Meet Kenya’s professional dowry negotiators

George Njoroge, also known as Gatiba wa Njoroge, is the most sought-after dowry negotiator in Bahati, Nakuru County.[Kipsang Joseph,Standard]

In most African countries, dowry negotiations are often left to close relatives such as uncles and aunts, who always have to bid.

But as the uncles and aunts become increasingly unreliable, things are changing quickly, especially in urban and suburban settings where men make quick money to be chief negotiators.

In the changing dynamic, professional dowry negotiators have emerged.

In Nakuru we met George Njoroge, also known as Gatiba wa Njoroge, who excels as a “professional” modern dowry negotiator.

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Last Saturday, The Standard met Njoroge at one of the events in Rongai, Nakuru County to understand his craft.

Here we have seen firsthand how Njoroge’s negotiating skills amazed us when he convinced the family to cut the price of a cow from Sh100,000 to Sh60,000.

In Kikuyu customs, the price of asking for a woman’s hand in marriage in the form of cows is negotiated.

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As Njoroge puts it, both sides of a dowry negotiation must be careful to please the gods and preserve the culture.

“One wrong step and the family can see that they and their generations are suffering from small things. Even Sh20 plays a role in a dowry negotiation ceremony, ”he says.

At his level, Njoroge is now referred to as a mutonyi (advisor) and leader. He received the title last July as a token of respect from the community.

The title comes with its own outfit – akala (African sandals), whisk and a hat.

To be a Mutonyi, one would have to perform three dowry ceremonies, slaughter a goat for the elders, reach a certain age and have children over 18, says Njoroge.

Njoiroge says his next goal is to become a Muthamaki (King). This is also a process associated with rituals such as slaughtering goats for other elderly men who decide who receives the title and when.

Njoroge’s work spans all tribes, especially because of mixed marriages. He also resolves social disputes and two weeks ago he was deep in the rift, resolving an argument between a belligerent couple.

“I don’t discriminate; I deal with anyone who calls me regardless of tribe, race or religion, ”he adds.

In particular, Njoroge’s services are paid for according to the class, tribe and agreement with whoever seeks his service.

“At my level as an older person, I have to be paid money, but it depends entirely on the financial level of the people I represent. I am her lawyer, I do her job and I cannot shame her, ”he emphasizes that he only takes money and no gifts in the form of animals.

Since 1994, Njoroge has performed over 100 ceremonies, from dowry negotiations to traditional weddings.

A couple, Boniface Kariuki and Dorcas Wangari, are some of the beneficiaries of Njoroge’s mastery in traditional weddings and they shared the experience with The Standard.

“His oratory skills during my dowry negotiations were amazing. He was articulate, respectful, and knew what to say, when and how. He was just amazing, ”Kariuki recalls the events of October 10, 2020, when Njoroge helped him marry Wangari’s hand during the festivities in Rongai, Nakuru County.

According to Wangari, her parents Harun Marira and Cecilia Njoki were equally enthusiastic about Mr. Njoroge’s negotiating skills.

“He showed respect for my parents and made sure my husband’s side gave whatever was listed by my parents. He’s a great negotiator,” she says. Mr. Kariuki says he learned about Njoroge from his fellow elders.

“He is a godly person and the Bahati people show him a lot of respect. When I hired him, I was sure I would convince Wangari’s parents that I was the right person for them, ”adds Kariuki.

Mr David Kahira, who benefited from Njoroge’s services, said he was fortunate to have him on his team on such a crucial day in his life.

Kahira’s dowry negotiations took place on January 24, 2021.

“We spoke to him before the event. He was full of knowledge and wisdom about the culture, something we young couples don’t have, ”he adds.

Kahira says the reason he didn’t use his uncles to negotiate is because he was afraid they might not be well acquainted with the Kikuyu culture that Njoroge has on the back of his palm.

“You can trust him with his work, people speak highly of him and that’s why he gets customers,” he adds.

Njoroge says his negotiation skills and talent run through the family, but is quick to point out that his closeness to his father drove him to work. Its fees vary depending on a family’s distance and wealth.

According to Njoroge, the first people to seek his help inspired him to pursue his interest as a negotiator.

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