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Njuri Ncheke's 360-degree turn to allow young men join the council

Former Njuri Ncheke Council of Meru elders Paul Ithingia (in hat) and other elders during a ceremony at the shrine in Meru. [Phares Mutembei, Standard] 

In the past, Njuri Ncheke Council of Ameru elders never used books or pens and did not accept young professionals in their assembly.

They presided over cases and deliberations but never wrote them down because most had never attended school.

The old wise men relied on their wisdom and sharp memory to 'store' information.

Their role was, and still is, to make and implement community laws, arbitrate land, domestic and other disputes and pass knowledge on customs, in fulfilment of their role as custodians of Meru culture.

Njuri Ncheke council was a preserve of carefully selected elders from the larger Meru community inhabiting the area from Thuci river in Tharaka Nithi to Ntonyiri, the farthest end in Meru County.

But modernity forced them to change tact and they started recruiting young professionals as elders.

A new face of Njuri emerged, with the old and youth now meeting at their headquarters prayers shrine at Nchiru in Meru County, which also doubles as Parliament.

The induction of youthful professionals from Meru and Tharaka Nithi into the council was started by former Secretary-General Phares Ruteere and former chairman Paul Ethingia, both deceased.  

Njuri Ncheke Secretary-General (Programmes) Washington Muthamia and former Chuka University Vice-Chancellor Prof Erastus Njoka both agree it was a good move to accept young blood into the exalted council.

“Ruteere was the first Njuri leader to come up with the idea of getting professionals from Meru community to join the Njuri council. That was a good move because professionals play a big role in the development of the community,” said Muthamia.

Prof Njoka who is the patron of Njuri Ncheke elders in Tharaka Nithi and who is running for governor in August 9 poll, said in their wisdom elders had to adapt to changing times and for the posterity of the council.

“Ruteere knew the need for adapting to modernisation and he led initiatives to get young and educated people into Njuri Ncheke. He was a visionary leader,” Njoka said.

The current chairman of Meru Professionals Association Prof Peter Muriungi who is also Principal of Tharaka University College, said: “That was a great move by Ruteere to allow professionals. What he and Ethingia wanted was a continuity of the Njuri. As professionals we have been working with Njuri Ncheke elders as a team, to improve livelihoods,” he said. 

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