By GRACE WEKESA
Politicians from western Kenya are under fire for ignoring the most important cultural rite in the region and instead trooping to attend similar events in neighbouring Uganda.
Elders of the Bukusu sub-tribe of the Luhya community are up in arms against what they describe as disregard for circumcision.
The circumcision season has kicked off in Western to coincide with the school holidays.
In the recent past, prominent Luhya politicians have been trooping across the border to witness such ceremonies conducted by their relatives, the Bugisu of Uganda.
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Trade Minister Moses Wetangula, Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa and assistant minister Wakoli Bifwoli are said to be making arrangements to travel to Uganda to participate in the ceremonies.
Sources close to the ministers but who did not wish to be identified by name said the ministers have requested Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to attend the ceremonies.
“They have also requested Museveni to invite President Kibaki to Bududa in Uganda where the main ceremony will be held,” said one of the sources.
Abandoning own culture
Unconfirmed reports indicate that President Mwai Kibaki, Heritage minister William Ole Ntimama among others have indicated an interest in attending the function.
The preference for the Uganda ceremony is because the Bugisu are viewed as senior to the Bukusu in ancestry.
But Luhya elders are complaining that the habit by Kenyan leaders to travel to witness the Bugisu rite overshadows their own efforts.
Luhya Council of Elders Chairman Patrick Wangamati dismissed the arrangements by the politicians and distanced his council from the event.
“The ceremony is ongoing among the Bukusu community, and it beats logic to attend the exercise in a neighbouring country when our leaders can do the same here,” stated Mr Wangamati.
He reiterated that this being a male circumcision season, the function should be held in Kenya.
Mr Wangamati argued that the residents should be given the opportunity to hold the ceremony, which is expected to attracted high profile personalities from the Kenyan and Ugandan governments.
“This is the second time our MPs and other leaders are going for an important ceremony in Uganda. They should let the President and other leaders be invited either to Bungoma, Kitale or Kakamega to promote our own culture,” argued Mr Wangamati.
He said as elders, they don’t understand what interest Mr Wetang’ula, Mr Wamalwa or Mr Wakoli have in the neighbouring country, noting that the circumcision ceremony is of greater interest among Kenyans.
“We see no reason why they should carry a lot of people to Uganda for the same rite,” he added.
Mr Wangamati urged locals to boycott the payment of Sh2,000 as bus fare to Uganda.
During former Cabinet minister Musikari Kombo’s leadership of Ford Kenya, he also led politicians to eastern Uganda.
“It’s saddening to note that our leaders continue to recognise the Bugisu more than their own. Kombo led the leaders to Uganda and now our ministers are doing the same,” regretted Mr Wangamati.
Former Cabinet minister Burudi Nabwera argued that it is time the Ministry of Culture and National heritage promoted the country’s own, adding that not doing so has led to the emulation of foreign traditions.
Mr Nabwera said the trend has impacted negatively on the Luhya community’s traditions.
Mr Wangamati noted that for many years, the politicians have been thronging the neighboring country to promote its culture abandoning their own.
“Its so unfortunate that our leaders are happy to attend and promote a foreign country’s culture and neglect theirs,’’ said Mr Wangamati.
He urged leaders to set a good example for the community and be at the forefront in promoting the male circumcision rite.
Efforts to get comments from the leaders were futile as their phones went answered.
The council of elders however challenged the community to embrace their own culture, stressing that circumcision is meant to mark an important transition in the life of a luhya boy child between the ages 12 and 16.
In Western Kenya, funerals and circumcision ceremonies have ceased to be cultural events and have instead been turned into political platforms.
Politicians will use every opportunity to woo voters during this season.
In areas inhabited by the sub-clans of the luhya community, circumcision rites have now been transformed into platforms for politicians to sell their agendas.
In Western Kenyan, the male circumcision exercise is a closely guarded affair.
This year’s exercise won’t be much different except that it has sparked rage among elders of the community.
The circumcision ceremonies take place in three counties: Bungoma, Vihiga and Kakamega and would be a perfect marketing platform for presidential hopefuls Musalia Mudavadi, Eugene Wamalwa, Wetangula, Bifwoli Wakoli and Cyrus Jirongo.
The five have declared their interest to run for the presidency and are expected to make their presence felt during the circumcision ceremonies.
Mr Mudavadi hails from the Maragoli sub-tribe while Mr Jirongo is a Tiriki from Vihiga County.
By associating with the circumcision ceremonies, the five politicians would have an opportunity to establish a direct link with the grassroots, and it will be interesting to see which of them makes the most of it.