Even as Kikuyu Council of Elders led by Wachira Kiago as chairman prepares to host their Luo counterparts in Nyeri county later this month, questions are being asked as to whether they represent the community’s position or are simply political brokers going for the highest bidder.
There are also concerns that the elders’ office which symbolically is a shrine and ought to be a spiritually and morally clean place, is in a bar – Homeland-In Hotel along Thika Road.
Further, the elders have also hosted leaders where they endorse them after pocketing large sums of money.
Among those hosted by the elders include William Ruto who visited Homeland-In Hotel in August 9 2013 and former Nairobi governor Evans Kidero who paid them a visit ahead of the last elections.
The elders have also hosted women going for political seats among them Nairobi woman representative Esther Passaris and her predecessor Rachel Shebesh.
There are reports that there was a scuffle in Bondo as some of the Kikuyus took their leaders head-on for giving them a paltry Sh1,200 while they had been promised Sh12,000 for the two-day Bondo trip.
The delegation was hosted by Raila Odinga at his Kango Kajaramogi home in Bondo, Siaya county.
According to sources, the trip was financed by the government through the Interior principal secretary Karanja Kibicho and former presidential adviser Nancy Gitau.
Besides the nearly 700 elders, politicians and professionals were in the group that visited Bondo and endorsed the Building Bridges Initiative spearheaded by Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila.
They claimed the meeting was meant to unite the Luo and the Kikuyu communities that have been political rivals for decades.
Besides Kiago, nominated MP Maina Kamanda, former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru, Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni and Jubilee Vice chairman David Murathe were in attendance.
But the visit has elicited mixed reactions in Central Kenya, with leaders allied to the deputy president dismissing it and the elders as political dogs of war for hire.
Leading the onslaught against the group was Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua who termed those who attended the Bondo meeting as masqueraders, noting that true Kikuyu elders do not eat bread or drink soda during such ceremonies.
In Kikuyu culture, Gachagua added, elders in such ceremonies eat plain meat which they serve themselves and also women do not attend such ceremonies.
Similar sentiments were expressed by former Kiambu governor William Kabogo who dismissed the elders who visited Bondo as political conmen and women out to please the ruling class while dividing the country.
The visit was also dismissed by another group calling itself Kiama kia Ma which said they were not part of the function at Raila’s home.
Led by Samuel Maigua, they distanced themselves from the Wachira group saying they are recognised as the bonafide Kikuyu Council of Elders.
The Maigua group was speaking during a funeral of two youths killed during political chaos in Kenol, Muranga county during a function attended by the DP.
Curiously, a prominent elder, Thiong’o wa Gitau, revealed the organisers of the Bondo trip had posted a picture taken with Nyandarua governor Francis Kimemia and Limuru MP Peter Mwathi at another function insinuating that they would lead the Kikuyu delegation.
“A picture we had taken together with Kimemia and Mwathi was posted in social media to attract people to join the trip purporting we were part of the group which was attending. This was so misleading,” Gitau said.
The visit was also disowned by Uhuru’s cousin Kung’u Muigai who said the elders went there for their personal and selfish reasons and were never sent by the president.
Muigai is patron of the Kikuyu National Council of Elders.
“President Kenyatta did not send anyone to Bondo and was not aware of the visit. It was the work of Kenneth and Murathe. The National Council of Elders never sent them,” said Muigai.
According to sources, many of those who attended the ceremony do not qualify to be Kikuyu elders since they have not fulfilled the cultural requirements. Some of the attendees were also below 50 years, which make them unqualified for such roles.
There are also claims some of the women who graced the function are chang’aa sellers in Dandora, Nairobi. Those dismissing the elders as conmen note that according to the Kikuyu culture, every man is, as per tradition, supposed to offer up to three ritualistic goats progressively as he enters three age and familial status-determined ranks along the path of life.
At the initiation ceremony, the meat is eaten by members of the council (kiama) into which he is applying to join. The kiama is divided into three succeeding ranks and only those who have borne children are eligible to train as elders.
The critics of the Bondo visit noted that nearly all the attendees had not fulfilled the conditions required for one to be considered a Kikuyu elder.
They added that the resolutions arrived at in Bondo by the two groups who signed a memorandum of understanding cannot be binding to the Kikuyu community since the signatories are not true elders.
The visit was also condemned by over 2,000 elders dismissed the Kiago-led elders as rentseekers.
The Kiama Kia Ma elders led by Muthamaki (king) Thiong’o wa Gitau said their outfit is apolitical and only engages in cultural activities and seeking God’s intervention during calamities.