Where witch tag is a death sentence

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Kenga Charo Mangi, alias Midzanze, a Kaya elder at Kaya Godoma, speaks to the Sunday Nation. He claims to have powers to identify and cleanse suspected witches

Photo/GEORGE KIKAMI | NATION Kenga Charo Mangi, alias Midzanze, a Kaya elder at Kaya Godoma, speaks to the Sunday Nation. He claims to have powers to identify and cleanse suspected witches. With him are some of the suspected witches, and councillor Teddy Mwambire (second left).

By KIPCHUMBA SOME ksome@ke.nationmedia.com

In Summary

  • Grey hair in Ganze and Magarini is no longer a sign of wisdom. It no longer attracts respect from the youth.
  • In fact grey-haired men and women in the two constituencies (ranked among the poorest in the country) live in perpetual fear.
  • They are being hunted down like wild dogs and killed over allegations of being witches. And the killers are mostly their sons and other close family members.
  • The Sunday Nation tracked the fleeing old folks to the “village of witches” in Kaya Godoma.
  • We talked to the villagers and interviewed the political and administrative leadership of the areas.
  • The interviews paint a perfect picture of people stuck in traditional beliefs with little hope of redemption.

Mzee Kahindi Charo Ngoka, 69, begged his two sons to spare his life. They had tied him to a tree in his compound with sisal ropes.

He pleaded that he was not a sorcerer as claimed by his wife – the mother of his sons-turned-tormenters. But they would hear none of it.

“I cried like a baby as they hit me,” he told the Sunday Nation.

Four broken upper teeth and lacerations on his body are proof of the severe thrashing he received at the hands of his own flesh and blood that afternoon of January 2 at his home in Kibarani near Kilifi town.

They then trussed him up and locked him in a hut to await nightfall when they planned to burn him to death.

“I gave them life, now they wanted to take mine,” he said, reflecting on the events that have seared his memory.

After they left, he struggled and broke free from his bonds, undid the latch of the rickety door, and made it to a nearby bush from where he found the route to the chief’s office where he reported the matter.

When the police showed up, his sons had already fled. But they found his wife and two daughters who were more than willing to tell the officers why they believed the patriarch of the family was a sorcerer.

The three were arrested as accomplices to attempted murder and are currently being held at the Shimo La Tewa Women’s Prison.

Mzee Ngoka narrated his ordeal to the Sunday Nation at Kaya Godoma, where a refugee camp has been established for those banished by their community on suspicion of practising the dark arts.

The camp hosts 36 elderly people, both male and female, who have all escaped certain death at the hands of close relatives and neighbours.

The hunting down and killing of suspected sorcerers has become endemic in the Coast region.

Police say 20 people have been killed in Malindi alone in the past two years because they were believed to be witches.

They say the number could be higher since some of deaths that occur where there is little government presence are not reported.

But, even then, numbers alone do not tell the story of horrors that suspicion of practising witchcraft has wrought on the people of the region.

Wives have turned on their husbands, setting them up to be killed. Sons have turned on their fathers in what could pass as a fulfilment of the biblical sign of the end times in Matthew 10:21:

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.”

Families are disintegrating at an alarming rate because of suspected witchcraft.

In the case of Mzee Ngoka, it was his wife, Jumwa Kahindi, who first accused him of witchcraft six years ago.

She claimed that he came to her in a dream asking which of their seven sons he should kill in order to increase the potency of his magic.

“I had never been accused of witchcraft before, and I was really surprised that my wife would say such things about me,” said Mzee Ngoka.

“We have our share of marital problems, but that one took me totally by surprise.” They have been married for 49 years and have 14 children together.

But, fully aware of the dire consequences such an accusation could bring, he volunteered to take the traditional test to ascertain whether he was a wizard.

The test involves the accused and the accuser eating a specially prepared strip of pawpaw or mango that is administered by a traditional healer.

Local residents believe that the guilty party will not be able to swallow it — either the jaw will refuse to chew it, or the tongue will pop out or swell.

If one is found to be a sorcerer, the traditional process of cleansing begins in which the suspect loses all his or her powers. If found innocent, the accuser is compelled to pay a fine set by the accused.

