Such departments would oversee the election and composition of the councils of elders, for example. It would also oversee initiation and the cultural activities around it to ensure safety and compliance with tribal law.


In communities which have an established succession cycle, the management and naming system for the age sets can be re-established and the local authorities oversee the handing over of traditional leadership between generations.

Some British administrators and scholars, having noticed that traditional institutions created healthier and stabler African communities, pushed for the adoption of the structures into the colonial administrative state. I presume that is where the idea of the chief came from.

I don’t think the application of Western religion and thought has helped Africa to create healthy and stable social structures, from the family all the way up to the nation-state. I also think that the strongest societies are those that have preserved important cultural elements that help to establish identity and manage the society’s expectations and behaviour of individuals.

In some parts of Kenya, you can take a poor man’s land, go to court, buy a judge and have the parcel transferred to you but you will never set foot on that property. Here, elders act as the court of last resort. And traditional justice is not for sale.


The benefit of this return to the past is that it will help to teach traditional morality and integrity to a nation that increasingly has no shared values — apart from greed and an unbridled thirst for power. It will also bring back the law: Today, you can drive on the wrong side of the road without consequences, depending on who you are. And you rob the national treasury with impunity.

Would it not be lovely to put a curse on those who steal our money so that their legs face backwards? Or their necks become knotted?

Traditional authorities could also control the behaviour of reckless politicians. They will stand up to those who declare war or put their ambitions above the vital interests of the country.

It is true that some of our traditions — such as eating others, hacking women’s bodies and witchcraft — were clearly unhelpful and foolish. Nonetheless, people should not come from another world and declare ours dirty, pagan and primitive.

In any case, this is my year for discovering the pagan in me. If you see me walking around in skins, don’t think I have lost my mind.

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