Kuria elders resort to cultural intervention to combat crime
The Kuria Council of Elders has resorted to cultural interventions to complement Government’s operation to mop up illegal firearms within the community.
Elders are now compelled to perform ‘engoro’, a traditional communal ceremony against suspects, who refuse to comply with the communal appeal to desist from a condemned practice.
Action comes amid persistent violent crimes by heavily armed robbers that have seen teachers and civil servants killed or maimed.
The Government has in the past issued several amnesties to suspected community members in possession of illicit firearms to surrender them, however, the gestures have not been fruitful as anticipated.
It is a revered cultural practice among the Abanyabasi and Abairege clans of Kuria East and Abakira and Abagumbe of Kuria West as the last option to condemn suspects who are in denial of possessing illegal guns or have done something condemned communally.
Community members believe bad omen befall those who partake the ceremony yet are guilty of the accusations leveled against them.
With a host of government amnesties having been extended to the community over a period of time, all in vain, the council has now decided to deal with its people internally.
Members of the highly regarded council from the four clans met at Chinato area in Migori over the weekend to deliberate on the best way to prop up suspects to surrender the weapons before government operation to recover the guns.
Impeccable sources said the only option the council has is to employ ‘our cultural intervention’ where suspects still in denial undergo the ritual to prove their innocence.
During the meeting, the sources affirmed of their resolve to use all means to have the illegal guns in the possession of marauding gangs promoting cattle theft, loss of lives and properties confiscated.
National Government Administration forces, in collaboration with the civil society, have been organising peace caravans while clan elders have been moving between Migori and Trans Mara counties, urging members of the Maasai, Kipsigis and the Kuria communities to hand over all the illegal guns in their possession in vain.
With all these efforts, very few illegal firearms have been returned within the past years even as crime continues to thrive within the region.
Migori County Commissioner Boaz Cherutich, welcomes the elders’ move, and urges those from the Maasai and Kipsigis to follow suit with a view to allowing peace prevail.
“Definitely, we will support them by all means if at all their move will help clean the region of the illegal guns in the hands of criminals,” said Cherutich.
According to the sources who know how the ‘engoro’ is performed, it starts with a strict restriction of members going near the ground where it is performed, normally inside a forest.
A crowd of onlookers and the suspects first gather outside the opening to the forest leading to the ceremonial site.
Names of the suspects are read quietly and keenly not to anger the spirits of the “engoro gods.’
Suspects are then carefully led to meet the elders near the gate of the forest. They are then directed to follow the elders to the ceremonial ground prepared by another set of chosen elders, as the whole crowd moves behind them to witness.
At the cultural holy ground, elders address the suspects and the whole crowd, warning of consequences of the ritual undertaken to those who deny having the illegal weapons or guilty of any accusation leveled against them yet they are culpable.
Suspects are then asked to strip naked ready to start the event. Those liable of their offences are asked to admit so that they can save themselves from undergoing the ritual for their own safety.
“Any suspect partaking the ritual and is guilty of the accusations will face bad omen including death, disease or any bad thing that would also befall his or her family,” explained one of the elders.
The elders give out rules to be followed during and after, which include suspects stripping naked, moving around a small anthill seven times implying seven days commonly known and regarded as a bad day “umhungate” after which a consequence starts taking place on the suspects.
On the small anthill, a small hole is dug at the middle and a pot with traditional concoction placed over. Suspects are then ordered to jump over the concoction seven times as they go around the small anthill.
All these time, all the elders stand side by side in a line while holding their walking sticks, the anthill in their middle and the suspects move through the elders while uttering what he or she knows of the illegal guns in his/her possession in local language.
After the ritual, elders call off the gathering and caution the suspects not to talk or shake hands with anybody, including their relatives for a period of time.– KNA