Fresh row over elders’ role in Mt Kenya

Kikuyu Council of Elders at Kabiru-ini ground in Nyeri on June 7. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]
A weekend meeting of Kikuyu Council of Elders that called for cessation of 2022 politics has put a spotlight on the fading role of the revered decision making organ.

The meeting attended by elders from the Gikuyu counties of Kiambu, Nyeri, Murang’a, Kirinyaga and Nyandarua as well as diaspora counties with significant votes from the ‘House of Mumbi’ including Laikipia, Nyandarua, Nairobi and Lamu, is said to have turned heads because of what was not said rather than what was said.

In the aftermath, the relevance of the once-revered council of elders has been thrust into limelight due to their increased participation in the political scene.

For example, critics of the meeting who mostly support Deputy President William Ruto have mainly spotlighted the logistical cost of bringing over 2,000 into a single meeting.

Some political leaders such as second term Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni question whether the elders have any political clout especially in the ‘House of Mumbi’ where the influence of councils composed of senior respected citizens had faded to against conventional governance structures.

“You start by defining elders which is complicated today. Secondly, is the authority they have against such state institutions like the provincial administration? They can only be persuasive at most,” said Kioni, one of the thoughtful Central Kenyaleaders.

Political brokers?

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Young Nyeri Professionals chairman Isaac Thuita said it was time for the role of the elders to be defined “as they are now being misused for political expediency.”

“For example, what is the criteria used to select people who attended the Nyeri feat? Who came up with the agenda? It is high time that we separate real community issues from politics. Everyone should be allowed to make their choice on politics,” Thuita opined.

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua was livid, saying the groupings had overstepped their mandate by delving into politics.

“It is scandalous to see political brokers masquerading as Kikuyu Council of Elders convening under the pretext of offering traditional prayers of intercession turning their meeting into an arena of mudslinging,” Rigathi said.

But Nyeri Senator Ephraim Maina differed, saying elders had a significant, binding role in all community matters including leadership.

“Their influence and blessings cannot be underestimated,” said the Nyeri senator. “I would add that they should stick to their advisory and guidance roles by avoiding controversial politics that may water down their revered role.”

Elders in the cousin communities of Embu and Meru which have their own effect in the invincibility of the MtKenya political block were pointedly opposed to any attempts to link them with the resolutions of the Kikuyu elders meeting.

“The Njuri Ncheke will make its stand known when it meets all elected leaders at a common at our Nchiru shrine,” said Meru Council of Elders Secretary General Josephat Murangiri. “We are fiercely independent and object to being lumped together with the Kikuyu and Embu standpoint.”

According to Murangiri, the Meru community and Kenyans would be sure about the future political trajectory only when they hear a meeting involving all elected 14 Meru MPs, the two senators and governors Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) and Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi) has been held at Nchiru.

The Njuri Ncheke is the most organised council of elders in the Mt Kenya region with leadership structures and courts at location, sub-county and county levels and the supreme council at the apex.

Elders settle civil disputes between community members and can impose a mirongo ithatu fine on offenders. On communal matters, the word of the Njuri Ncheke is revered explaining why it still exercises some clout in political guidance of the Meru people.

Murangiri was firm the Njuri Ncheke and larger Meru leaders will at the appropriate time take a common stand similar to 2013 when they endorsed Uhuru.

“You did not see us do that again in 2017 because we stood with our 10-year promise to Uhuru”, said Murangiri.

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Kikuyu Council of Elders2022 politicsPresident Uhuru Kenyatta