LONG MOUTH PUBLICATIONS @ KASS WEEKLY NEWSPAPER

TURKANA’S CONCEPT OF ICHAKUN AND THE STEREOTYPES BEHIND IT

By Immanuel Lokwei,

The Jews in diaspora, who lived in the Iberian Peninsula, were generally referred to as Sephardi Jews. Turkana of the north rift region in Kenya call their expatriate tribesmen and tribeswomen, of course imbued with derogatory inflammations, the Ichakuns.

I could easily qualify as an Ichakun if one is a victim of Fallacy of Physiognomy. By one I mean a native Turkana who possibly hasn’t yet had the chance to step beyond the borders of Turkana County and who isn’t diverse enough to acknowledge that Turkanas come in all forms and dimensions. But this is not all that is to the concept of Ichakun.

Though facial features and how one comports oneself and carries themselves matters in identifying a well-versed and a less-versed individual in Turkana’s culture and language, or as they say separating cream from 2% milk, a whole lot more has to play a role in qualifying an individual as a proper Ichakun. First, the minimal requirement is to be met. One has to have the 2% in their blood; that is one must first be able to trace their blood and geographic heritage in Turkana. A foreigner, for instance a Kikuyu residing in Turkana cannot qualify as an Ichakun ipso facto lack of the 2% threshold.

But a Turkana probably born, or who migrated at an early age to Maasailand or to one of these urban centers in “Kenya” and who is less attuned to ways of living of his or her erstwhile people the Turkana without a doubt makes the cut. Therefore cultural alienation of a Turkana repatriate singles them out like how a green chicken stands out in its flock. Case in point, in 2007-08 post election violence, hundreds of Turkana repatriates fleeing the conflict, my family included, thronged their native Kalemng’orok and Lodwar town in Turkana. At the time these places could historically be said to be Ichakun-infested.

Ichakun is not a disease, and even if it were it is curable with time, thanks to people’s capability to adapt. Surprisingly with time, current Ichakuns will forget their present states and will call new deports Ichakuns. And the line of jest goes on to eternity/infinity.

Of the etymological origin of this term, you ask the wrong person for I am more or less an Ichakun and I only write about this matter as would an Ichakun. I am still dependent on time to wear out this veil of shame on my face. But as a native linguist and refined Turkana Erupe Thomas elaborated, the term originates from a verb “tachak” (throw) and from “achakun” (to drop), which is a hybrid of a noun and a verb. So an Ichakun is simply “someone who dropped/thrown from somewhere”, or to be precise “nowhere.”

Prior to the discoveries of Oil and Water in Turkana and hence prospects of riches in the region, the term Ichakun, besides being impregnated with the negative innuendos mentioned above, had a positive connotation of economic privilege. Ichakuns were people from the land of “Ng’amorumoru” (fatty meat balls) meaning from the land of plenty which is naturally south of the arid Turkana County. Often this truism, as an expatriate man called Ekiru recalled, was an illusion. This stereotype watered down their interest to return to their relatives in Turkana; for what would they share with their native relatives on their return? In “diaspora” poverty trailed them just as it were at home for they lacked what would be called group economics.

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