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Leaders disagree about bid to make MP Kaya elder

By Patrick Beja | July 27th 2016 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Kaya Council of Elders Chairman Charo Menza (centre), Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung'aro (second left) and Kwale Woman Representative Zainab Chidzuga at a press briefing in Mombasa yesterday. Sharp divisions among Kaya elders have emerged over plans to install Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro as an elder and spokesman of the Miji Kenda. (PHOTO: OMONDI ONYANGO/ STANDARD)

Sharp divisions among Kaya elders have emerged over plans to install Kilifi North MP Gideon Mung’aro as an elder and spokesman of the Miji Kenda. A section of the elders are accusing Mung’aro of a plot to hijack a cultural institution for political gain.

Though an ODM MP, Mung’aro has declared war on the Opposition and is eyeing the Kilifi gubernatorial seat in next year’s polls. The elders want the cultural institution to remain politically neutral, while others want a say on leadership.

Leaders at the Coast are divided about plans to install the Kilifi North MP as an elder and spokesman for the Mijikenda community.

If installed, Gideon Mung’aro will replace Ganze MP Peter Shehe, who was made spokesman of the Mijikenda in 2013 after Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi rejected the offer by the Malindi District Cultural Association.

Ironically, the association now says it does not wish to dabble in partisan politics.

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Supporters want to install Mr Mung’aro during the Mijikenda Cultural Day celebrations at the Mombasa Show grounds on September 9.

Mung’aro’s proposed installation has split the Kaya elders along political and regional lines, with some of them accusing the Kilifi North lawmaker of plotting to hijack a cultural institution for political gain.

Mung’aro has declared an interest in the Kilifi gubernatorial seat in next year’s elections.

Several politicians and some elders termed the endorsement of a politician by cultural leaders wrong, saying their role should be confined to prayers and peace building.

But Mung’aro’s ally and Kwale Woman Representative Zainab Chidzuga said they had agreed to work with the Coast elders to advance the region’s agenda, adding that as politicians they could not turn down the request to back their team. She explained that the elders under the Mijikenda Community Council of Elders (Mijicea) called Mung’aro and his allies and expressed their desire to work with his team.

“Coast is going to elect individuals, not political parties through euphoria. We were called by the elders who agreed to work with us. Who are we to turn down their request?” posed Ms Chidzuga.

“Things have changed here and people no longer support the Opposition. They should not compare the current situation to the Malindi by-election because it was evident that there was a lot of malpractice,” she added.

Mijicea Secretary General Vincent Mwachiro said plans were underway to install Mung’aro as community spokesman and Chidzuga as deputy, adding that they would campaign alongside the two.

“We are doing this to give political direction to the community as we forge unity and chart the destiny of Coast region,” explained Mr Mwachiro.

Vet aspirants

He said his group was working closely with the Malindi District Cultural Association (Madca) to vet political aspirants who take tickets from political parties with Coast roots.

But Madca Secretary General Joseph Mwarandu yesterday clarified that although his group supported the participation of Kaya elders in political affairs, particularly through vetting aspirants, it had not had consultations with Mung’aro’s group to warrant his backing.

“Our role is to give direction to the Mijikenda community. But we cannot participate in installing Mr Mung’aro as community spokesman because we have not consulted to establish which political party ticket he will be running on in the next elections,” said Mr Mwarandu.

There has been confusion at the Coast after some Kaya elders joined political campaigns fully while others have refrained, arguing they were supposed to remain neutral and offer spiritual guidance.

Mwarandu said his group did not support any political grouping although it would participate in vetting candidates who run on political party tickets with roots at the Coast next year.

“We are neutral when it comes to which political side to support,” he said.

Mung’aro, a rebel ODM MP, has declared war on CORD and wants to be Kilifi’s governor next year. He is also trying to position himself as the most influential Mijikenda leader and has rallied a faction of Kaya elders to fly his banner.

Remain neutral

At the same time, Kaya Council of Elders Chairman Abdalla Mnyenze said Kaya elders must remain neutral politically. Mr Mnyenze warned that the role of Kaya elders was to guide the community on cultural matters and offer prayers to ward off calamities such as lack of rain, disease outbreaks and conflicts, as well as offer blessings to various leaders without playing politics.

“The Kaya institution has been infiltrated by people who are out for hire and this is sending the wrong perception about us. As Kaya elders we do not back Jubilee, CORD or any other political party. We are neutral and only play a role in reconciling political leaders whom we elected at the Coast so that they can serve the community,” warned Mnyenze.

Rabai MP William Kamoti said Kaya elders would not do the community justice by siding with certain politicians as they are supposed to protect the entire community without discrimination in accordance with the Mijikenda culture.

According to Mr Kamoti, Kaya elders constitute a small section of the elders and should involve opinion leaders for them to make such a serious decision.

“It is not right for a faction of elders to endorse politicians. Kaya elders should involve opinion leaders if their decision is to be taken seriously. They need to confine themselves to offering prayers over the problems facing their community and not meddle in politics,” he said.

Kinango MP Gonzi Rai said the qualifications of a politician cannot be determined by Kaya elders and cautioned them against meddling in partisan politics instead of spearheading spiritual and cultural programmes.

“Kaya elders should be seen to be non-partisan and should stick to the role of being spiritual and cultural leaders. Meddling in partisan politics betrays the meaning of spiritual leadership. It is also disturbing to see school leavers presenting themselves as Kaya elders while that status is reserved for elderly wise men and women,” Mr Rai noted.

2017 general elections ODM Gideon Mung’aro Miji Kenda
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