Ordinarily, the whole process costs about Sh3,000, an amount that is out of reach of most residents of the poverty-stricken region.

Given that it is a life-and-death issue, Mzee Ngoka decided to sell a portion of his one-acre piece of land to take the test with his wife.

Not a wizard

But, on the appointed day, she fled to her parents’ home where she stayed for six years. In her absence, one of his sons offered to take the test with him.

He was not a wizard, the test revealed, and the matter was put to rest — until his wife came back in January 2011.

“First, she refused to stay with me in the same house. She instead went and lived with one of our daughters in a separate house.

“They refused to cook for me. But, whenever anything went wrong, they blamed me. She set the children up against me.

“I should be enjoying my old age with my grandchildren, but now I am hiding from my family,” he said.

For centuries Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastal region has been the source of a rich trove of stories involving witchcraft.

It is common to hear dramatised stories of how a beautiful girl suddenly changes into a black cat in the middle of the night or how cars of prominent people turn into goats at night and eat grass for fuel.

But the North Coast, home to the Giriama, is the worst-affected by the lynching of suspected sorcerers.

The Sunday Nation crew got the feel of the prevalence of the belief in witchcraft on a visit to chief Paul Mwambire’s office in Marafa location, Magarini constituency, Kilifi County.

As the team awaited their turn to talk to the chief, an old man was brought in by two young men.

Mr Mwambire later said the old man was the father of the two young men who had brought him in on suspicion of being a sorcerer.

“They claimed that he had acknowledged that he is a witch (sic), and they wanted him to officially record the confession.

“They wanted me to be a witness, but I refused. On most occasions these old men are pressured by family members to do so,” he said.

Marafa division has recorded a rise in the murder of suspected sorcerers lately. On the night of January 9, a 70-year-old widowed grandmother was slashed to death on suspicion of practising witchcraft.

Here, virtually everything that goes wrong – death, ailments, poverty, misfortune, failed relationships – is blamed on black magic.

Mzee Karisa Ngoa Mwaringa, a village elder in Kaguguta village, Magarini, believes witchcraft exists.

“Our people strongly believe in it. You cannot just wake up and tell them witchcraft is some sort of fancy imagination.

“It is here with us. Even the most educated – those working in Nairobi and elsewhere – believe in it. So how will it disappear overnight?” he asked.

But the killing of suspected witches is a new phenomenon, he said, shaking his head, then gazing silently into the distance, perhaps in silent reflection that, at his age, the same fate could easily befall him should one of his family members turn against him.

“A special ceremony was performed in which they were deprived of their powers,” the chief said suddenly picking up the conversation.

“This killing is a new thing. We were once revered elders; now we are hunted like dogs by our own children.”

Recently, he rescued a fellow elder in the village who had been accused by his family of being a sorcerer.

One of his granddaughters had accused the old man of burying juju in their compound.

On closer inspection, Mzee Mwaringa discovered it was just a fresh anthill. But still the family was not convinced.

“I had to strongly warn them that the law would be applied should anything happen to him.”

The reason for the strong caution, the chief said, was that the old man had become a marked man.

An accusation often has little to do with witchcraft; it has become a way of settling scores.

“If you dig deeper you will find there were family issues behind these killings,” said chief Mwambire.

Mzee Ngoka says his wife just developed hatred towards him after he discovered she was unfaithful.

“She even conceived by my brother’s eldest son,” he claimed, adding that she miscarried, and he forgave her. “But she was never the same.”

But most of the killings have an economic connection, especially where land is concerned.

“We had an old man who was accused by his sons of practising witchcraft. When the old man decided to leave the homestead, the sons sub-divided the land among themselves,” said Mzee Mwaringa

Even small disputes are known to elicit accusations of witchcraft.

Mzee Said Karisa Masha, a 61-year-old charcoal dealer, says a regular customer accused him of being a sorcerer when he went to collect money she owed him.

“She shouted that I had bewitched a neighbour who had been having health issues. It was near a marketplace and people chased me with stones and machetes.

“I was lucky the police rescued me in time,” he said. He said his accuser has refused to take the traditional test with him.

