September 25, 2021
Africa News

Teen dies in an adulthood initiation ritual in Kenya

Juliano Kanyonyo, 15, died Wednesday morning after being sent to a camp to join other teenage boys in a traditional ceremony designed to teach him the customary values of his people. Days after returning from the trip and recovering from a circumcision that is part of the ritual, Kanyonyo was found dead by his sister at their home in Kandara, central Kenya. "I went to serve him tea, we are not allowed in that house as females but he would pick it from outside but that morning he did not wake up, his sister Lucy Njoki told CNN. "I left until mother came and we peeped to see him lying on the floor with foam on his mouth," Njoki said. Area police commander Wilson Kosgei called the teenager's case "extreme" and said he went through a "serious assault." Kosgei told CNN: "Usually in the Kikuyu tradition, we are told bullying does take place to harden the boys, but this case is extreme, as the postmortem results showed that this boy went through a serious assault, he could have been hit on the head with an iron or something like that." "It is very sad and we are doing everything we can to bring to justice the people involved. So far we have arrested, the mentor and six other boys, we are treating them as suspects," Kosgei added. The commander told CNN the suspects will be arraigned in court this week. CNN has been unable to reach them for comment. In many Kenyan communities, once a boy hits puberty he is initiated into manhood through circumcision. Families send their sons to the initiation ceremonies during the school holidays where boys are circumcised and trained to be men. The boys, usually aged between 13 and 15 go through harsh treatment to prove their manhood, including being beaten by others to show their pain threshold and endurance. Kosgei added that the police work closely with community leaders and said he is not aware of any other cases where a boy has died during an initiation ceremony. Kanyonyo belongs to the Kikuyu, Kenya's most populous ethnic group. According to Kikuyu tradition, the first phase for a man is birth, followed by initiation, marriage, then death. A typical initiation process lasts around 14 days and women are not allowed to be present or have sight of the area where the ritual is held. His family told CNN that he had just received his national examinations results which would allow him to attend the high school of his choice. "He wanted to go to Mangu national school and become a neurosurgeon, his dream has been cut short now," said Njoki.

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