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Final arbiter of Ameru rows

Friday November 8 2019

Njuri Ncheke

Rwerea Njuri Ncheke Shrine in Tigania Central, Meru County. Rwerea is the mother of Njuri Ncheke shrines. PHOTO | DAVID MUCHUI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

DAVID MUCHUI
By DAVID MUCHUI
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About a kilometre from Mikinduri Town in Tigania Central Sub-County, a thick grove of indigenous trees and shrubs stands out.

This is the Rwerea Njuri Ncheke Shrine that evokes awe and fear among the Ameru.

Njuri Ncheke, which means council of the chosen few, formed the legislative, judicial and executive arms of the Ameru traditional government. The council of elders comprises men of high integrity.

While Nchiru Njuri Ncheke headquarters is meant for making major decisions affecting the Ameru, Rwerea is superior to other shrines across the region.

Nchiru served as the meeting point of councils from the eight Ameru sub-tribes while Rwerea was the apex court and origin of the Ameru governance system.

Rwerea, which is referred to as Tula e Mumeru (the top judicial agency of the Ameru), is where disputes or matters that have proved difficult for the smaller councils of elders are settled.

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'KITHIRI' RITUAL

It’s believed that Rwerea is where Kaura O Becau — the founder of Njuri Ncheke — camped immediately the Ameru settled in their present-day location.

At this shrine, an elaborate ritual known as Kithiri meant to settle a complex issue is usually conducted.

It could be a situation in which an individual adamantly maintains innocence in a row where evidence is hard to come by.

Kithiri includes slaughtering an animal. Curses are then invoked against the perpetrator of the said offence.

The Ameru believe a Kithiri curse can lead to the destruction of entire generations, starting with males.

“Rwerea is the mother of Njuri Ncheke shrines. It was the State House of Kaura O Becau and is the shrine of last resort. When a dispute reached Rwerea, it was a matter of life and death,” Mr Kamanja M’Akwalu, the chairman of Kieiga shrine, says.

While Kithiri rituals are conducted in other shrines, the one done at Rwerea is final, he adds.

SIGNIFICANCE

Mr M’Akwalu said that when the Ameru came from Mbwaa — a mysterious island — Kaura O Becau settled in Kiguma, Tigania Central, and started holding meetings at Rwerea.

Disputes are first settled at village level. An appeal can be filed at a higher gathering of elders.

“Elders do not meet at Rwerea in vain. The matter must be of high importance to the community. It is also left to the finest of the elders to handle,” Mr M’Akwalu says.

Mr Jeremiah Kanampiu, a researcher of Ameru history, says Rwerea is the heart of the community’s traditional laws.

It is also where the finest Njuri Ncheke elders are initiated since it housed a special staff during the Ameru migration.

“Laws were made and endorsed at Nchiru while Rwerea was the highest level for their implementation. The shrine is of significance to Ameru traditions,” Mr Kanampiu says.

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