Some people in these villages have lost their lives on accusations that simply sound surreal to an outsider.

For example, on the night of February 12, 2010, Mzee Kahindi Kombe Nzai was hacked to death while he slept with his wife.

He had long been accused by neighbours and close family members, including some of his daughters, of metamorphosing into a spirit in order to sexually abuse girls at a nearby primary school.
No one has ever been convicted for his murder although two suspects were arrested and later released. Neighbours say this, too, was an inside job.

But his case is not unique. In the sparsely populated dry bushlands of Shononeka village, Sidi Bitoya Wanzau, about 80, was killed last September while tending her garden of chilli peppers. An unknown assailant slit her throat.

Although the motive of the attack is unknown, her eldest son, Mr Karisa Katana Kitsao, suspects it is related to suspicions of being a witch.

She had survived a severe attack in 2001 on the same suspicions which left her left arm paralysed.

“She was ready after this to take the test, but no one came to accuse her. So we thought that the matter had been settled, but it is obvious that somebody still bore a grudge against her,” he said.

He disclosed that his mother was first suspected of practising sorcery in the late 1980s when one of her sons died in a road accident.
“Some people said that she was not proud of her son’s success and bewitched him to die.”
No one has been arrested for the attack, although neighbours suspect a close family member was responsible.
“Whoever is daring enough to come and attack during daytime knows the movements and routines of his intended victim very well,” said a neighbour who did not wish to be named.

Kilifi district commissioner Benjamin Gachichio introduced a more sinister aspect to the killings.

“We have discovered that children kill their aged parents in order to avoid supporting them.

“This region receives little rainfall and, therefore, food is hard to find. Old people are seen as a burden,” he said.

The belief in witchcraft and the attendant killings of suspected witches present a sharp contrast to the international commercial image of Malindi and Kilifi.

Both towns are better known for their enchanting beaches that attract thousands of tourists every year.

Little Milan

There is such a significant settlement of Italian migrants in the two towns that Malindi is now referred to by the locals as “Little Milan”.

Formula One multi-billionaire Flavio Briatore has built a luxurious holiday hotel there called the Lion in the Sun and is constructing another one to be aptly named the Billionaires Club.

But when one moves inland from the pristine beaches of “Little Milan” and the opulence of some of its residences, the shocking reality that unfolds is that of a people lost deep in the abyss of poverty.

Ganze is a backwater constituency lacking in amenities such as piped water and accessible roads.

Neighbouring Magarini is ranked as one of the poorest constituencies in the country, and education standards in both areas are among the lowest in Kenya.

In fact, of the country’s 47 counties, the five in the Coast region – Kilifi, Lamu, Taita Taveta, Kwale and Tana River – held the bottom five positions in last year’s KCPE examination results.

It is under these grim circumstances that age-old superstition thrives.

“Poverty is increasing with each day, and people are looking for excuses to explain all the bad things around them,” said chief Mwambire.

Ordinarily, religion has played a key role in societies that have successfully fought the practice. But, though both Christianity and Islam are practised here, religion has had little impact on the local belief system.

“Whenever I go to these meetings, I usually go with a priest and an imam, but the locals just dismiss them as talking heads,” said Mr Gachichio.

And, in any case, a 2010 report by the Pew Research Centre, a US-based organisation that surveys major aspects of daily life in the United States and elsewhere, found that most Kenyans, both Christian and Muslim, still harbour a strong belief in witchcraft.

Florence Jaoko, the former chairperson of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, says the killings should be treated as criminal offences.

“There are no two ways about it. There is no justification for taking another person’s life whatsoever,” she said.

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Poster: Counter Human Trafficking Syposium for FBOs and Grassroots in EA

Contact consolationeastafrica@gmail.com or 0736 935 387,  and 0720 812 638 or 0720 444 545

A Counter Human Trafficking Symposium for the Faith based and Grassroots Organizations in East Africa 22nd to 24th November 2011

Human Trafficking is a dehumanizing crime that reduces people to economic subjects. Past studies have found that victims of human trafficking in East Africa are used for labor, ritual or sexual purposes. In extreme cases their organs are extracted to be sold to rich patients locally or in the west.

