By RUTH MBULA
It was a simple ceremony, attended only by family members and immediate neighbours.
But despite its simplicity, the ceremony was of great symbolic significance.
And at the end of it all, Ruth Konchella officially became the wife of former US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger.
The former envoy, who is fondly known by residents of Ololchani Village in Kilgoris Town as Olomunyak (meaning “the blessed one”), gave his mother-in-law, Grace Mesoppirr, 20 cows as dowry.
Ms Konchella was also given a new name – Nayiolo – which means “the one who remembers home”.
Ms Messopirr was overwhelmed with emotions as she received the herd of healthy cows from her son-in-law.
They really surprised me. They did not tell me that they were coming to pay dowry,” an elated Ms Mesoppirr told Nation.co.ke.
“I am very happy that this has happened. My daughter officially has a home now. She now belongs to Mr Ranneberger,” she added jokingly.
BROKE INTO DANCE
And to crown her joy, she broke into song and dance, while wishing the two lovebirds well in their marriage.
Mr Ranneberger says he felt it was important to fulfil all traditional requirements of the marriage.
“I love my wife,” he said.
Mr Ranneberger explained that before buying the 20 cows, he made inquiries about the ideal number of cattle one was required to present to his in-laws.
“I was told eight. But because she is an exceptional lady, I decided to give out more,” he says.
He moved the gathering into laughter when he revealed how difficult it was to negotiate the prices of the cows at the Kilgoris cattle market.
“They hiked the prices because they saw a white man. It was really difficult to negotiate a favourable price,” he said.
He added that he was, however, happy that he managed to buy the best cows for his mother-in-law.
Mr Ranneberger apologised to his mother-in-law for not paying the dowry earlier.
“It is true we have been married for at least 10 years, but as the saying goes, better late than never. I am finally here,” he said.
He explained that his busy schedule working for the US government made it difficult for him to “formalise their marriage the traditional way”.
“I now have the freedom to enjoy being in Kenya as a private citizen, much more with my family,” he said.
“It feels good to be in the village far away from the noisy cities in the US,” he added.
He then went on to praise his mother-in-law.
“She is a great woman. She ensured my wife and her other brothers and sisters got education. More so, she protected her from female genital mutilation that often deny Maasai girls a chance for a better life,” he says.
He said he was happy to be part of the family and promised to give more cows in future.
“We will also build a modern house for her, just to show our great love to her. I know how much my wife loves her mother and I just want to make her happy,” he said.
BLESSINGS FROM ELDERS
Ms Konchella, for her part, said: “I am excited. We had a successful ceremony and we have received blessings from elders.”
She explained that they organised the ceremony at her mother’s maternal home because her father died a long time ago.
During the ceremony, villagers enjoyed plenty of Maasai delicacies, including a dish known as munono.
According to an elder and a relative, Bernard Konchella, munono is a traditional Maasai meal where meat, fat and blood are cooked together.
Mr Konchella said they were pleased to receive their son-in-law and were humbled by his humility and respect for their traditions.
“We know how big he is. But he has humbled himself and values us as his family,” he said.
He said the dowry ceremony was important for Mr Ranneberger as it indicated that he respects (African) traditions.
“We now know that despite all his money and fame, he values family,” said Mr Konchella.
He added: “Their marriage is now sealed and we have officially given Ruth to him.”