Recently, I was asked to go home in the rural area for an impromptu meeting with the village elders. If you live in Nairobi and you get such summons, it is best to take it very serious because, those people calling you are mostly the respected members of the local community and their summons are rare and far between. So when they call, they have a very good reason.
It was only when I arrived in Nakuru that I understood the nature of the summons. I found that I was not alone. Some members of our extended family from as far as Subukia were present.
The mood was a happy one, for the reason of the meeting was also a noble one. Local church members and some neighbours were also present. It was going to be a formal meeting of the family of my sister's husband and our family.
It is always interesting to attend such cultural meetings. One gets to learn a lot by interacting with the old and watching them perform some traditional rites of passage.
It gets even more interesting to learn that when a goat is slaughtered for such occasion, different parts of the goat are supposed to be eaten by different age groups within the family.
Some parts are given to the in-law, another to the head of the delegation, and other parts to the women in both families. The person who is selecting and cutting the pieces must be highly knowledgeable in these matters. Should there be a mistake, the family suffers embarrassment, and a fine of another goat.
When the seating was called to order, I noticed that the chairs were arranged like in a court room. All the members of our family had their chairs facing the entrance of the homestead.
The chairs reserved for the other side of the divide were arranged nearest to the entrance but facing inside the homestead. In the middle, there was a corridor dividing the two groups.
A point to note was that there were no special seats or positions reserved for any dignitary, or the most important person in the groups. There was no "high table".
All those present were equal participants. But a keen observer would have known and noticed the pecking order as the goat meat was being served.
There was a session of introductions from each side, performed by a selected senior member. Both families happen to be very religious and it was not strange to see that the speaker from our side was my uncle, who happens to be a pastor.
Our in-laws also had a family member who was also a preacher in their home church. After the introductions were done, it was time for serious business of the day.
The initial group consisted of family members and friends of all ages. But when the real business starts, each side of the divide has to carefully select the persons who will represent each family in the sensitive part of the discussion.
The rest of the group remains outside while the selected few enter into a different room, almost like a courtroom chamber. This is where the visitors will state their purpose of the visit.
If it is a dowry discussion, it will be done here. If it is some marital conflicts, they will be solved by the selected think tanks. It may not be the original speakers, but if the family elders decide to pick them, so it can be.
I do not know whether the other party had done the selection before they arrived. But from our side, the family elder did the selection right there. It meant that there was no time to prepare. There was no vying for the position. There was no intrusion from any member.
The elder knew by heart who to choose and he knew the reason. To be selected to lead the family at such a meeting meant that you are being groomed for a position in the family council of elders and by large, a village leader.
And from such crop of leaders, we get the best community leaders and ultimately, national leaders. Our political scene speaks a different language.
A person, who is completely unknown to the people of a certain region, enters into the scene and flaunts his wealth to influence voters. A party leader appoints his cronies to vie for posts regardless of whether they are known, tried and proven to have the qualities of leadership.