There are also some reports indicating that the extracted organs may be used for witchcraft, superstitious and other unknown purposes. A practice that was highly reported in East Africa is that of child sale which involved medics and religious people. The children are sold to rich childless families or other people that may require them for other reasons. Five main reasons have been established as the push factors of human trafficking problem in East Africa. They include poverty, greed, corruption, war and lack of education.

Human trafficking problem is experienced in politically unstable areas where boys are recruited for combat purposes and girls for sexual exploitation and labor by the militia groups. Economically stable countries attract people mainly for labor and for sexual exploitation. In East Africa, human trafficking culprits include extended family members and acquaintances who abuse the indigenous culture of generosity. Children homes have also not been spared for trusting unscrupulous adopters. International human trafficking in East Africa is fuelled by bogus employment agencies.

Governments, non governmental, faith based and grassroots organizations are slowly becoming important players in spreading the awareness against this vice and in assisting trafficked victims. In their innovative approaches to address the problem of human trafficking they exemplify a social welfare and empowerment structure amongst the poor.

KARDS, Consolation East Africa, Jesuit Hakimani Centre and Diakonia Institute of Nairobi  and Trace Kenya of Mombasa amongst other faith based and grassroots organizations are pleased to welcome you to a counter human trafficking symposium that will be held from the 22nd to  24th of November 2011. This symposium amongst other aims will hope to fulfill the following objectives:

  • Enable participants understand the concept of human trafficking
  • Share knowledge, skills and experiences from different FBOS and grassroots working to fight against the problem of human trafficking
  • Understand different tools  and resources (both legal, economic and psycho social) available for victim assistance
  • Create peer to peer linkages aiming to promote effective collaboration and networking amongst counter human trafficking organizations.

During the symposium there will be cultural counter human trafficking performances by Sanalimu, HAART and Riruta Health Project amongst others. Several poems from different secondary schools will also be recited by Fern Poems.  Organizations that will like to share their experiences of countering the problem of human trafficking are advised to get in touch with us through our contacts below.

You are kindly requested to contribute Kshs. 1,500 (one thousand five hundred only) that will go towards expenses such as certification and meals. You are also kindly requested to communicate to us incase of financial difficulties.

Email: consolationeastafrica@gmail.com, Telephone: 0720 812 638, 0736 935 387

Kenya Ranked 15 in Superstition

A day with Dr Cure-All

FILE | NATION: A Witch doctors advert at Nairobi's upscale River side drive

FILE | NATION: A Witch doctors advert at Nairobi’s upscale River side drive

By MUCHIRI KARANJA, mkaranja@ke.nationmedia.com AND CAROLYNE NJUNG’E, cnjunge@ke.nationmedia.com
Daily Nation Posted Tuesday, September 28 2010 at 16:06

In Summary

Kenyans ranked 15 in Superstition list

  • According the Pew Research Centre, which describes itself as “a non-partisan fact tank that provides information on the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping America and the world through public opinion polling,”
  • Kenyans are ranked 15th in Africa among people who believe in witchcraft, a few points behind the Democratic Republic of Congo, and way ahead of Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zambia, and Rwanda.
  • A Pew report says that a quarter of Kenyans, both Christians and Muslims, confessed that they believe in the protective power of juju (charms or amulets) and that they consulted traditional healers..

Source: Pew Research Centre

They will fix your jitters, workplace problems, court cases, and even revive your failing virility.

And they are invariably Dr this or Prof that from some place in Tanzania.

Knowing that a prophet is rarely appreciated in his village, they have to come from some far-flung place. It makes business sense.

With the talk of making headlines, we set out to explore the world of witchcraft in Nairobi.

Who else would we talk to but the “doctors” and “professors” who describe themselves as ghost busters and exorcists!

Our trail begins at Ngara in response to a three-line advertisement in the classified section of a local daily.

We are looking for “Dr” Mwene, who can “help you return lost love and recover stolen property.”

“Dr” Mwene’s address is Ngara Fig Tree, complete with a cell phone number.

