Community Community Groups Environment Events Oloolua

KIKUYU ELDERS PRAY: For Migumo Trees Affected by the SGR Project

By Michael Mwangi

Members of Kiama Kia Ma last month, on April 2 held a ceremony in Oloolua to pray for 3 migumo trees which were located along the path of the SGR line. This came following cutting of several migumo trees by workers of the Chinese firm constructing the SGR line in Oloolua. Members of mwaki wa Oloolua raised alarm and notified the National leadership. They also raised their concerns via letters to the National government, Kenya Railways and the SGR contractor. The SGR contractor was requested not to cut more migumo trees until prayers and a special ceremony are held.  The Council believes Mugumo tree is a shrine and only falls on its own for a reason. Cutting of the tree is prohibited without a special prayer ceremony is held.

Some of the Kiama kia ma members who attended the ceremony

Kiama kia ma is a Kikuyu traditional cultural council of elders with over 100,000 members spread across Kenya and abroad. According to the National Chairman Mr Kigoci Wa Waimiri, the council has members in 22 Counties across Kenya such as Nairobi, Kiambu, Nakuru, Nyeri, Lamu, Mombasa, Narok, Bungoma, Kisii, transnzoia and others. He further said they have members outside Kenya in countries such as USA, Great Britain and many other countries. The chairman said they circumcised over 4000 boys last year.

I was invited to the ceremony by a mzee friend of mine, who is a member of Council. Activities started in Oloolua forest where members including the National Council leadership had congregated.  The chairman of mwaki wa Oloolua, Njuguna Wa Kamau briefed the national leadership on the day itinerary.  Representatives and members of various miaki from different parts of the country eloquently introduced themselves by loudly declaring their Kikuyu names, their clan and which mwaki they belong to.  None of those present mentioned an english name.  The Chairman led prayers while everybody was standing and facing Mt Kenya.

Ngoima being inspected by members of the council

Several members proceeded to inspect the sacrificial goat known as ngoima.  Ngoima is a wether and the oldest amongst the flock.   After a brief inspection, the wether was declared appropriate for the ceremony.  Not everyone was allowed to proceed to the main prayer ceremony. Even the members were not spared by the strict conditions.  For such a ceremony, one must have abstained from sex, lust, temptations for a minimum of 8 days. One must have cleansed themselves from any anger, hatred or ill motives or feelings towards any other person. A member must have sought innermost peace, by forgiving anyone who had wronged him, in order to participate in the prayer ceremony.

A convoy of vehicles then proceeded to the prayer ceremony location under a mugumo tree approximately a mile away. The members who had not managed to keep up with the strict fasting conditions positioned themselves a short distance away from the mugumo tree to condone the area. Those who had managed to follow through with fasting washed their hands using water from a calabash which was positioned approximately 50 mtrs away.   

The main ceremony involved sacrificing a wether.

To kill a goat, Kikuyus traditionally do not cut its throat.  They either shoot – kuratha or stab – gutheca.  Specific ceremonies determine which method will be used to kill the goat.  In this case, the method used was kuratha, whereby 4 men representing a clan held a hoof each. A fifth man who is an elder in the council shot the goat with a specially made knife.  

Third Right- The council National Chairman Kigoci Wa Waimiri

An elder-led the members with prayers around the tree to request the mugumo tree to accept being cut. The action shows traditionally Kikuyus had a very close relationship with nature.  The respect given to the mugumo tree was evident.  The members of the Council believes Mugumo tree is planted by God and is a shrine.

After the prayers on the first mugumo tree, the council members visited a nearby site where it is alleged the SGR contractor fell a mugumo tree without notifying the council.  After a brief prayer, the members proceeded to a third tree near the Ngong train station, which is under construction for another brief prayer.

Right – Oloolua Chief Moses Mpesha with council elders

The members then proceeded back to the mugumo tree where the main ceremony was held. The ngoima which was by now completely slaughtered was burnt to ashes to complete the ceremony.  The burning was supervised by the council leadership which included the patron Kung’u wa Muigai wa Mbari ya Magana.  The patron is the cousin to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Standing – The council patron Kung’u Wa Magana Wa Mbari ya Magana who is the cousin to President Uhuru Kenyatta

After the main prayer ceremony, the members proceeded back to Oloolua forest for nyama choma lunch.  A representative of the SGR contractor passed by and acknowledged the universal need to respect other people’s culture.  

The day concluded with amazing speeches from various members including the patron. The mastery of the Kikuyu language by the members especially the leadership was impressive. It sounded more like poetry.  

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