By Mwakwaya Raymond
As the world grapples with the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, Kaya elders in the Kenyan coast region have arranged ‘special prayers’ within their nine subtribes found in two Counties of Kwale and Kilifi.
Their Thursday March 19, 2020 announcement comes in the wake of Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta’s national call for special prayers on Saturday March 21, 2020 to be conducted at State House in Nairobi.
The sacred forest prayers, according to the Kaya elders, will be complementary to the national prayers in seeking ‘gods’ intervention against the scourge of the dreadful corona virus which originated in the Chinese City of Wuhan in late December last year.
Currently, the infection of the novel COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization, has reached more than 207,000 with at least 8,648 dead from at least 166 countries globally.
In the Kenyan Coast, the Mijikenda Kaya Elders Association (MKEA) says their prayers will revoke the traditional spirits’ intervention to protect Kenyans from the spreading infectious disease.
“We follow strict procedures for prayers that our forefathers directed us to conduct whenever we face crises like what is currently facing the world,” Chairman Mwinyi Mwalimu says.
The MKEA coordinator, Johnson Ndokolani, notes that the traditional prayers will be conducted not only in the Kayas but also other sacred places from different communities within the coastal region.
“Although corona virus is disastrous, but there is nothing bigger than prayers,” he adds explaining that prayers will be restricted to small gathering as required by health officials managing the disease.
The Mijikenda Community include nine Bantu-speaking ethnic groups – Giriama, Duruma, Digo, Chonyi, Rabai, Jibana, Ribe, Kambe and Kauma – spread in Kwale and Kilifi Counties.
Apart from the Kayas being forests where the ethnic groups express their oral traditions and performing arts, they are also sources of valuable medicinal plants.
In fact, the traditions and practices constitute codes of ethics and governance system including prayers, oath-taking, burial rites and charms, naming of newly born, initiations, reconciliations, marriages and coronations.
Each ethnic group has Kambi (Council of elders) that acts as the custodians of the Kayas within their jurisdictions where only 10 elders will be allowed to conduct the special prayers.
Speaking after making a short special prayer at the Uhuru Gardens in Mombasa County on Thursday, the elders called on Kenyans to observe personal hygiene as recommended by health officials.
“Our people must observe strict guidelines on their personal hygiene as specified by the government as we indulge our forefathers in special prayers to intervene and protect Kenyans from the risk of infection,” Mr Ndokolani says.
PROVISION OF WATER
An elder, Juma Mnyeto, wants the government to ensure the provision of adequate clean water for the purposes of washing their hands and keeping personal hygiene to the required standards.
“If there is no running water in our taps, then it will be a tough call asking people to constantly wash their hands when the commodity is being sold like rare gem,” he claims.
While addressing Kenyans recently, President Kenyatta announced a National Prayer Day as the country confirmed its first three cases of COVID-19 that rose to seven on Wednesday.
“We cannot ignore the need to turn to God. In these circumstances as we have done in the past as a nation, we have always turned to God first to give thanks for the many blessings that He has bestowed on our nation”.
“But we also turn to God to share our fears, our apprehensions, but also to seek his guidance and ever-present protection,” the President said.