Century-old mugumo tree falls in Nyeri

By: WAMBUGU KANYI

A century-old mugumo tree fell at Game Rock in Nyeri county last weekend. The tree at former Internal Security Minister Chris Murungaru’s home compound fell on Friday at 2pm.

The mugumo tree is revered by the Kikuyu community as sacred and was traditionally used as a shrine where elders offered sacrifices to Mwene Nyaga (God).

Elders look at the structure of the tree to determine its age. Johana Maina, a farmhand at the six-acre farm, said he was working metres from the tree when it fell.

“I couldn’t believe it since it fell when there was no rain or wind. I panicked when I saw it since for the last 30 years I have worked here, I have never witnessed such an incident,” he said.

Maina, 55, said elders stopped using the spot as a shrine two decades ago. He said in the Kikuyu community, the falling of a mugumo tree is interpreted as a “bad omen” and residents fear something bad might happen.

Maina said the only way to avert a disaster is for the elders to offer a sacrifice on the site to cleanse the area.

The tree was 40 metres long and 30 metres wide. Maina said Murungaru came home on Saturday and instructed that no one touches it until the elders offer a sacrifice and give the way forward on what to do with the tree.

He said people are not allowed to cut firewood or timber from the tree until the elders give instructions. In February 2013, a 200-year-old mugumo tree fell at Giakanja in Tetu.

Kikuyu elders said it was a sign the old guard should go home and Young Turks take over the leadership of the country.

Maina said perhaps the falling of the tree is a warning that the expected El Nino rains might cause grave disaster. Many residents, who have never seen a fallen mugumo tree, have jammed the area for a glimpse of it.