What you need to know:
- On April 1, the chairmen of the rival factions, Paul M’Ithinkia and Linus Kathera, entered an out-of-court settlement.
- Following the unity pact, Mr M’Ithinkia was removed from leadership with Mr Kathera taking over the chairmanship.
- Mr Murangiri said the former chairman risks being arrested for contempt of court.
Officials of the now united Njuri Ncheke council of elders have told off former chairman Paul M’Ithinkia for opposing the deal that led to the merging of rival factions early this month.
On April 1, the chairmen of the rival factions, Paul M’Ithinkia and Linus Kathera, entered an out-of-court settlement bringing an end to a four-year court battle that threatened to destroy the revered council of elders.
Following the unity pact, Mr M’Ithinkia was removed from leadership with Mr Kathera taking over the chairmanship of the now united council of elders.
But a disgruntled Mr M’Ithinkia, claimed to have been duped in the sharing of positions, and is now threatening to re-start the rivalry battle in court.
But Njuri Ncheke Secretary-General Josphat Murangiri and his deputy Benjamin Mugambi, who were formerly in opposing camps, condemned Mr M’Ithinkia for rocking the unity pact.
“I am accompanied by my deputy to show that Njuri Ncheke is now one. The statements issued by elders aligned to Mr M’Ithinkia are misplaced. We will not allow Njuri Ncheke to remain in court forever. The statements should be viewed as personal because we are not ready to be dragged into disputes again,” Mr Murangiri said.
He said that Mr M’Ithinkia signed the unity pact that was presented to court spelling out the new leadership and how to cement the union.
“He signed the document in which we agreed that Mr Kathera will be the chair-man while Mr Muthamia and I will be secretary-generals. He is no longer a chair-man and cannot speak for Njuri Ncheke,” he said.
Mr Murangiri said the former chairman risks being arrested for contempt of court.
Mr Mugambi said although he was in the M’Ithinkia faction, he is now fully behind the unity pact that was endorsed by the High Court.
“We buried the hatchet and Mr M’Ithinkia is now an elevated elder in the council. We should stop politicising the council and concentrate on settling the issues affecting the community,” Mr Mugambi said.
The faction led by Mr M’Ithinkia, Mr Rutere, and others had moved to court in 2015 to object to the controversial election of the Kathera group.
According to the consent, the Registrar of Societies was to register the new officials who will review the council’s leadership and resolve all disputes resulting from the process.
Justice Francis Gikonyo of Meru High Court directed that the elders register a new constitution within 90 days.
Under the pact, leaders from both factions have been given positions in an expanded leadership of the Supreme Council of Njuri Ncheke.
Mr Murangiri is the secretary-general (operations), Washington Muthamia, secretary-general (programmes) and Benjamin Mugambi is the deputy secretary gen-eral (operations).
Mr Phares Rutere and Mr Paul M’Ithinkia have been honoured by being allowed to retain their titles, hence they will be referred to as secretary-general emeritus and chairman emeritus.
CLOSELY GUARDED SECRET
Other position holders were not immediately clear as the elders maintained that the new pact is a closely guarded secret until it is endorsed at the Nchiru shrine.
Njuri Ncheke, which dates back to the 17th century, was the brainchild of a Meru elder known as Kaura O Bechau, who is said to have pronounced a curse against any attempt to break up the council.
The council of elders has remained at the centre of dispute resolution and governance of the Ameru until recently when it was invaded by politicians leading to divisions.
However, grassroots Njuri Ncheke courts remain vibrant in parts of Meru and Tharaka-Nithi counties where various cases are heard and determined.