Before coming of foreigners in Pokomo lands, the natives used to govern themselves with an elaborate structure that came to be admired by many. They had a system that gave each individual a role in the society. They made sure that there was a peaceful co-existance between the tribesmen. It should be known that the Pokomo consist of four sub-tribes which includes; the Lower Pokomo, Upper Pokomo, Munyo, and the Ilwana. The Lower and Upper Pokomo both have sub-division (vieti) whereas the Munyo, and Ilwana do not have sub-division but they have clans within them.
The pokomo had 3 instutions that used to govern them and they include the following:
- The men’s secret society
- The age set system
- The generation institution
#1 The men’s secret society. We have already talked about this society for quite sometimes now. The society were two, that is, the kijo sect and the association of medicine men also known as ganga. When one enters the kijo sect there was a fee to pay. The kijo sect had been divided into different associations whereby the top most included the wakijo. They were identified by wearing special ornaments and turbans. The wakijo were the only people who can access and see the holy drum also known as ngaji. The ngaji drum which had a strange voice was only sounded when a member of the kijo has died or when execution of a crime. It should also be noted that the holy drum initially came from the Munyo before it was used widely by the other Pokomos. The wakijo acted as the Government of the Pokomo. They were the ones who executed death penalties, organize age set for public works, settle disputes etc. They were feared by many but revered by orphans and widows. The wakijo sometimes consulted the other sub-tribes in-case of major crisis ie the Munyo, Ilwana na the Upper Pokomo would come together to settle issues. They were considered at some extend a single political community. There was little contact with the Lower Pokomo due to the political subordination to the Witu Swahili in 1800’s.
The other society of medicine men was the centre of cult. They mainly dealt with healing the sick, shielding the communities from enemies and other practices. Even though they actively engaged in the helping the community, very little about them is known.
#2 The age set system. This is an institution that mainly focused on initiation the youth to adulthood. They were used to form groups based on their age. When a group of men in each sub-tribe has been initiated, they are grouped together to form an age set also known as luva. After initiation, the boys usually stay in a men’s house known as gane. They usually stay their until they reach the time of marriage.
A new luva or circumcision ceremony usually takes place once in every twelve years. The initiation ceremony happens at clan levels eg The Kinakomba, Zubaki, Milalulu, Gwano etc had their own ceremonies which happen during the same season. The maluva were each given a name. Among the known maluva included Wembe (1962), Shiti (1950), Keya (1914), Muzungu (1900) among the Milalulu. These names also some times cut across the different clans.
NB: It should also be noted that some pokomo tribes never circumcised their boys.
The age sect role was to help in communal work such as harvesting and sometimes they were used for military purposes especially in defending the communities against external attacks.
#3 The generation institution. This is the last institution and dealt with age relation. Its main aim is to identify an alternative generation and to remove any confusion about what generation a person belongs to. The Pokomo have strict rule of division of generation. For example, all first-born sons are named after the father’s father, second born sons for their father’s first born, third born sons for their father’s second born and so on. This rule guides the men when they are planning to marry. The rule is that they cannot marry a daughter from his age set and also cannot marry from one’s own generation. This generation group is termed as mogo among the Pokomo.
Generation institution should not be confused with age set as it deals with genealogy.