Kajiado to initiate 15,000 Maasais to senior elders

300,000 guests expected. Two age-sets will become elders and unite in the five-day 'meat-eating ceremony on Wednesday

In Summary

• The five-day Olng’esherr (meat-eating ceremony) event will unite two Maasai age-sets - the older Ilpaamu and the younger Ilaitete. It begins on Wednesday, September 23.

• About 13, 000 bulls and 30,000 goats and sheep will be slaughtered for celebrants and guests. 

More than 15,000 men aged 25 to 40 years in the Maasai Matapato community will be initiated in five-day-long rite of passage known as meat-eating.

More than 15,000 men aged 25 to 40 years in the Maasai Matapato community will be initiated in five-day-long rite of passage known as meat-eating.

The Olng’esherr, or meat-eating ceremony, will unite two age-sets – the older Ilpaamu and the younger Ilaitete – into senior elderhood in Kajiado county.

It is the final rite of passage after Enkipaata and Eunoto.

The ceremony will take place on the Maparasha Hills starting on Wednesday, September 23.

More than 300,000 guests are expected from Kenya and Tanzania.

 It takes 10 years for an age-set to be named, making the difference between the youngest and eldest significant.

Those being initiated contribute one bull and Sh5,000 in cash.

When they are initiated, they can marry off their daughters, circumcise their sons and attend all community meetings. They will be eligible to inherit a share of their parents’ land, livestock and other property.

The last time such a ceremony took place in the Maasai nation was in 2005 when every community held a rite. They included the Ilkisonko, Ilkaputiei, Isiria/Iloita, Ilpurko/Ilaipiak, Uasin Gishu, Ildamat, Ilkankere, Iloodokilani and Ilmatapato subclans.

An estimated 3,000 bulls and 30,000 goats and sheep will be slaughtered for celebrants, their wives and guests.

The event that was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Governor Joseph ole Lenku led Kajiado politicians on a visit when they donated money and food.

Kanu chairman Gideon Moi and other Baringo politicians also visited.

Elder Lesalaon ole Seki from the Matapato South in Kajiado Central said Maasai’s lives are marked by elaborate ceremonies from childhood to adulthood.

“The three ceremonies define the progress and development of an individual member of the community,” he said.

Enkipaata, or circumcision, is the first ceremony for adolescent boys when an age-set for morans or young warriors is formed by elders.

“The boys are taken to the bush for vigorous mentorship taking several days or even weeks. They are inducted and educated on their culture and their new and future roles in the community,” Simon ole Koyie from the Matapato community said.

The boys will be lectured by elders about the importance of Maa culture, how to behave in the presence of their elders and how to behave as young men after circumcision.

“At Enkipaata, we are just small boys. We need to be taught how to be strong at heart in defending our rights as Maasai, as leaders and as husbands once we marry and have families,” Koyie said.

John ole Melubo from Maparasha of Kajiado Central subcounty said, “On the day the boys return home from their retreat in the bush, they are smeared with a white substance called enturoto to enhance their outlook.”

The boys are then paraded in a long line and walked to designated homes or emanyata where they are greeted by singing men and women.

At the entry of the emanyata, the boys’ heads are sprinkled with fresh milk as a blessing. This is followed by counselling, singing, dancing and blessings from elders for at least three days.

The next stage is circumcision, after which the boys become young morans.


Eunoto, or the shaving ceremony, takes place eight years after Enkipaata and is regarded as the culmination of moranhood.

This is a large ceremony for hundreds of young morans who were circumcised together and grouped in an age-set.

The month-long Eunoto rite of passage takes place at a designated emanyata when leaders and other guests bring food and gifts.

During this ceremony, age-set leaders and chiefs, olotumo, are identified and paraded before the others.

David ole Katei from Matapato South said the chosen leaders are middle age in the age-set so they can take an interest in both the young and older ones.

Many bulls are slaughtered, not for feasting at first but as part of the administration of an oath to the morans.

One oath involves drinking fresh blood to bind young men to their age-set.

“Then the meat is roasted while the morans sit in a wide circle. The elders then offer them four cuts tied together to show solidarity.

Each cut of meat is smeared from the forehead down to the bridge of the nose and held for each moran to bite,” Seki said.

Eunoto culminates in shaving the morans’ dreadlocks. All morans must be shaved within four days.


Popularly known as the meat-eating ceremony, Olng’esherr is performed at a designated area for the entire subclan.

For the Matapato, it is held after 15 years on the Maparasha Hills. 

The significant hill facing east of Namanga has no written history but elders say they grew up seeing ceremonies there.

At this stage, the celebrants are considered mature and are expected to be married and have children.

An ox is sacrificed in the middle of the designated emanyata and the meat is given to the initiates and their spouses as a test of their morality, integrity and the commitment to their age group.


Seki said if anyone has violated standards set for the age-set, their immoral behaviour will be exposed before everyone.

At this stage, many community responsibilities are transferred to the celebrants, who are now regarded as elders.

“When Olng’esherr is over, the celebrants are empowered by their fathers to transfer the knowledge they obtained in all the three rites to their children,” Seki said.

The role of women is to prepare the ceremony site by building huts, making beads to decorate the morans, shaving their heads, collecting firewood, cooking and serving the guests.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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