28 June 2012

Kenya: Murang'a Shrine Wall Construction Stopped

The wrangles between factions of Kikuyu council of elders and stakeholders have halted the construction of a perimeter wall around a community holy shrine in Murang'a. Murang'a County Council, which is the custodian of the shrine, has stopped the construction of the Sh300,000 perimeter wall which was being funded by a wellwisher from Kiambu county.

A meeting between the council, Kikuyu elders, National Museum of Kenya officials and Green Belt Movement officials agreed that the project at Mukurwe wa Nyagathanga shrine be stopped until consultations are done. Joseph Karanu, who was funding the construction, has withdrawn his support leaving the stakeholders with no option but to stop the construction.

Different factions of elders and other interested groups are fighting for control of the shrine. This has led to the site becoming dilapidated with overgrown bushes and efforts to have it refurbished have been met with opposition. Plans to build around the place to safe guard it from vandals have now stopped after several elders and Green belt officials opposed the idea.

Murang'a County Council Chairman Martin Mwangi said Supremacy battle among different factions of Kikuyu Council of elders and the local community was to blame for the delayed development at the shrine. He condemned those against the perimeter wall idea saying they were not interested in refurbishing the shrine but well only interested in supremacy battles. "Although we agreed that the construction of the wall be stopped for now until full consultations are done, those against the idea are up to no good," lamented the civic leader.

Joseph Kung'u, the officer in charge of Tourism and Culture in the council said the idea to construct the wall came from the local community who claimed that evil activities were taking place at the holy shrine. "The local community and caretakers of the shrine once collected used condoms at the shrine which prompted them to demand the construction of a perimeter wall to safeguard the shrine," he said.

Kung'u added that some notorious locals also used to park their vehicles at the holy place defiling the shrine. "The place has remained neglected for years yet they do not want to see development," he added yesterday. Kung'u said the council had earlier contacted all the relevant stakeholders after an individual volunteered to provide building materials for the wall.

However, disgruntled elders who feared losing control of the property stormed the area several weeks ago and stopped the work. "It is disappointing that such a site which could attract tourists and help promote our culture remains in dire need of a face lift yet some people are stopping progress," said the council official.

Last month several elders led by history Professor Maina Kinyati and Green belt officials almost exchanged blows with other locals supporting the construction of the wall. Professor Kinyati was accused of sabotaging development in the property and failing to deliver Sh3 million he had promised for the upkeep of the area.

However he defended himself saying the construction of the wall was unwarranted and would l water down the cultural and traditional aspects of the shrine. He also claimed it would turn the property into a private one thus denying locals easy and free access and at the same time threatened to go to court to stop the project.

Kinyati through lawyer Paul Muite has moved to court to protest the construction. The historical three acre piece of land remains neglected with a rundown multimillion hotel which was left midway after elders declined its construction by the then former president Moi's government. However the council has set a meeting with the concerned parties on July 2 to discuss over the issue and decide whether the construction of the wall will go on.

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