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Elders conduct cleansing ritual to fell sacred Mugumo trees

The Kirinyaga Council of Elders has conducted a cleansing ritual to appease the Agikuyu god to allow road contractor to uproot a fig tree at Kibingoti in Kirinyaga West Sub-county.

The elders responded after the Chinese contractor sought for their intervention, claiming every attempt to have the trees in the area uprooted failed.

“James Maina who work for the construction company said the heavy machines they had engaged to work on the section of the road developed problems under mysterious and illogical circumstances.

Elders at the shrine prepares a ram for their eating after the cleansing ritual. Photo by Irungu Mwangi

“We went for a different machine which also developed the same malfunction, what surprised us is the fact that the machines worked in other different sites, leaving us wondering what was wrong in the place.

He said they were advised by the locals to seek the indulgence of the elders who immediately embarked on a cleansing ceremony to appease the gods and let the construction work along the Kenol -Sagana – Marwa dual carriage moves on.

The fig tree is commonly known as the ‘Mugumo’tree has a sacred significance among the Agikuyu community and the area around is recognized as a place of worship. Donned in their brown casual attire, the elders led by their Chairperson, Cyrus Githaka, conducted the rituals by slaughtering two rams, out of which one, which was unblemished, is burned and the other consumed by the elders.

Githaka said the exercise was necessary to appease the forefathers and allow the construction work to proceed uninterrupted.

Besides making several rounds and sprinkling the area with blood from the animals, the elders planted three trees besides the place, which they said, would replace the shrine.

“We are transferring the gods from the section of the road to this new place where we have planted these trees, anyone who will dare uproot these trees will inherit the wrath of the gods and calamities will befall him and his families,” the elders proclaimed.

Githaka said the gods approved the sacrifice in that the smoke went straight up before circling around the trees, a sign that the contractor can now proceed with this work.

He said the shrine is believed to have been in existence for over 600 years and only tales are told of people who were attacked by the gods for interfering with it.

“The planting of the tree seedlings was symbolizing the transfer into a new shrine of the worship and a resting place for the ancestral spirits that were lying under the tree to be uprooted.

The new site, Githaka said, should now not be in use for agricultural purposes lest calamities befall on the one who attempts to do so.

“The exercise to uproot the trees can now commence but we caution the locals against using the pieces of wood from the remains of the fig tree. Only the very old people are allowed to use the firewood, otherwise, the wood should be left to rot. ’Githaka said.

“The only category of people allowed to use the wood is the extremely needy people and that will strictly build them houses, “warned Fredrick Mbutu, one of the elders.

Former Member of Parliament (MP) for Mwea, Peter Njuguna Gitau, who is the patron of the group commended the government for the expansion of the road.

He said the dual carriage would ease transportation and assist in decongesting traffic along the section of the road.

Dorcas Mwangi, the local administrator said that with the rituals accomplished, it has indeed lifted a huge weight off their shoulders as for close to two months they had attempted to search for a solution to no avail.

“Finally, we can heave a sigh of relief as the contractor can now resume work on this site. We are optimistic, with this behind us; the project will be complete within the stipulated time,” she said.

“I want to appeal to all the local residents to strictly adhere to all advice that has been issued by the elders and avoid further complications,” she said

Rachel Mithamo, who represented the contractor equally expressed her excitement, saying the contractor would now freely work with no hindrance. She hailed the government and the local elders for assisting in dealing with the problem.

Environmentalist, Achuti Mochama, heaped praises on the Agikuyu elders for their efforts in preserving the fig tree. He said the religious observation has greatly contributed to the sustenance of the tree, which is one of the trees that help in addressing ecosystem-related problems.

The 84-kilometer dual carriage is set to be complete in June 2022. Once complete, the 14 billion dual carriages will help connect the Northern Corridor from Nairobi to the Lapsset Corridor in Isiolo.

By Irungu Mwangi

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