Frenzy, excitement as Bukusu traditional circumcision ceremony kicks off before official time

– Circumcision of boys in most parts of western Kenya takes place every even year

– The rite of passage is held so dear among the Luhyas as it shows transition to adulthood

– Boys undergo the cut after a colourful and dramatic process called Khuminya

– The rituals are normally held during school holidays

– In Bungoma county, the rituals have already started with the first batch undergoing the cut

The Luhya circumcision season is here and the spirits of the ritual have arisen, sweeping and possessing Bungoma and Trans Nzioa counties in western Kenya like never before.

Circumcision is revered in these parts of the country as it is a rich traditional practice that has been observed for generations.

Mostly, teenage boys undergo the cut transitioning them into adults.

The boys usually undergo the cut which involves a painful, dramatic and colourful process known as Khuminya (initiation) in Bukusu and Tachoni speaking Luhyas mostly found in Bungoma and Trans Nzoia counties.

Impatient Bukusus kickoff circumcision rituals before official time

Locals witness as a street boy undergoes the cut on July 10. Photo: Titus Oteba.
Source: Original

With iron rings around their wrists, the boys play bells, dance and sing war and traditional songs as they trek long distances to invite their relatives especially maternal ones, to come witness them face scary, mean looking circumcisers.

During this time, they are given numerous gifts including chickens, ducks, sheep, goats, money, cereals and the ultimate one being a young healthy cow from their maternal uncles.

These rituals normally take place after every two years during school holidays so that most school going children can take part.

However, in 2018, the rituals have started very early before official time with the first batch of candidates being street urchins and the homeless.

The first two boys were circumcised on Tuesday, July 10 in style.

One of them, a homeless teen aged 13, was circumcised on the Webuye-Malaba highway near Kanduyi market centre.

Impatient Bukusus kickoff circumcision rituals before official time

Adulthood: Homeless street boy undergoes the cut in Bungoma on July 10. Photo: Titus Oteba.
Source: Original

The boy who willingly accepted to undergo the cut was taken to the nearby Khalaba river by curious but traditional adherents.

He was then smeared with mud as is the tradition in Bukusuland and having nowhere to be taken, they led him to the middle of the road where he was circumcised.

The process caused a huge traffic snarl up with drivers heading to Uganda, Congo, Rwanda and Burundi complaining of the weird choice of venue for the cut.

In the second incident, a 14-year-old street boy was circumcised at around 2.30pm at Kanduyi Stadium due to lack of a home.

Usually, the cut is done in the early morning hours when its chilly as it reduces pain and bleeding.

After the cut which attracted hundreds of locals, the boy was gifted with money while others rented him a house where he will stay until his wound heals.

Philip Wanjala, one of the people taking care of the circumcised boy, said that despite the fact that he was a street urchin, he would take care of him until he is completely healed.

"This boy is brave and stood firm during the process, he never showed any cowardice. I don't know where he comes from but I will take care of him," he said.

The teenager said he had been looking forward for such a day and was very happy that he was now a man.

"It was painful but I thank God that I underwent it very successfully, let God reward those people who paid the circumciser," he said.

Impatient Bukusus kickoff circumcision rituals before official time

Thes Bungoma street boy could not wait for official kick off and decided to undergo the cut early. Photo: Titus Oteba.
Source: Original

So far, over 10 boys have willingly undergone the cut in the county before the official time.

Over 10,000 boys are set to undergo the rite in Bungoma either through the traditional means or in hospitals.

A Catholic priest at Kimatuni catholic church in Bumula constituency announced he would officially declare the season open on July 28 with a prayer.

Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) raised concerns over the early kick off.

The union’s national executive council member Aggrey Namisi stated that it was affecting education.

"Let parents understand that education of their sons comes first, let them wait until August," warned Namisi.

Story by Titus Oteba/Tuko Bungoma Correspondent.

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