Four calls later, he is available for consultation. We agree to meet outside a shop in Ngara. I will call him as soon as I arrive. Then he would come for me.

I arrive at our rendezvous 10 minutes early. My idea of a witchdoctor is some old fellow with shifty eyes, clad in some strange garb, and chanting esoteric words in a dimly lit room.

So I scan the crowds hurrying by for any face that looks like a witchdoctor before calling “daktari” again.

He is on his way. Could I wait?

An hour later, I call again. This time he is just alighting from a matatu and asks me to tell him where I am standing.
Minutes later, he calls to say he is standing exactly where I told him I was. I turn around, and there he is.

In a flash, the image I had of a witchdoctor as some cranky old man wearing a buffalo skin vanishes. Mwene is in his late thirties and wearing a pink shirt and dark blue trousers.

Instead of an old dirty bag jingling with cowry shells, he is clutching a newspaper.

In flawless Kiswahili, he tells me to follow him. He leads me across Murang’a Road.

I have a mind to tell him I am not going anywhere, and could we finish our business in some public place where I can dash for safety if a snake crawls out of his pocket.

We walk to a street leading into a residential area. Less than a minute later, he stops to say he has another client waiting for him in his room, and could I wait in a nearby bar. He will come for me.

Incense wafting in the air
I get in and order a soda. I sit near the entrance. By the time he shows up, my patience is wearing thin.
Again we cross the street into a freshly renovated building.

I make a point of saying hello to the security guard, just in case I do not come out of the building.
We climb the stairs and he leads me down a corridor with several doors on both sides.

He stops to open a burglar-proof door on the right.

No bat flies out of the single room with cream walls.

Incense wafts in the air. At first sight, there is little to indicate the witchdoctor’s profession; no flying brooms and related paraphernalia.

On the left is a single bed, neatly made, complete with a flowery bedcover.

On the right is a small table on which stands a TV set with flickers. It needs an antenna. Either that or the witchcraft in the room is interfering with reception.

The first hint of my host’s trade lies in a mat in the farthest corner of the room. It is half covered with two pieces of red and white cloth on which lie several small calabashes strung together with coloured beads, three small wooden containers that resemble carved ash trays, a horn, a newspaper rolled into a cylinder, and a star fish.

A cowry shell necklace snakes its way among the paraphernalia.

“I am doctor Mwene from Subawanga, Tanzania,” my host says. “You must know it. It was in the news recently. A cow spoke to her mistress,” he adds.

I wonder what news channel this guy tunes to. I have heard the Bible story about Baram’s talking donkey, but a talking cow in Tanzania?

He is squatting, cross-legged on a mat next to his tools.

He asks me my name and phone number, which he jots in a notebook. Then pops the big question: “What is your problem?”

Trying to look as honest as possible, I explain that I have tried several businesses and failed, and that I badly need his help to succeed. He asks me what kind of businesses I have tried. I list them: a shop, a salon, a bar.

First, he tells me to kneel in front of the paraphernalia, hold a black calabash with both hands, and tell the spirits exactly what I need.

‘Your problem is not money’

Now, speaking to a calabash decorated with white and black beads and covered with a dark cloth sounds weird, especially when you are not sure what lies inside. What if a serpent pops out?

“Do not fear, there are no snakes here,” he assures me.

Curiosity overcomes my fears. I kneel in front of the stuff, hold the calabash in both hands, and suddenly I don’t know what to say.
“Do I have to say it aloud?” I inquire.

No I don’t have to.

“Just pray softly,” he says, almost solemnly. So I mumble under my breath, silently telling myself that I do not believe in witchcraft, praying that nothing happens to me, that I am just doing my job.

He squats next to me, holding another small black calabash to his left ear. He speaks in a language I don’t understand. In between, he keeps calling “babu na mama” (grandfather and mother), and nods repeatedly.

He then tells me to put my right hand on the mouth of the calabash and takes my left hand, palm facing up.

The conversation with his babu na mama continues. With his left ear still glued to the calabash, he finally turns to me.

“Your problem is not money,” he says. “On the contrary, you get lots of money. But two dark spirits ensure that it just slips between your fingers.” That is why I am failing in business.

