Covid-19 Makes Babukusu Community to Forego 2020 Circumcision Ceremonies

Covid-19 Makes Babukusu Community to Forego 2020 Circumcision Ceremonies

Somalilandsun: The two Communities of Babukusu and Bamasaba from western Kenya and eastern Uganda have announced that they will not observe the traditional circumcision ceremonies in the year 2020 if at all Covid-19 will persist until the end of the year. This means that the ceremonies will be postponed until the year 2022 given that these two communities carry out their traditional circumcision ceremonies during the leap years but not during the odd-numbered years, hence they cannot carry out the ceremonies in the year 2021. This is a very good decision given that the traditional circumcision ceremonies among these two communities attract crowds, reckless socializing, care-free dancing, and indiscriminate sharing of Busaa drinking horn as well as using one circumciser’s knife in cutting dozens of initiates without any prior disinfection or sanitization.
The communities of Babukusu and Bamasaba have observed for long very strong cultural value for traditional male circumcision. In the age-long cultures of these two communities, non-traditional circumcisions done in a modern way at hospitals is held in distaste. Even the male members from these two communities that don’t go through traditional circumcision process are often treated with low esteem. The reason for this socialized disrespect for modern hospital based circumcision is based on the argument that most of hospital circumcision surgical operations are done by nurses that are women or men from non-Babukusu and non-Bamasaba communities. Thus, the communities have no otherwise other than to do the ritual cleansing of the circumciser’s knives and then post-pone the circumcision ceremonies till two years are over.
Muhuyi Wandabwa, an elder of the Babukusu community from Bokoli Market in Bungoma County, informed this article that the culture of carrying out circumcision ceremonies among Babukusu strictly during the leap years started in 1874, but before then they used to observe their circumcision ceremonies each and every year. Wandabwa also informed this article that in 1916 Babukusu did carry out the circumcision ceremonies due to mass conscription of the potential inmates into the Kings African Rifles, a British Military Unit fighting in the First World War. By that time the First World War was at its peak, it was between 1915 and 1917. Some years later during the world war against Adolf Hitler, Babukusu did not also observe the circumcision ceremonies in 1940; this was so because the Second World War was most hot in that year.
Dr. Fred Makila in his book the Outline History of Babukusu explains that Babukusu observe traditional circumcision ceremonies only on leap years in order to allow passage of time for the age-grade naming not to overlap or run into one another . According to another research done and reported by Gunter Wagner, the German Anthropologist, in his book Bantus of Western Kenya, there are six age-grades based on the traditional circumcision among Babukusu. Wagner also explains that during the last century the occurrence of age-grades were as follows; Bakolongolo (1900-1910), Bakikwameti (1912-1922), Bakananachi (1924-1938), Bakinyikewu (1938-1946) , Babanyange (1948-1958), Bamayina (1960-1970), Bachuma (always has an extra two years was from 1972-1986) then the 19th century closed the naming cycle with the age-grade of Basawa (1988-1998).
Muhuyi Wandabwa also observes that the age-grade name for the group that would have been circumcised in the year 2020 was to be Bakikwameti. But Dr. Makila also pointed out in Outline History of Babukusu that Babukusu community is traditionally cultured to give names to the age-grade by always adding to it an extra name associated with the main event of that particular year, thus for the case of this year the age grade would have been named as Bakikwameti-corona virus . For, example; the group that was previously circumcised in 2018 was named Bakikwameti-hand shake, obviously due to the political handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga being the main local eventuality of milestone status around that time.
By-Alexander Opicho
From-Lodwar, Kenya