Traditional Political Organisation of the Kikuyu People


Kikuyu political structure

The political organisation of the Kikuyu people  was closely interwoven with the family and the riika. A young man after initiation through circumcision automatically entered into the National council of junior warriors(njama ya anake a mumo). After 82 moons or 12 rain seasons after the circumcision ceremony the junior warrior was promoted to theCouncil of senior warriors (Njama ya ita).Together this two councils would be called upon to protect the tribe in case of external aggression. The council of senior warriors was in addition an important decision making organ. The two councils were served by men of 20 – 40 years.Upon marriage a man was initiated into a council called kiama kĩa kamatimo.This was the first grade eldership and it denoted elders who were also warriors. At this stage the man plays the role of observers of senior elders. They are required to assist in proceedings by carrying out menial tasks like skinning animals, being messengers, carrying ceremonial articles or light fires among other tasks.

When a man had a son  old enough to be circumcised or a daughter old enough to be married ,he was elevated into another council called the council of peace(kiama kĩa mataathi). On entering this council the man was now a man of peace and no longer of the warrior class. He assumed the duty of peace maker in the community.When a man had had practically all his children circumcised, and his wife (or wives) had passed child-bearing age he reached the last and most honoured status. A council known askiama kĩa maturanguru (religious and sacrificial council).After paying an ewe which was slaughtered and offered in sacrifice to Ngai (God) the man was invested with powers to lead a sacrificial ceremony at the sacred tree (Mũgumũ mũtĩ wa Igongona). The elders of this grade assumed the role of ‘holy men’. They were high priests. All religious and ethical ceremonies were in their hands. In the Agĩkũyũ society the religious,governance and law functions were closely intertwined. With various councils being called upon to perform one of this functions. From the literature I’ve seen it is not quite clear whether women also had councils and what functions these councils served. The initiation ceremony seems to have been organized by a council comprised of both men and women.

Parallel to the said councils the family unit formed a council known as ndundu ya mũcie of which the father was the head. The father as the head of the household then represented the family in the next council called kiama kĩa itora (village council) comprising of all the family heads in the village. This was headed by the senior elder. A wider council called kiama kĩa rũgongo (district council) was formed comprising of all the elders from the district. This was presided over by a committee (kiama kĩa ndundu), composed of all the senior elders in the district. Among the senior elders, the most advanced in age was elected as the head and judge (mũthamaki or mũciiri) of the ndundu. The district councils then came together to form the national council. Among the judges, one was elected to head the meetings.

* by Gikuyu Architecture


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