socio-political systems among the Agikuyu during the pre-colonial period

  • .The Agikuyu at touched a lot of political and social importance to the family and age-set.
  • Being the smallest social and political unit, every family had its own head. Several families formed a clan.




  • Gikuyu country was divided into clans or territorial units, each of which was made up of several sub-clans (Mbari) with common descent, usually living on the same ridge. each territorial unit was headed by a council of elders: the “Kiama”, under a senior elder known as “Muramati” or “Muthamaki” (spokesman). Muramati was highly respected by the community because of his wisdom and leadership qualities. However, he was not a chief.
  • Each sub-clan was ruled by a council of elders subordinate to the “Kiama”. This performed religious, administrative and judicial roles within the sub clan, leaving the “Kiama” to deal with matters beyond its ability or communal mandate.
  • At puberty, young boys were initiated through elaborate rites, crowned with circumcision, during which they were taught the social values, customs and their duties to the community as warriors.




  • Boys circumcised at the same time formed an Age-set (Rika). Age-sets formed the military base for the Gikuyu community, since members of the same age-set considered one another as brothers, which created a strong political and social bond. Circumcision of girls was also done every year.
  • They believed in one God (Ngai), who was all-powerful and in complete control of all life and who has a definite dwelling place: Mount Kirinyaga (Mount Kenya). Since God was all-powerful, people prayed to him through priests. priests offered the community‟s prayers to God through ancestral spirits. Diviners interpreted God’s messages to the people. Sacrifices were offered to God in thanksgiving or to ask for his blessings.
  • The Agikuyu strongly believed in ancestral spirits, who continued to live for many generations, even after physical death and who were all-powerful as intermediaries between God and the living.




  • Medicinemen and diviners were very important in the community. The Medicine man (“Mundu Mugo”) could cure certain diseases and expel evil spirits. Medical skills were inherited from close relatives. The Diviner (“Murathi”) could foretell the future.
  • From the main council of elders, a council of senior elders was formed.