Two Kenyan tribes divided by the festival of circumcision

While the Bukusu celebrate the custom, Turkana men flee in fear of being forcibly cut

Nairobi

The circumcision season among Kenya’s Bukusu ethnic group brings a festive atmosphere: music, food and free-flowing beer. For the uncircumcised men from other tribes in the area, however, it is not time to party, it’s time to flee.

At least 12 men from other tribes have been forcibly circumcised since the start of the circumcisions this month, according to police. Others have sought refuge in police stations to avoid the cut.

The Bukusu group prefers traditional circumcisions using simple tools and no anaesthesia. But tradition can be disastrous. A 13-year-old boy lost his penis this month after it was chopped off by a careless circumciser, according to local press reports quoting his parents.

Adult males from the Turkana community living in the Bukusu-dominated town of Moi’s Bridge are the majority of the victims, according to local administrator Moses Okumu. A group of Turkana men wielding swords, bows and clubs held protests last week over the spate of forced procedures. Michael Ngilimo said a family member was forcibly cut by a group moving from house to house in search of uncircumcised men.

“They pounced on my uncle and circumcised him and left him there bleeding without treatment. I spent a sleepless night as my uncle was bleeding,” he said. “I got up early to go and look for medicine.”

To avoid becoming victims, many other men in the area sleep in corn fields and others seek refuge in the police station, he said.

The Turkana will fight back if the trend continues, another villager warned. “All of us should respect each other’s customs. If you force someone to adopt your custom it may harm him,” he said. “We are known, we fight with the [rival tribe] Pokot. We fight every day. We have killed. We are not afraid of death.”

Boys lie in a river to numb themselves before circumcision Boys lie in a river to numb themselves before circumcision (Reuters)
No one has been arrested for the involuntary circumcisions, said Mr Okumu. He warned that those who continue with the practice will be charged if they are caught.

Traditionally the Turkana, a Nilotic tribe whose cultural practices and way of life has not been diluted by modern influences, do not engage in circumcision as a rite of passage. But members of the Bukusu community say since the Turkana living among them they should adopt their most celebrated custom.

Wycliffe Khaemba, a labourer from the Bukusu tribe, said that because Turkana were marrying girls from his tribe, “we want them to be clean”.

“The foreskin keeps a lot of germs and it also prevents them performing in bed,” he said. Mr Khaemba said that while some Turkana men are persuaded to agree to circumcision, others are “cowards” who have to be forced.

Circumcision is a big deal among the Luhya community, the second-largest ethnic group in Kenya, said Martin Waliaula, a local politician and business leader who is Bukusu. The Bukusu are one of 16 Luhya sub-tribes. He said circumcision ceremonies are held every two years for boys between 10 and 14 and the initiate invites all his relatives to celebrate.

“Cows are slaughtered, people are feasting and dancing before the ceremony,” he said in its defence.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'