By Leo Igwe
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AfAW) urges Kenyan authorities to take comprehensive measures to end witch persecution in the country. AfAW is making this appeal following the brutal murder of alleged witches in the country. Graphic images of scenes where local mobs attacked and butchered suspected witches in Kenya’s Kisii region have been circulating on social media. There has been an international outrage over the occurrence of this instance of witch bloodletting in Kenya in this 21st century. So shocking and heart-wrenching was a particular scene where, an elderly woman, suspected of witchcraft was desperately pleading innocent. She stretched her hands toward a young man who charged with a machete, begging for her life. But this woman was eventually hacked to death by this person said to be the grandson. Local media sources said that three other persons including two elderly women and a man were among those lynched by the mob. A media source has noted that the case of a 17-year old student, who was unable to speak, is linked to this horrific murder. This student was subjected to a ritual, and in the process, confessed that these four elderly persons bewitched him. Angry mobs went and dragged the suspected witches out of their homes, killed them, and burnt their bodies.
These savage attacks and killings took place in a public square, where people gathered, watched, photographed, and videoed with cell phones. The lynching happened in a region that has community leaders, police stations, and other local state authorities. Unfortunately, no state agency intervened. No police officer tried to stop the lynch mob. No community leader tried to save the lives of the victims. There was no public resistance of this revulsive and atrocious act. Kisii is one of the regions that are notorious for witch persecution in Kenya. So this incident did not come as a surprise to the government and the people.
AfAW calls on the Kenyan government to carry out a thorough investigation of these savage killings. Government should penalize all who through their actions or inactions, aided and abetted the perpetration of this crime. There have been reports that some of the suspects have been arrested. While this is a welcome development, the government should go beyond prosecuting suspected killers. It should ensure a diligent trial and punishment of all implicated at various levels in this horrific incident. In addition to penalizing the perpetrators, the government should sanction local police commanders, village and council heads, leaders of the affected communities, and municipal authorities. This witch hunting incident is an indictment on the collective conscience of Kenyans. Kenya should launch a national public education and awareness campaign to reorient the minds of the public and reason the people out of these harmful superstitions and irrational beliefs.
This instance of witch bloodletting is a stark demonstration of moral failure. Kenya should take legal and administrative measures to ensure that savage attacks and violence linked to witchcraft beliefs never happen again.