Central Kenya – Tension is rising in Central Kenya between some cultural elders and religious leaders over the traditional circumcision ceremonies of young boys. The Kikuyu elders, known as Kiama Kia ma, have voiced concerns that religious leaders have encroached upon their traditional role in overseeing these rites of passage.
According to Kenya News Agency, Ng’ang’a wa Kiarie, the Chairman of the Thika Sub County Kiama kia ma, stated that the church has overreached by taking over the circumcision ceremonies, which have historically been under the elders’ purview. According to Kiarie, the elders believe that these rituals should remain a cultural matter, with the church focusing on spiritual guidance. He expressed these views during a ceremony in Thika, where over 500 boys transitioned into manhood.
“Circumcision has always been a strict cultural issue, fully understood and overseen by elders,” said Kiarie. He emphasized the importance of pastors concentrating on spiritual matters and leaving cultural rituals to the elders.
Another elder, Njuguna Musembi, highlighted the sacredness of the circumcision stage in a boy’s life within the Kikuyu culture. He argued that these rites require careful observation and should be managed exclusively by elders. Musembi accused the church of being financially motivated in their involvement in these cultural practices.
The issue has also drawn the attention of local government officials. Kiambu Deputy Speaker John Njiru called for governmental investigation into incidents where elders have allegedly misguided young boys into engaging in illicit sexual activities, drug use, and alcoholism following their transition into manhood. Njiru’s statement comes amid allegations from female sex workers in Thika town that some elders have been linking them with young boys as part of the transition into manhood.
“We respect the role of good elders who adhere to cultural practices and advise initiates against indiscipline. However, those engaging in dangerous activities will face legal consequences,” Njiru, also the Hospital Ward MCA, asserted.
This brewing conflict highlights the complex interplay between cultural practices and religious influences in Central Kenya, particularly regarding significant rites of passage like circumcision.