• Installation of Kithure Kindiki as Meru's official spokesman split the council into two
• The factions buried the hatchet in November last year after five years or wrangling
After years of bickering, the two factions of the Njuri Ncheke Council of Elders have finally put their differences aside and merged.
Trouble started in 2015, when the then chairman Paul M’ithinkia and secretary general Phares Rutere installed Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki, the Tharaka Nithi senator, as Meru's official spokesman in 2015.
Governor Munya swiftly marshalled his forces in response. Within a week, the two leaders and their followers were ejected from the council leadership and a new team put in place.
They were replaced by Linus Kathera (chairman), Josephat Murangiri (secretary general), Stephen Kiraithe (treasurer), Ayub Bundi (vice secretary), George Mutwiri (assistant treasurer) Kaberia Limuki (organising secretary) and Mwenda Nchoro (assistant organising secretary).
However, the group led by Rutere and M’ithinkia refused to vacate office, claiming they were the legitimate leaders.
The council almost doomed their reputation. In traditional Meru, the council is like Parliament and has the final say in disputes, especially relating to land.
The two factions wanted to outdo each other and the bickering went on for years, until late last year, when there was hope of reconciliation.
Murangiri and Rutere used to engage each other in public spats. Former CS Jacob Kaimenyi was caught up in the wrangles of Njuri Ncheke and cursed twice. The first time was in May 2015, after he failed to honour summons over comments he made about the elders.
He paid a fine of a white, spotless bull and Sh100,000 in July that year. The curse was lifted.
In May 2017, Kaimenyi was in trouble with the elders again. They placed a curse known as ‘Mirongo Ithatu’ against him, accusing him of fuelling divisions among them.
Chuka University vice chancellor Erastus Njoka was another casualty. He got into the bad books of the group led by Murangiri and was cursed, but the curse was later lifted.
Nevertheless, the council hasn’t crumbled and, according to an edict by the founder Kaura wa Becau, the council should not cease to exist.
The clashing factions entered into an agreement at the High Court in Meru to settle their disputes out-of-court.
The council held a reconciliation meeting on April 1 last year and resolved to unite and work together. They also agreed to dialogue and consult on emerging disputes among the council, find ways of solving wrangles and to amend their constitution.
The divisions between the Njuri Ncheke elders arose after Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki was installed elder and the Ameru community spokesperson in 2015. Munya then spearheaded Murangiri’s faction to hold elections.
The group led by M’Ithinkia, Rutere and Simon Mwamba sued the Murangiri-led faction, including Abuthuguchi Central MCA Ayub Bundi, Alhaji Mwendia, Kathera and Stephene Kiraithe. They were seeking interim orders to bar them from the council’s leadership.
They sought an injunction restraining the defendants from interfering with the activities of the council and recruitment of new members. They also wanted the defendants not to issue statements on behalf of the council, not to pose as officials or purport to act in the name of the council.
In their agreement before court, which was seen by the Star, the elders said they will adhere to the declaration of Becau to preserve Njuri Ncheke, promote unity and cultural developments of the Ameru people.
In September 2018, they were supposed to conduct an election under the supervision of the registrar of societies, but the faction led by Rutere opposed the elections.
The bickering came to an end when Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi urged the elders to put aside their differences and unite into one formidable Njuri Ncheke.
In November last year, the pact was sealed, bringing an end to five years of leadership wrangles. It was witnessed by Kiraitu, Tharaka Nithi Governor Muthomi Njuki and Agriculture CS Peter Munya.
The leaders of the council buried the hatchet and new national executive officials of the Njuri Ncheke were elected.
Linus Kathera was elected chairman, Josphat Murangiri secretary general operations, Washington Mbaya secretary general programmes, Alphonce Kamwara vice chairman operations, and Peter Rutere vice chairman programmes.
Stephen Kiraithe was elected treasurer operations, Mwamba Mukangu treasurer programmes, Evans Kaberia organising secretary operations and Mutegi Kiungu organising secretary programmes.
In a show that all was forgiven, the new leaders had to give cows to the outgoing council. Former secretary general Phares Rutere, for instance, was given a cow by secretary general operations Josphat Murangiri in a colourful event, amid cheers from the crowd of elders who had come from the two counties to witness the event.
Leaders who had attended the event hailed the truce. Munya said it is a new dawn that the Ameru will be speaking in one voice.
“I talked to President Uhuru Kenyatta, and he assured me that during his development tour to Meru, he will visit the elders. You all know how Njuri Ncheke wrangles started. It is all about the lack of good management in succession,” he said.
Njuki said the pivotal role of Njuri Ncheke is respected the world over due to their leadership and governance. “This is a great step towards uniting the Ameru. There will no longer be an imposter to speak for Njuri but the genuine leaders crowned here,” Njuki said.
Kiraitu urged the new leadership to lead without fear or favour, and when their 10-year term expires, they should vacate office.
The elders pledged to unite the Meru people from Thuci to Ntonyiri, in Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Isiolo and the diaspora.