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Oathing curbs banditry in Kuria

By | May 15th 2011

By Isaiah Lucheli

The stripping of men by Kuria elders in a ritual that stunned the country early last month was received with mixed reactions but for the locals, it marked the beginning of a new dawn.

Guns have since gone silent in the previously banditry-prone region, while smuggling of arms from Tanzania has ended. The area has also recorded a sharp decline in cattle rustling.

Elders and the provincial administrators say the ritual has played a key role in bringing peace.

In an interview with The Standard On Saturday Colonel (Rtd) Peter Marwa attributed peace in Kuria East to the ritual.

He said the district had become notorious for banditry and cattle rustling, but guns had been surrendered to the District Commissioners office and herds of cattle that had been stolen returned after the rite.

"The ritual that was performed is revered by the community. Enkoro ritual is conducted as a last resort to address issues affecting the community," he explains.

One of the illegally owned riffles surrendered following the oathing ritual. Photos: Wilberforce Okwiri/Standard

confirmed that the ritual had played a key role in ending clan wars that led to the displacement of over 7,000 people.

"Illegal arms had been a big source of insecurity in the area but following the rite all those who had been owning illicit arms have surrendered them to the District Security Committee," adds Magige.

The Kuria East District Commissioner, Magu Mutindika, says that at the height of the insecurity in the area, over 6,290 people had been displaced from their homes while major roads were blocked and schools closed.

"Over 2,270 people were displaced in Ntimaru division and 4,020 in Kegonga. It is estimated that 58 primary and 11 secondary schools had been affected," said Mutindika.

The DC says that armed bandits had taken charge of major highways, including the Kehancha-Senta-Ntimaru and Kehancha Kegonga.

He, however, adds that since the inclusion of the elders in discussions and peace initiatives, the district has experienced peace and reduction in cattle rustling. He adds that over 42 guns and 106 ammunition had been recovered.

"The Government has also been able to arrest and prosecute over 40 cattle rustlers while over 333 livestock that had been stolen had been recovered and returned to the owners," says Mutindika.

The DC further says that since the performing of the ritual, animosity between the Nyabasi and Bwirege had stopped.

Initially, failure by the Government to involve the elders in the fight against retrogressive cultures such as clan wars, cattle rustling and female genital mutilation (FGM) frustrated the efforts to address the problems.

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