Major divisions have emerged among Kaya elders in the Coast over involvement of some of them in partisan politics.
The chairman of the Kaya Elders Coast Mzee Abdalla Mnyenze said some elders purporting to be Kaya members are commercialising the institution by offering themselves for hire by politicians to propagate a political agenda ahead of the general elections.
He termed such elders as fake, self-made and out to gain individually by taking advantage of the August election.
But the Secretary-General of the Malindi District Cultural Association (Madica) Joseph Mwarandu differed with Mzee Mnyenze saying that kaya membership is automatic.
“What is the meaning of kaya? Kaya means home for the Mijikenda people. How can the membership of a homestead be selective?” he asked.
But Mzee Mnyenze argued that some of the elders are “fake” and dancing to the tunes of politicians “to fill their own stomachs”.
“It is regrettable that most of the people branding themselves as Kaya elders today, most of them from Kilifi County, are commercial organisations looking for hand-outs from the politicians,” he said.
He named only three elders from the county as “genuine Kaya elders” saying the rest are “fake”.
They are Dadu Kituku of Kaya Fungo (which is the biggest Kaya among the Mijikenda), Daniel Garero of Kaya Rabai and Hilali Mwatsuma Karama of Kaya Kauma.
“Members such as those from Malindi District Cultural Association (Madica) [and] Mijikenda Council of Elders Association (Micosea) are not genuine kaya elders,” said Mzee Mnyenze.
Ironically, Mzee Mnyenze’s coronation as a Kaya elder was conducted by Madica and presided over by Mr Mwarandu in 2012.
“I respect Mzee Mnyenze very much but [I]ask him to show leadership in the Kaya institution. He should not claim we are fake Kaya elders because his position came from here at Madica,” Mr Mwarandu said, adding that Mnyenze has no moral authority to criticise the organisation.
“If he doubts Madica, let him come surrender his position as Kaya chairman,” he said adding towards any election, elders tend to be misused by politicians.
“Majority of the kaya elders even of Mzee Mnyenze’s calibre have been victims and beneficiaries of politician’s machinations. Whoever is innocent, let him be the first to cast a stone to the others,” Mr Mwarandu said.
Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro said he is concerned that the Kaya institution “which is supposed to play a more spiritual and cultural role for the nine Mijikenda sub-groups’’ is increasingly being defiled, with certain politicians using it to ascend to power.
“Kaya elders should stop being misused by politicians to promote their political agenda because the institution is not a political organisation. It is a cultural and spiritual guidance (group) for the Mijikenda people,” Mr Mung’aro said Wednesday.
Mr Mwarandu urged Mzee Mnyenze to bring the Kaya leadership together by helping them resolve the “minor” differences among their rank and file.
“The only way we can forge ahead better is for the small differences among members to be resolved amicably so that the institution can run smoothly,” he said.
Groups of Kaya elders have in the past been used to endorse the candidatures of some politicians for various positions before major elections.