These same spirits, he says have weakened my sex drive.

The prescription is expensive. For Sh8,000, he can get the dark spirits off my back.

Then my sex drive shall be back in full swing, and my businesses will flourish.

Well, Sh8,0000 isn’t much considering that it shall solve two of my biggest “problems” all at once: sex and money (never mind that I did not say anything about low sex drive).

I protest that Sh8,000 is on the higher side but no amount of haggling can bring it down.

“It is the standard fee. All my customers pay this amount for similar problems,” says “Dr” Mwene.

Richer clients, he explains, pay extra in tips once their problem is solved.

We agree that I should return with the money and two pieces of cloth — a red and a white one, each two metres long.

Of course he will not see me again.

Next destination? Mathare slums, about 10 minute’s drive from the city centre.

I already have a prescription for low libido and poor business acumen.

My plan now is to test whether this “doctor” can diagnose my problem long before I reveal it.

The “doctor’s” offices are on the first floor of a small building next to a dirty side street heading away from Mathari into Eastleigh estate. Two rooms on either side of the “clinic” are locked, but the “doctor’s” room is half open.

Like in Ngara, the scent of incense permeates the room beyond the dark blue door curtain. Two black necklaces hang on the curtain.
“Doctor” Sheikh Shariff is in his early forties.

He is casually dressed in black trousers, matching shoes, checked shirt, and brown jacket.

When I ask him to identify my problem, he answers me with a blank stare.

Then he points to a paper pasted to the wall. It is a sort of menu of what the “doctor” has to offer. He asks me to choose from the list. Top on the list is a love potion and securing a job is at the bottom.

I chose the last one, explaining that I have been jobless for 10 years.

“When was the last time you went to see your parents,” he asks. Of course it is some time since I saw my folks.
“Last week,” I lie.

Then come the prescription: I must go back to the village and take along with me a specially prepared “job” potion worth Sh3,400 (in cash, please). Once there, I must wait until dusk, sneak outside the house, and bath in the nude.

“You must then return to Nairobi. Do not spend the night in the village,” he warns. He will not discuss the ingredients of his employment potion. And, you guessed right: the price is not negotiable.

‘We have to kill her’

“My medicine does not come from Kenya,” is the curt reply to my query. Now I know what it shall cost me to get my libido back (whatever gave the fellow the idea that it was down?) get back in business (I have never tried my hand at business), and get my first job in 10 years (I would not be writing this if I did not have a job, would I?)

***
Mama Dr Halima, as she calls herself, is a hefty woman. A cursory glance reveals that she is probably in her early sixties. She is dressed in a long-flowing, flowered dress and sandals.

The black and white posters she had stuck on electricity posts and walls across the city centre declared that she is a Zanzibari.

When I call her that morning posing as a customer she informs me that she is along Kilome Road, off Kirinyaga Road. Where is her exact location? I dig.

When I get to Roast house, a green building opposite the Jamia Mosque matatu terminus, I call her and this time round, she answers immediately.

After I describe how I am dressed, she informs me that her son is on her way to get me. After about three minutes, a man in his early years shows up.

He is dressed in a light brown caftan and underneath, blue jeans, a red t-shirt and sandals.

Mama Dr Halima does not offer her hand, so I keep mine to myself.

As I stand there, uncertain, an attractive, well-dressed middle-aged man approaches, goes past me, stands before Mama Halima and shakes her hand respectfully.

She inclines her head politely and for the first time, there is a hint of a smile on her face. Obviously, he is not a first time visitor.

When the ‘consultation’ starts ‘Dr Halima informs me that we cannot proceed until I hand over Sh500, which I dutifully do.

She puts the money into a basket containing more money and then covers it with a black cloth.

She then asks me to tell her what my problem is.

I take a deep breath, wear what I hope is a devastated face and recount my fictitious story: The man I have been dating for the past five years, and who I was to get married to this year, recently told me that he was no longer interested in me because he was in love with another woman.

I had invested a lot in this relationship, including helping buy a piece of land on which we were already putting up our future family home.

Foolishly, the property was registered in his name since he had conducted all the transactions himself, therefore I cannot claim it, I continue.

