Meru shares it border with five other counties; Isiolo to the North, Nyeri to the South West, Tharaka-Nithi to the South West and Laikipia to the West. The origin of the word 'Meru' is believed to come from the Maasai people who referred to Tigania and Imenti forests as the Mieru forests or simply the Quiet Forests. Maasais are also believed to have used the term Mieru to name any tribe which could not understand their Maa language. The main people who live in Meru comprise sub tribes of the Ameru community. These include the Imenti, Tigania and Igembe sub-tribes. Besides Kiswahili and English, Ki-Meru is the ethnic language spoken by this community.
Culturally, the Ameru believed in an ancestral god called Murungu or Arega Kuthera. There was deep reverence for the spirit of the living dead. Ameru believed in offering sacrifices to their dead ancestors. The divine leader of the Ameru was called the Mugwe. These were respected persons who made sacrifices and performed healing on behalf of the tribe. However, with the arrival of Christianity, the cultural rites and functions have become obsolete.
More than 75 percent of the pastoral nomadic Maasai were thought to adhere to their indigenous religion, and more than 50 percent of the Meru did likewise. As for smaller groups, the great mass of the pastoral nomadic Turkana and Samburu still practiced their local religions, as did the Mbere, a central Bantu-speaking people related to the Kikuyu and the Meru.
Thirteen kilometers north of Meru town is Njuuri Ncheke the traditional high court for the area. Construction of the building began in 1962 on the site where elders met under trees, but due to differences between the Meru County Council (which was responsible for its construction) and the constructor, the building was abandoned before its completion.
Nonetheless, it was and is still used once a year by a Meru Council of elders as the venue for settling disputes arising within Meru communities which could not be resolved by the smaller traditional councils(njuuri). The smaller njuuri houses nominated their members to Njuuri Ncheke, the high court of the Meru people, which catered for the entire Meru community.
Njuuri Ncheke members met once a year to make new laws or review the old ones; it also determined bride prices. The smaller njuuri houses also used these laws, and it ensured uniform judgements throughout Meru. It was also the duty of the njuuri to bring rains.
Kikuyus and the closely related and politically aligned Meru and Embu communities account for 32 percent of the general population. The Gikuyu-Embu-Meru Association had immense influence during the Kenyatta era, but lost much of its political clout during the Moi years. GEMA at times used strong arm tactics like forced loyalty oaths and political violence to ensure that the people of Central province supported its political positions and preferred candidates. Today these three closely related peoples still tend to vote as a unit, although there is always some hard bargaining over the share out of patronage positions. The Kikuyu Kenya's largest ethnic group, number about 22% of Kenya's population while the Meru account for 6% and the Embu 4%, giving GEMA a very considerable 32% of the country's population.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|