Why Tachonis have halted August male circumcision ceremonies

A Bukusu youth ready for traditional circumcision at his rural home in Bukembe, Bungoma as the ceremonies draw to a close at the end of the month. Photo/ERICK NGOBILO.

The Tachoni community in Bungoma County has suspended the traditional male circumcision ceremonies that were set to be held in August until after the General Election.

Among the Tachonis, a sub-tribe of the Luhya ethnic group, circumcision is a deeply revered cultural rite. Dozens of initiates and other locals congregate at homes to celebrate.

But the community elders, led by national chairman Patrick Lichuma Sitati, said they want to avoid interference in the ceremonies given that the country will hold elections in August.

Mr Sitati said the cultural event will resume immediately after the elections, when everyone is free from the campaign mood.

“The Tachoni community hereby suspends the August circumcision ceremonies until elections are over to pave the way for a peaceful election” he said.

Community leaders have advised parents of boys ready to face the cut to adhere to the directive and keep their sons at home until the elections are over.

Circumcision is an important event in the Tachoni calendar as it signifies transition from childhood to adulthood.

The procedure is usually carried out by traditional circumcisers at the homes of boys aged 10 to 18.

Relatives and friends gather at the home of the initiate, sing and enjoy local brews until the early morning when the boy is initiated.

A Bukusu circumcision ceremony underway in Bungoma County. 

Photo credit: Brian Ojamaa | Nation Media Group

Before the boy faces the knife, he is first escorted naked to a nearby river early in the morning at about 5am. He is smeared with mud by a specific man before he is brought back home to be circumcised in public.

For the boy to be initiated, two bulls must be slaughtered, one from his home and another collected by the boy from his maternal uncles, often on the eve of the ceremony.

On circumcision day, some parts are removed from the animals and worn around the neck of the initiate.

Once the actual cutting ritual is over, the initiate is secluded and attended to by specific persons, with minimal interaction with the public.

About two to three days later, the circumciser returns to talk to the initiate about adulthood, and on how to conduct themselves with decorum in the community because they are now considered “a man."

This is usually done in the presence of a few elders from his clan.

Some of the teachings include how to treat the elderly with respect.

They are also asked to stay away from closed doors, meaning keeping away from the temptations of married women.

Apart from the Tachonis, the Bukusus also carry out circumcision ceremonies in August.

But the latter have not said whether they will delay their cultural event.