It has been a long held tradition in Kenyan communities that whenever a leader of note visits a community, one notable aspect of the celebrations is being crowned an elder of that community.
The leader is given a local name, dressed in traditional local regalia and sometimes partake of local foods and drinks.
This has been inspired by the belief that cultures are an integral part of any community and introducing one to their culture creates a bond of friendship that should be protected and jealously guarded.
In Taita-Taveta County the Njavungo Council of Elders has begun to stamp its authority as a cultural outfit of note and has enjoyed widespread media coverage especially their dalliance with the First Family.
The Njavungo derives its name from the union of three cultural outfits, namely Njama for Wataveta, Vumwe for the Pare and Ngome ya Nguma of the Taita community.
Njavungo was instrumental in bringing to the attention of the First Family the historical and cultural significance of the Mwanguwi caves (also known as Kenyatta caves) in Mbale village, which the founding father of the nation used as rendezvous to plan clandestine activities on how to deal with the colonial government.
It’s in these caves where Jomo Kenyatta was given powerful charms to protect him from the colonial dragnet by notable Taita seers and elders. Apparently, legend has it, that the elders and soothsayers predicted the not only would Jomo rise to become the leader of this country but also that one of his sons would become president of Kenya.
During his tour of Taita-Taveta County about two years ago, when he presided over the issuance of 19,000 title deeds to locals, President Uhuru Kenyatta had the opportunity to meet 101- year old Sylvia Manga who used to cook for Jomo at the historic caves.
Manga died early this year at the age of 103.
In fact president Uhuru’s tour of Taita –Taveta County was not without precedents.
Before embarking on the title deeds distribution exercise, the head of state was crowned a Taita elder. This included being strapped with a traditional Taita leather bag(kikuchu), a traditional three legged stool(kitiri), a walking stick(mzata) and a fly whisk(sombe).
The fly whisk Jomo Kenyatta used as his political trade mark, was given to him at the Mwanguwi caves by Taita elders as a symbol of authority and power.
During the event at Moi Stadium in Voi at that time, Uhuru was also nicknamed “Mwakazi” which means a hardworking person in local dialect.
In Taita community, virtually every name means something and the prefix “Mwa” is instructive and carries the weight of character, objects, space and time.
For a woman “Mwa” is substituted for “Wa” or “Mka”.
“We are only a cultural outfit out to restore the vanishing values of Wataita and Wataveta because it’s said muacha mila ni mtumwa,” said a member of the Njavungo, Mnjala Mwaluma, adding that they are not a political outfit nor are they championing a Jubilee political agenda.
The chairman of Njavungo, former councillor Ronald Mwasi says they are more interested in restoring the rich history of the freedom struggle which has largely gone undocumented.
“We are not only out to restore the history of Taita in relation to the freedom struggle by merely dwelling on Jomo Kenyatta. We are also working on Woresha Mengo, late Mzee Lenjo Msamuli and Mwangeka wa Malowa,” said Mwasi.
And as though determined to stamp their cultural audacity, the Njavungo scored another first by crowning the first Lady Margaret Kenyatta a Taita woman elder and nicknamed her “Wakesho”. In local lingo Wakesho means a woman with a gift of foresight.
This was during the Madoka Half Marathon.
After being crowned Taita woman elder, the first lady presided over the flagging off of the marathon.She also distributed more than 3,000 shoes to pupils of local primary schools as a way of keeping at bay the jigger menace.
So with this cultural bonding, the Taita community might feel proud to refer to the First Family members as Uhuru Muigai “Mwakazi” and Margaret Kenyatta “Wakesho”.
The fly whisk Jomo Kenyatta used as his political trade mark was given to him at the Mwanguwi caves by Taita elders as a symbol of authority and power.