But I am not going to give up all these without a fight – I have come to her so that I can get rid of the other woman. I also want to keep my man, and hold on to the property I partly own.

As I narrate my story of betrayal, Mama Halima shakes her head in disbelief, sometimes gasping with shock. When I am done, she exclaims.

Umetendewa unyama kabisa” (It’s been a beastly treatment), she exclaims.

She then reaches for a thin, tattered exercise book on the table and randomly opens a page which is unintelligibly scribbled in what seems to be a child’s handwriting.

She then asks for my “boyfriend’s” name, the other “woman’s” name and mine as well. I reel off whatever comes to my head, hoping that she will not ask me to repeat.

After a few seconds of contemplative silence, she declares that my boyfriend is not to blame; he has been placed under a ‘strong’’ spell by the other woman.

“This woman has used witchcraft to bind him; we have to kill her.”

To get the job done, I need to get her two doves – male and female, or a rope that was used to commit suicide.

Since the latter would be difficult to find, the doves would be a better bet, she informs me.

She can make my work easier by using “her people” to get the doves on my behalf.

All I have to do is part with Sh3, 000. She will also need clothing belonging to my boyfriend as well as his photograph to accomplish “our” mission.

But she will require a further Sh12,000 because she will have  to consult the “wazee” (spirits in this case) and they don’t come cheap. She will also need to administer some potent medicine which is also expensive.

“These two are planning to get married very soon, so we have to move very fast. The sooner you get the money, preferably today, the sooner you will get your man back,” the prescription.

I inform her that I don’t have that amount with me, but can get it the next day. Relieved that she doesn’t order me to drink some dubious concoction, I hurry out of the place.

So much for these fools’ doctors.

OTIENO: Break silence over women killers of Kisii

By OTIENO OTIENO, jkotieno@ke.nationmedia.com
Daily Nation, Posted Saturday, September 11 2010 at 11:26

Last month, reports that European explorer Henry Morton Stanley’s village mates in Wales were planning to immortalise him with a bronze statue triggered a high-minded exchange on the Daily Nation’s commentary pages.

William Ochieng, the Maseno University history professor, who fired the first shot, found trying to dignify a man who painted the image of Africa as the ‘Dark Continent’ insensitive.

American-born Tom Wolf, the lone contrarian, drew racist epithets from online readers who thought he was looking at Africa through a biased lens.

What was lost in this debate is the fact that prejudices are not unique to the Mortons and the Wolfs.

Sihle Khumalo, the South African latter-day explorer who travelled from Cape to Cairo in 2005 using public transport, does a poor job of clothing his biases in a cloak of humour in his book, The Dark Continent My Black Arse.

After just two or three days in Khartoum, Khumalo concludes that “Sudan is the only country where I didn’t see a single beautiful woman”.

I, too, have my own biases about us.

We may want to see ourselves as light years ahead of the caveman.

But you won’t tell it from the way our society or sections of it still insist on explanations for death and other common misfortune from the mystery of witchcraft rather than the reality of science.

Last Thursday, TV footage of a lynch mob hunting down elderly women in Kisii only served to entrench my dark view of this society.

The four scared women I saw conjured in my mind all the good things you and I associate with grandmothers in a normal society – nice, harmless, the symbol of nurture, the custodian of social security and people to be pampered.

Yet in Kisii, they are lucky, just for now. Police reports show that seven elderly women were ridiculously labelled witches and then lynched there last year.

Eighteen reportedly died in similar circumstances in 2008.

This should make Kisii one of the most dangerous places on earth for a woman to live in alongside the honour killing fields of Pakistan and India.

These women are victims of village brutes. However, it is the conspiracy of silence that says something of Mortonian proportion about us.

Despite the fact that this ritual has become part of Kenyans’ horror TV viewing, nobody – from the community elite, women rights movement, political leadership to the SDA and Catholic churches – speaks out against it.

Forgive my bias. But until I see Kenyans demonstrating their civic duty to protect the elderly women’s right to life (enshrined in the Constitution no less) and tame their wild killers, I will continue to hold onto the notion that Morton was entitled to his opinion.