The Mijikenda Kayas are respected shrines, but politicians in the region have turned the Kaya elders into guns for hire.
They endorse any person who gives them money, a university don at the Coast has said.
Professor Hassan Mwakimako, an Islamic Studies Associate Professor at Pwani University, questioned the criteria used to endorse Kilifi Deputy governor Gideon Saburi as the favourite candidate to succeed Governor Amason Kingi.
Previously, the Kaya Elders at the Coast had a strong voice in the region’s political direction, but that has since diminished.
According to Mwakimako, Kaya elders have lost trust with the community and their endorsement no longer hold water.
“Kayas are respected shrines of the Mijikenda but politicians have turned the Kaya elders as guns for hire. This has made the elders dance to the tune of any politician who gives them money. This is a great misuse of the elders,” he said
Mwakimako expressed concerns that the Kaya elders have neglected their role of advising the community for their gains.
“Whom did the elders consult? How can they pick someone yet so many contestants have not declared? Kaya elders should not mislead the community by supporting someone in exchange for money. If today another aspirant goes to them they will endorse him as well. Even non-Mijikenda will be endorsed in the Kayas despite the Kayas being no go zones for non-mijikendas,” said Mwakimako
Kazungu Katana, a political analyst said the Kaya elders have been reduced to beggars who will welcome and sing the name of any politician who will show a sign of benevolence.
Katana said any endorsement by the Kaya elders is always disregarded by the community as Kayas lost their glory and effectiveness.
“Kaya elders were once the voices of the Mijikenda. Whatever they proclaimed was respected and could be followed holistically. This is no more. The kayas were politicized and they no longer have cultural significance. Kaya elders have ceased to be defenders of our cultural heritage to being muggers of the same heritage,” said Katana
According to Katana, Kaya elders have been used by unscrupulous politicians who have sought cheap publicity through false anointment to claim supremacy over their communities.
Katana also said the management of the Kayas has been taken over by unqualified people.
Kaya elders have allowed the kayas to be polluted. In the days gone by, foreigners were forbidden from entering the kayas, today strangers have been allowed in as if this had been the norm. Money speaks.
“Traditional practices have also been flouted in the kayas. Youths have turned themselves into elders of the kayas. In the olden days being a kaya elder was a rigorous process. Those aspiring to be kaya elders underwent a rigorous process through the rika system or age set. Today, most kaya elders are there by default,” said Katana.
Former political writer Philip Mbaji advised Saburi not to rely on the elders if he is serious about vying for the seat.
Mbaji who is eyeing the Rabai Parliamentary seat said the elders have no political following.
“Saburi should go out and look for votes. The declaration by the elders is nothing but hot air. He is a good leader but should not rely on the elders. The era of relying on endorsement is long gone,” he said.
Ganze Member of Parliament Teddy Mwambire who is the spokesman of the Kaya elders refuted claims that the DG had been endorsed.
According to Mwambire, the DG had gone to the elders to be cleansed after his arrest when he allegedly failed to self-isolate after jetting in the country from Germany.
Saburi was taken to court where he was acquitted.