Mijikenda traditional court unveiled in Magarini

The Mijikenda elders who attended the unveiling ceremony PHOTO COURTESY

A Mijikenda traditional court has been unveiled in Magarini Sub-county of Kilifi County in an effort to handle minor cases that can be resolved without involving the government.

The court will be part of traditional courts called ‘Kambi ya Kiama’  which were anciently used by elders to resolve communal disputes and advocate for peaceful coexistence in the society.

The court was unveiled during the annual Chenda Chenda festival that was held at the Magarini cultural center.

The festival which celebrates the Mijikenda culture saw elders drawn from all the nine Mijikenda Kayas in the region converged to witness the historic ceremony that was graced by George Kithi a prominent Kenyan Lawyer from the coast together with other leaders including former Magarini MP Harrison Kombe.

Elders both men and women dressed in full traditional regalia conducted rituals at the cultural center before officially unveiling the court.

In the ancient days, Mijikenda Kayas had their own courts which resolved conflicts such as land disputes, family affairs, theft, and witchcraft among many others but due to modernity, the courts vanished.

Elders said lack of the traditional courts has contributed to the killings of elderly men on allegations of practicing witchcraft with the elders saying most of the killings are fuelled by property disputes.

Tsuma Nzai Kombe the coordinator of Mijikenda Kaya elders said they decided to launch the traditional court during the annual Chenda Chenda festival so as to promote peaceful coexistence.
He said the traditional court will be dealing with cases related to the cultural beliefs and others that cannot be resolved under the government court.

“If a judge is not from our community judging traditional cases is difficult. We want the traditional courts to handle those cases related to culture and tradition” he said. Among the cases that will be handled at the newly unveiled facility include conflicts between wives and husbands, land issues, and allegations of witchcraft.

Former Magarini MP Harrison Kombe blamed the collapse of the Kiama courts on the rising cases of ‘witch-killings’.

” If one was accused of causing the death of someone through witchcraft, he would be forced to take an oath, and if he was found guilty he would pay a fine known as Kore,”  Kombe added.

Kithi who was the Chief Guest said the idea of having traditional courts among the Mijikenda was timely and deserved to be recognized by the government the same way  Kadhi courts for the Muslims are recognized by the government.

”The constitution has to recognize the courts so that small courts get procedures of appeal in the constitution such that a person convicted by the traditional courts can appeal in other courts like the high court,” he said.

The lawyer said the traditional laws are supposed to be in line with the constitution or laws set up by the government.

Despite Witchcraft being mentioned as illegal according to CAP 67 of the 2010 constitution, legal experts have always argued that ambiguities in the law have made it hard to convict witchcraft cases.

“Any person, professing knowledge of so-called witchcraft or the use of charms, who advises any person applying to him how to bewitch or injure persons, animals or other property, or who supplies any person with an article purporting to be a means of witchcraft, shall be guilty of an offense and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.” The constitution states.