• KiAfriqa

Kenya's Maasai gather for a once-in-a-decade ceremony to turn warriors into elders.

Maasai youth roast meat for the celebrants before attending the rites of passage initiation ceremony. The event was initially postponed due to the coronavirus disease outbreak in Maparasha hills of Kajiado, Kenya.

Around 15,000 men from all over Kenya and neighboring Tanzania congregated in Maparasha Hills in Kajiado County, 128 kilometers from Nairobi, to feast on an estimated 3,000 bulls and 30,000 goats and sheep.

The ceremony occurs once every decade at the site, which is surrounded by hills and dotted with acacia trees.

On Wednesday, the men roasted the meat on beds of coal from acacia trees, holding staffs and swords.

"I used to be a Moran, But after this ceremony, I now graduate to be a Mzee (elder)," Stephen Seriamu Sarbabi, a 34-year-old livestock trader, told Reuters.

"I will now be having a lot of responsibilities in the community. I will be chairing some different meetings, I will be consulted," he added.

The arrival of coronavirus in March forced a postponement of the ceremony, which was meant to have been held earlier in the year.

"My role here in this ceremony, is to come and bless my boys to graduate, to another stage of being wazees (elders), and to give them their privileges," Moses Lepunyo ole Purkei, a farmer, community health volunteer, and elder, told Reuters.

During the ceremony, the men were accompanied by their wives, who also wore colorful shawls and beads around their necks and sang songs praising and encouraging the incoming group of elders.

There are about 1.2 million Maasai living in Kenya, according to the government statistics office. Around 500,000 live in Tanzania.

The Maasai have been known for centuries as fearsome hunters and warriors. By the mid-19th century, the Maasai territory was at its largest, extending over pretty much the entirety of modern-day Kenya and half of Tanzania.

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