More than 3,000 youths invaded three Njuri Ncheke Council of Elders shrines in Igembe Central on Wednesday and razed them. Police said the youths were protesting the elders’ decision to forcibly recruit locals into the council and Jubilee campaign team. “The elders are also demanding goats and other gifts after installing locals as elders,” the youths said. Area OCPD Jane Nyakeruma said no complaints had been raised with the police.
“About 3,000 youths stormed and burned the shrines and we are looking into the matter. But as of now, the Njuri Ncheke have not come to us to lodge any complaints,” Ms Nyakeruma said. The affected shrines were Athimbu, Miori and Mwiriene.
The elders responded with an attack in Kiengu, which led to the loss of miraa and other belongings as they clashed with traders. The council members beat up men they suspected of leading the protest. A woman injured in the scuffle was rushed to the Meru Referral and Teaching Hospital. “We are not opposed to respected members of the community being installed as Njuri Ncheke elders. While it is an honour to be initiated as an elder, we are not happy with the way they are doing it. They are demanding goats from us,” said one of the youths identified only as Mwiti.
Traders were forced to run for safety when the elders, armed with sticks, set on them. In revenge, the residents marched to the shrines and reduced to ashes what had been left of them. “We want the council of elders from this area abolished and churches or schools built where the shrines stood,” said a resident.
The elders’ chairman, Ramoh Kathata, said they were returning from a recruitment drive and decided to discipline youths who booed them as they passed. “We discipline those who disrespect elders. They undermined our authority and we had to respond in the standard manner, by flogging.” Mr Kathata said the elders would meet soon to decide the next cause of action.