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Kuria Community Seeks Cultural Intervention to Tame Crime

The Kuria Council of Elders has resolved to use cultural intervention through “Engoro’ (a traditional communal ceremony) to assist government mop-up illegal firearms within the community.

The Council’s action comes amid persistent violent crimes carried out by heavily armed robbers that have seen teachers and civil servants killed, maimed or left worried to the point of not offering their services to the local people.

The State has in the past years issued several amnesties to suspected community members possessing the illicit firearms to surrender them but the gestures have not been fruitful as anticipated.

‘Engoro’ is a traditional communal ceremony performed by the elders against all the suspects who refuse to comply with the communal appeal to desist from a condemned practice.

It is believed that bad omen befalls those who partake the ceremony yet they know they are guilty of the accusations leveled against them like going through it when they possess the illegal guns.

The cultural practice believed and valued is regarded by the Kuria’s four clans-of Abanyabasi and Abairege of Kuria East and Abakira and Abagumbe of Kuria West as the last option to condemn the suspects who are in denial of possessing illegal guns or have done something condemned communally.

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 over the weekend to deliberate on the best way to prop up suspects in the region to surrender the weapons before government forcefully clean-up the local villages of the illicit killer tools.

The impeccable sources within the Council told KNA that the only option they now have is to employ ‘our cultural intervention’ where suspects still in denial of possession of illegal guns will undergo the ’engoro’ ritual while naked and before the crowd to prove their innocence.

During the meeting, the sources that refused to be quoted because of the strict secrecy of the meeting affirmed of their resolved to use all means to have the illegal guns in the possession of marauding gangs promoting cattle theft, loss of lives and properties in the region, confiscated.

National Government Administration forces in collaboration with the civil society have been organizing peace caravans while clan elders have been moving between Migori and Trans Mara Counties, preaching to the members of the Maasai, Kipsigis and the Kuria communities to hand over all the illegal guns in their possession but in vain.

With all these efforts of the security agencies and leaders within the three communities, very few illegal firearms have been returned to the government within the past years even as crime continues to thrive within the region.

Migori County Commissioner, Boaz Cherutich, welcomes the move by the Council of elders and urges those from the Maasai and Kipsigis to follow suit with a view to allowing peace to prevail in the region.

“Definitely, we will support them by all means, if at all their move is going to clean the region of the illegal guns in the hands of criminals who are causing residents sleepless nights and blocking development to take place in the area,” said Cherutich said.

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.

Suspects before the crowd ready to meet the elders to take them through “engoro”. Photo by George Agimba

A crowd of onlookers plus the suspects would first gather outside the opening to the forest leading to the site.

Then names of the suspects are read quietly and keenly not to prick and anger the spirits of the “engoro gods.’

The suspects are then carefully led to meet the elders near the gate of the forest before being directed to follow the elders to the ceremonial ground prepared early by a few chosen elders, as the whole crowd moves behind them just to witness what is to be done.

At the cultural holy ground, elders address the suspects and the whole crowd, warning the suspects of the consequences of the cultural ritual undertaken to those who deny having the illegal weapons or guilty of any accusation levelled against them yet they are culpable.

Suspects are then asked to strip naked ready to start the event. Those who are 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, among the rules to be followed are that; all suspects to strip naked, to move around a small ant-hill seven times implying seven (7) days commonly known and regarded as a bad day “Umhungate” after which a consequence start taking place on the suspects.

The Small ant-hill where suspects go round seven (7) times during the ‘engoro’ ritual. Photo by George Agimba

On the small ant-hill, 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 ant-hill.

All these time, all the elders from the four clans stand side by side in a line while holding their walking sticks, the ant-hill 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.

The suspects go through the fearful and traumatizing cultural event while naked after which the elders call off the gathering while cautioning the suspects not to talk to anybody nor shake hands with anybody not even their relatives.

By George Agimba

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