Wrong time and place for right rite of passage

Parents of 19 initiates in Bungoma acccuse NGO of circumcising their children without consent of family

Parents have no quarrel about it. Their problem is that they were not consulted about it; that it was done outside the stipulated period and it took place in the “wrong” county.

It is about a controversy that  is raging in Kanduyi, Bungoma county between a non-governmental organisation and parents of 19 boys who claim their boys were circumcised without their consent or participation.

They are also unhappy that the operation was done before the traditional August holiday season and that the boys were taken to Kakamega county for the procedure.

According to the parents, the operation of two of the boys was also botched and need to undergo corrective surgery.

Impact Research Organisation is being accused of carrying out the operation on the boys at Matungu sub-county hospital, Kakamega county contrary to the customs of the Bukusu and Tachoni sub-tribes of the Luhya community which require that boys undergoing the rite of passage be accompanied by parents or a relative.


Tradition also requires that the parent or relative takes possession of the foreskin which has to be disposed off at a specific place. 

Parents accuse the NGO of taking the boys through the operation with only the knowledge of the headteacher, are now demanding to know who circumcised their sons and where the foreskins were deposited.

“These people came to school with a form which required that the boys enter their names, ID and telephone numbers of their parents and convinced the  headteacher to release the boys aged between seven and 14 years to undergo circumcision,’’ said Sifuna Wamatala, a parent.

Efforts to get a comment from the NGOs officials were not successful as they switched off their phones as soon as they were asked to comment on the matter.

The parents are now demanding their children’s foreskins, or even better, that they children’s bodies be restored to their previous status, failure to which they are threatening to take legal measures against the NGO.

Chairman of circumcisers Bungoma county Sinino Womukolongolo said the NGO should compensate each boy with one cow, four cockerels, clothes and traditional food which the boys will feed on until they heal.

“The NGO never consulted anyone, except the school head. This is against our culture and the school calendar,’’ said Womukolongolo.

Tuuti/Marakaru MCA Joseph Nyongesa condemned the incident and called non-governmental organisations to respect the culture of the Bukusu.

He said it was wrong for the NGO to collude with the headteacher to have the boys circumcised during the school term and without their parents’ consent.

“How can you circumcise boys when they have not done their end term exams? This is very unfortunate,’’ said Nyongesa.

The circumcision season for the Bukusu and the Tachoni falls on the August school vacation.

The headteacher, Michael Odhiambo, declined to comment on the matter.

Bungoma Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) executive secretary Kenneth Ngangah said that while the headteacher had good intentions, he did not understand the customs of the community.

He blamed the school board of management for failing to advise the teacher accordingly.

Bungoma County Director of Culture Alice Wafula warned against carrying out the circumcision rites before the traditional August season. Circumcision is highly valued   among the Bukusu and Tachoni communities. It is regarded as a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood.

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