On July 1, 2022, a section of Agikuyu elders trooped to Deputy President William Ruto’s official residence in Karen to meet him. Their team leader, Captain Kungu Muigai said the Deputy President had asked to meet them. Kungu is President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta’s cousin.
A week later, a section of the Agikuyu elders from Kirinyaga County installed Raila Odinga and Martha Karua as a Kikuyu elder and elderess. The duo are the flag-bearers of the Azimio coalition in the August 9, 2022 presidential elections.
Days before Karua was officially unveiled as Raila’s deputy, Kikuyu Council of Elders slaughtered a black sheep in anticipation of Karua’s endorsement. Essentially, they were installing her ahead of time. “We have sacrificed this sheep to seal the deal that has been agreed upon by all leaders from Mt Kenya region. We have decided that Martha Karua deserves the (running mate) seat to empower women leaders in the country,” said Wachira Kiago, the council’s chairman.
How many times can a politician be enthroned? As many times as, there are competing councils of elders.
For the last one-and-half years, Kikuyu council of elders have been very busy executing their political installation duties. The installations are solely the preserve of politicians. To quote Wole Soyinka, it is the season of anomy for the Kenyan politics every election cycle.
Because, as you will realise, these councils of elders usually reappear and are re-energised during electioneering period. For the rest of the other time, nobody knows what they are up to. After the 2017 busy season, they resurfaced again in October 2020, when the Kikuyu Council of Elders travelled to Kango Ka Jaramogi, the respected homestead of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the father of Raila Odinga in Bondo, Siaya County.
No sooner had the dust settled than another council of elders questioned the authenticity of the group that had trooped to Bondo. The group that was in Bondo was led by Kiago. The group that had questioned them was the National Council of Elders led by Kungu Muigai. Kungu said true Kikuyu elders are never fed on sodas and bread, worse off, queue for food like they did in Jaramogi’s homestead. “These so-called elders desecrated the Kikuyu eldership status.” It is a section of this group that on July 1 went to see Ruto.
In October, 2020, Kungu also described the Bondo visit as the handiwork of Peter Kenneth and David Murathe. Before Karua was eventually selected to be Raila’s deputy, Kenneth, who is a former MP had been eyeing the position. Murathe as you all are aware, is the President’s Ahuja. Kungu described the two Gatanga muskateers as political opportunists bent on auctioning the community. Kenneth and Murathe come from the same Gatanga constituency, in Muran’ga County. Both represented the constituency and it is Kenneth who dislodged Murathe from the seat in 2002, never to recover to date.
As the Kungu-led group in 2020 was criticising the Wachira-led elders, he was plotting a visit to Karen, Raila’s nemesis, at the end of the very month. Twenty months later, he was back with his group for a repeat visit to Karen. The criticism levelled against the Wachira-led council by the Kungu team that went to Bondo was presumably more to do with being beaten to the game; than them being “fake” elders. To wake up one morning and realise they had been ambushed in the Bondo trip must have taken them by surprise.
These meetings between the elders and the presidential potentates have more to do with auctioning the peoples’ votes than catering to their welfare
Whatever goes on behind the closeted doors between the elders and the presidential potentates, only them knows. But one thing is for sure, these meetings have more to do with auctioning the peoples’ votes than catering to their welfare.
Kungu and his group that went to see Ruto, a week ago, were more or less, described also in less than endearing terms: “The elders who met Ruto are part of us, because they belong to the Kikuyu Community, but they lost their way,” said a group of elders aligned to Kiama Kia Ma (the truth council) of which the retired captain Kungu is a member.
In March, 2022, Kungu asserted that President Uhuru’s endorsement of Raila was a personal decision. Just this week, speaking to a Kikuyu radio station, he said the Raila/Karua enthronement last week in Kirinyaga was ill-informed and ill-advised. “There are some Kikuyu men who masquerade as elders and one of these fine days, we’ll expose them,” said Kungu.
Some of these elders who for a good measure are sprinkled with some flower women and where some elders are as young as being born in the mid-1970s, are self-imposed and not homogenous. That is to say, they could be as many “elders” as there are political interests. Although a paternalistic group, women who have been vetted are accepted as bona fide members.
The better known of these councils is the Wachira-led Kikuyu Council of Elders: For the longest time, it had been meeting at Homeland Inn, off Thika superhighway. Wachira is in his mid-60s. It is a subscription paying organisation, that draws its members from Mt Kenya and in the diaspora, like Mombasa, in the coast region.
The inn which is a nyama choma eating and drinking joint is owned by Wokabi Muriithi, the elder brother of Ndiritu Muriithi, the Laikipia County governor – nephews of the late President Mwai Kibaki.
At any given election cycle, there will be more than one council selling their services to politicians of the highest bidder
At any given election cycle, there will be more than one council fighting for relevance and attention from the political class. Attention and relevance from the political barons because their primary business is to sell their services to politicians of the highest bidder.
The Kikuyu Council of Elders was registered in 2009 as a self-help group. The same year, on November 24, 2009, another Kikuyu Council was registered under the registrar of societies. Its office bearers were listed as late James Njenga Karume, Stephen Ndung’u Karau and Peter Munga. Karau is a retired colonel and Munga is the Equity Bank chairman.
In 2011, these two councils were in a supremacy battle over the control of GEMA politicians. Their major quarrel rested on the Njenga-led council coronating him as a Kikuyu elder. The Wachira-led council complained that it had not been consulted on the October, 29, 2011 Karume’s enstoolment as GEMA’s tribal chief. It declared the Karume’s coronation as null and void.
So, all these recent “elderly” activities steeped in the current presidential campaigns are just mercenary activities: they will work for anyone and everyone for a fee, alcohol and loads of meat to feast on.