Luo elders dismiss Night Runners group, launch campaign to redeem tribe image

Self proclaimed chairman of night runners Jack Songo

Self proclaimed chairman of night runners Jack Songo

By William Oloo-Janak

Luo elders in Homa Bay County haven launched a campaign to expose a group of people who have been claiming to belong to association of “Night Runners” in the county, saying the group is “bogus and bent on portraying the Luo Community negatively for some selfish agenda”.

The Elders dismissed the group as “self seekers” who wanted to “twist the Luo Community’s culture through lies and distortion”, adding that in the community’s culture, the real night runners would never come out in the open as their practise was a vice which made them social outcasts.

The Elders, led by Mzee Elisha Akech Chieng’, a former South Nyanza County Council Chairman, held a major public gathering on Wednesday June 10, 2015 at Pala Market in Pala Division, Ndhiwa Sub-County of Homa Bay, where a majority of those claiming to be part of the group have been and evicted from Pala Market, the self declared Chairman Jack Songo, alias “Ochieng’ NInja”.

Songo, who has lately gained some notorious profile as the leader of the group through sections of the media, was forced to flee from a rented house in the market where he had been staying for some time and was banished to his home in Dede area, West Sakwa in Awendo Sub-County, Migori County.

A number of his local associates were summoned to the meeting and grilled over their claims. They disowned the group and claimed they were misled by Songo who had claimed they could use the group to “solicit for funds”. They were pardoned but were told they would be kept “under close watch” by the elders.

The meeting which was chaired by South Kabuoch Location Senior Chief Kennedy Bob Ouma, saw irate members of the public threaten to lynch members of the group “for painting the area and the Luo community in a negative light’. Some youths vowed to hunt down all those who have been claiming membership to “night runners association”, but they were restrained by the elders.

The meeting accused Songo, alias “Ochieng Ninja”, of using Pala Market and Homa Bay County to launch “an evil and extortionist campaign” to pain the Luo community negatively. The meeting urged elders in other counties in Nyanza to summon and grill other alleged members of the group and investigate their agenda.

Mzee Aketch Chieng’ said it was wrong for the media to promote a cultural vice through the claims of a few people and make the entire Luo community be viewed negatively while not seeking the opinion of the elders who are the custodians of the culture.

“We urge the media to be sensitive to cultural issues because this can create disharmony and conflict. On matters of culture, let journalists tread carefully and consult the elders instead of publishing such false claims from a group of people who do not seem to know that their claims have hurt families and the community,” said Mzee Chieng.

“We will not allow these misfits to taint the name of our area, Homa Bay County and the Luo Community in the eyes of right thinking Kenyans and beyond. Their claims have hurt us deeply,” said Mzee Christopher Ogone Odede.

The meeting resolved that all those who have been making such claims and bringing the name of the community into disrepute will be hunted and made to account for their claims. There were claims that the group had began threatening and intimidating people to extort money from members of the public.

There have also been claims that the self proclaimed chairman, Jack Songo had began demanding to be paid by journalists who wanted to interview him on matters related to his “night runners” outfit, which he had lately said they would register.

The elders explained the issue of “Jojuogi” or night runners who they said have never been known to “come out in the open” as they were frowned upon and were social outcasts who, when found bothering people in the night were subjected to beatings and burnt with hot iron rods (iwang’o gi mulo maliet!”).

They said “Juok” was a “strange and evil possession” which even the practioners could not explain when accosted in broad day light. Those who were suspected of practising this would never want to be known or come out in the open as the group now claimed, adding that it was practised secretively by those involved as the community treated them as outcasts, and in some cases, they were forced to flee to other areas when discovered.