Community demands back their shrine from KWS

Residents of Maktau village in Mwatate Sub-County of Taita Taveta County are demanding back their shrine which has been fenced off within the Tsavo West National Park by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

Led by their the leaders, the community complained that they were now experiencing severe drought among other challenges since they could not access their fighi as the shrines were normally known in the Taita language.

The leaders implored on the Natural Resources Principal Secretary (PS) Dr. Margaret Mwakima, to plead on their behalf so that KWS could allow them to perform traditional rituals to overcome difficulties that were facing them.

Recently, Mwakima commissioned the 70km Maktau-Kishushe-Ndii electric fence constructed by the government and donors to the tune of S05 million aimed at minimizing the persistent human-wildlife conflict in the area.

It has become impossible for us to access the shrines to perform certain important traditional rituals since the fighi have been fenced off by an electric fence constructed by KWS, lamented the leaders during a meeting they had with the PS yesterday at Maktau market.

An elder at Makatu Ward, Josephat Mgendi, told Mwakima she was better placed to intervene since she was one of their own and very conversant with what they were asking for.

Mgendi claimed that immediately the fence was put up around their place of worship, many misfortunes started befalling them, citing the current famine which he claimed was because the rainmakers had no place to offer sacrifices.

We are being denied access to the shrines from where we used to induce rain among other things. We had our traditional ways of managing drought and come up with mitigation measures and as such, the community never suffered hunger as is the case now, he said.

He demanded that the Maktau-Ndii fence be readjusted so that the affected shrines could be reverted back to the community.

The elder alleged that the Tsavo West National Park boundary had irregularly been extended leading to the alienation of the Maktau and Irima shrines.

Also alienated was community grazing land and Mudanda Rock Game Reserve that was initially under the management of the community.

The fencing was done without the consent of the community. If this was done, the current conflict would have been averted, Mgendi noted.

He said the cultural practice would enable locals to either prepare for food scarcity due to rain failure or bumper harvest depending on the message delivered at the shrines.

The community used to slaughter sheep and eat part of it while the rest was left in the bush to appease the spirits of the ancestors and that the predictions got were favorable to the community, he said.

Oza Group Ranch Chairman Pristone Mwazighe complained that the fence was affecting patrols at the ranch that is adjacent to the Park.

Dr. Mwakima said she will send a senior KWS official to work with the local elders to help in identifying the shrines.

I will send a KWS officer to look into the matter but for the time being, depend on God who will adequately address your problems. With God, everything is possible, PS told the community.

Source: Kenya News Agency