father was Intef III and his mother was queen Iah. Mentuhotep, like all Pharaohs was a devine ruler. Mentuhotep III has been acclaimed as his only son.
Some authorities claim that Mentuhotep II was buried in the tomb he had constructed at Deir el-Bahri.
When he took the reigns, Egypt had been split into two since the 6th dynasty. After the explusion of the Semitic invaders Mentuhotep II is credited with reuniting Egypt again probably around his 38 and 39th year in power. This Dynasty also established control over the people of Wawat in the South. An expedition was mounted down the Red Sea to Punt in present day Somalia. He built a funerary temple at Deir-el-Bahri, opposite Luxor which was later to be duplicated 500 years later, next to it by queen Hatshepsut. Hatshepst, the great female Monarch also made much quoted journey to Punt. She was also called Makare on her monuments. Images in the reign of Mentuhotep II, as reported by Sir Petrie, F., show “....the chapel from Denderah bears scenes of the king smiting the Aamu. ....fragments of scenes show Libyan axilliaries helping to conquer Aamu and Mentiu.”
Important officials in Mentuhotep’s reign
Overseer of sealers - Meru.
Army General - Intef
Treasurer 1 - Khety. He also organized the Hebsed festival.
Treasurer 2 - Meketre
Mentuhotep’s statue is unique for it’s colour - a jet black. His wife, a very dark woman indeed is shown below having her hair styled by maids, possibly from Syria.
The Kisii’s ealiest known acestor was Kintu, also known as Muntu. It is noteworthy that ‘Mentuhotep’ was a pharaon in the 11th dynasty in ancient Egypt. He was also called Kitu Uah-ka-ra. It is significant that the Meru who are closely related to the Kisii claim to have found a people called ‘ikara’ or ‘athamagi’ (kings) in the Mount Kenya area. The Meru also say that before they left the legendary Mbwaa, they were all Imenti. Note similarity of Imenti with ‘Muntu’ and Mentuhotep.
Since the Meru claim that there were several Mbwaa places of origin, it seems that one era of these Mbwaa’s was in the reign of Mentuhotep – an era that is also in the memory of he Kisii. The second era happened at the end of Akhenaten’s reign when the Imenti split intoand the Tigania (the abandoners) who were collectively called the Meru (a pyramid was called a MR). To call themselves ‘the Abandoners’ would imply that Akhenaten’s departure was against his will.
Certain authorities on the Mount Kenya region believe that Egyptian Pharaohs made pilgrimages there to pray. I believe that they instead used it a safe haven from persecution when their removal through revolution or religious omens was imminent. Pharaoh Mentuhotep disappeared without trace just like Akhenaten. We know that Akhenaten had stired the wrath of Amun priests by decreeing that only Aten should worshipped, thus rendering the Amun priests jobless. He had even ordered the hacking away of the Amun title from monuments.
My theory is that Mentuhotep for whatever reason is remembered by the Kisii as the ruler when when something very memorable happened to them as a community. Around the same time, for the same or other reason, the Imenti renewed themselves as a community and chose to call themselves by his name. Perhaps they are the Mentiu he conquered as reported on the monument, and by that submission gave them his name. How Anubis the funerary god also came to be called Amentiu is still a mystery, but we know that his priests wore the mask of a dog. It has been shown in my writings that the word Mbwaa indicates ‘the place of the dog,’ which implies that the Meru associate their stay in Egypt with Anubis, probably as funerary workers. They continued to stay in Egypt until the reign of Akhenaten when an exodus took place. This is when the Tigania (the abandoners) were born as a community when they abandoned Mbwaa. All royal burials took place on the west side. When you walk down the River Nile to Kenya while on the west side, you will be on your right side. The Meru say that they came from the right side.
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If any one can make these things up, please let me know by leaving your comment below.