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Kalenjin circumcision fete now moves to April

RIFT VALLEY
By Nikko Tanui | April 6th 2021
Young initiates who went on circumcision experience stages at Napara village in Bungoma County during the first day of circumcision festivals. [BY BENJAMIN SAKWA]

The Kalenjin community has moved its annual boys’ circumcision ceremony from December to April.

The changes in the initiation calendar have been occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic that affected the school calendar.

The decades-old ceremony usually takes four weeks every December holiday, but this is no longer possible because aqccording to the new school calendar, learners will only have one-week Christmas holiday.

Instead, the April holiday is now the longest, at seven weeks, making it the most appropriate for the ceremony.

Kipsigis Myoot Council of Elders Chairman Bishop (Rtd) Paul Leleitto said the elders approved the April circumcision calendar to conform with the education calendar.

“The seven weeks school holiday break is enough time for initiates to undergo circumcision and the other programmes that come with it without disrupting their education. We must conform with the new norm until the year that the country will revert to the regular academic calendar,” said Leleitto.

He said the December calendar had been based on the fact that it was usually the harvesting season when food was available in plenty for the initiates. Leleitto said that would not be a problem because food was now available throughout the year, thanks to agricultural technology.

“Agricultural technology and a new variety of crops have ensured there is plenty of food in every season of the year, and therefore circumcision rites can be conducted in any month of the year,” said the elder.

Leleitto said the changes in the circumcision calendar would not change the naming of the community age-set. “We are now in the Nyongi age-set. There will be no changes in the naming,” he said.

The Kipsigis community has at least seven age-sets named after every 15 years.

Whereas in the good old times a circumcision ceremony was a big event drawing relatives and friends from far and wide, the Covid-19 pandemic and protocols have limited the fanfare.

The initiates will also have to adhere to the health guidelines, including wearing a facemask.

“We take Covid-19 very seriously. We have advised parents of the initiates to strictly limit the number of family members who can access a menjo (secluded area where boys spend time after undergoing circumcision until they heal),” said Leleitto.

The elders also advised that the number of initiates who can be hosted in a single menjo should not be more than five, which in the old times could be as many as a dozen boys.

Leleitto said they had also issued an advisory that there should be no big celebration ceremony to welcome the initiates back home.

“We take the government’s health advisory seriously and the community must observe the Ministry of Health protocols. We are living in extraordinary times and we must take extra caution, lest the circumcision ceremony becomes a fertile ground for coronavirus infections,” he said.

Pastor Fianson Kirui, the Kericho Town African Gospel Church Assistant pastor, said 50 boys underwent circumcision on March 27 under the church’s circumcision programme.

“We had to split them into two groups of 25 boys so that we conform to the requirement of only 30 initiates being hosted in our menjo,” he said.

Covid 19 Time Series

 

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