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Kikuyu elders clash with church over role in boys’ circumcision

Sunday December 2 2018

Mr Rugami Wa Chomba and Bishop Timothy Gichere

Mr Rugami Wa Chomba (left), the chairman of the Murang'a branch of the Kikuyu elders' council and ACK Mt Kenya Central Bishop Timothy Gichere. Sharp differences have emerged between the church and the elders over who should counsel to initiates before and after circumcision. PHOTO | NDUNG'U GACHANE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

NDUNG’U GACHANE
By NDUNG’U GACHANE
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Sharp differences have emerged between the church and Kikuyu elders over who should counsel to initiates before and after circumcision.

On hand, the elders are accusing the church of engaging in “counselling for business gain” while the church accusing the elders of propaganda aimed at preventing it from counselling the initiates.

The Kikuyu elders maintain that the church has no business engaging in the rite of passage and that it has no structures to carry out any advisory role on the initiates.

They say that the church should leave it to them to perform the circumcision ceremonies and concentrate in spreading the gospel.

MENTORING ROLE

The elders’ council, known as Kĩama Kĩa Ma, in Murang’a, through its branch chairman Rugami Wa Chomba, said in the Kikuyu tradition, the elders and the clan of the initiates were the ones who would take charge in mentoring and guiding the newly-circumcised men by taking them through teachings on their culture, traditions and taboos.

He said before and after circumcision, the elders would train the boys’ parents and the guardians how to “remain clean” so as not to interfere with the initiates’ healing process.

“This process must be conducted by elders who are clean and who can guide the parents of the initiates not to engage in sex during this period. But all the heritage and Kikuyu traditions have been eroded by the church who are seeking monetary gains,” claimed Mr Chomba.

'BOTCHED CIRCUMCISION'

Referring to the botched circumcision where 11 boys are said to have gone for the cut for a second time at Wanjengi village in Kiharu, Mr Chomba blamed the church for the error, saying the initiates mothers’ took them to the church and even went for them, which is against the Kikuyu traditions.

“The women should never be seen near the initiates but in this case the boys even showed the mother’s their organ which in Kikuyu tradition is a taboo,” he claimed.

“The church is clueless on the type of food to be fed the initiates on and the subsequent ceremony to re-integrate them back to the society. This could bring calamity in Kikuyu land,” he added.

Mr Chomba revealed that elders are scheduled to meet on December 5 to “consult the gods over the matter”.

CHURCH'S ROLE

But while responding to the elders, Anglican Church of Kenya Bishop of Mt Kenya Central Timothy Gichere maintained that it is the role of church to obey Christ’s mission to assist the society in counselling so as to prevent the initiates from joining illegal groups.

Bishop Gichere said the church cannot not rule out the possibility that the elders are on a spirited campaign to blow the issue of the “botched circumcision” out of proportion as they want to establish themselves and win back the support of locals in carrying out the advisory role on the initiates.

MISLEADING

“Accusing the church of the botched circumcision in Wajengi village is misleading members of public because like the elders, we meet [in hospital] where a medical practitioner carries out the operation. But the matter has been blown out of proportion because the elders are fearing the church’s rapid growth and fear that they might be rendered useless,” he said.

The church took issue with the manner in which the issue of the “botched circumcision” was handled, saying that while no operation was repeated as widely perceived, the initiates have been exposed to ridicule and intimidation by their colleagues who believe they are not complete adults.

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