The Global Human Organs Industry

How much is your body worth? The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has unearthed the gory details of the lucrative body organs market, where everything, from the cornea in your eye to the bones in your feet and everything in between, is a cash cow for organ gangsters. Cadavers are no longer safe in morgues, and there is every indication that the growing problem of human trafficking could have tentacular links to this macabre business

MWAURA SAMORA Daily Nation 14th August 2012

More than 20,000 people, mostly minors, are trafficked out of or through Kenya to Asia, Europe and other African countries annually, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). And although most studies report that those 20,000 men and women are herded into forced labour and sex camps, chances are that some of them end up in the hands of illicit human organ trade cartels in the West.

A recent series of reports by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which investigated this illicit trade in eight months and across 11 countries, reveals that the business of harvesting bones, corneas, heart valves, skin and other body parts from cadavers to make medical products is thriving in the world.

The report, for instance, revealed that cadaver bone, harvested from the dead and replaced with PVC piping for burial, is sculpted like pieces of hardwood into screws and anchors for dozens of orthopaedic and dental applications.  In other instances, the bone is ground and mixed with chemicals to produce strong surgical glues — used to attach organs and tissues after surgery — that is said to be better than artificial varieties, while tendons are used to treat injured athletes. Weighing between three to four kilogrammes for an average adult, human skin is one of the most sought-after organs since it has a variety of uses.

“Human skin takes the colour of smoked salmon when it is professionally removed in rectangular shapes from a cadaver,” the ICIJ report says. “After being mashed up to remove moisture, some is destined to protect burn victims from life-threatening bacterial infections or, once refined, for breast reconstructions after cancer.” Other common uses of dead peoples’ body parts include phallus enlargement, breast reconstruction after cancer, smoothing wrinkled faces, cornea transplants, heart valve replacements, bladder slings for incontinence, and bone grafts, among many others.

“In Kenya, the most commonly harvested cadaver parts are corneas, which are used in reconstructive eye surgery,” says Dr Eric Walong, a pathologist based at the University of Nairobi. “These are mostly donations that happen with the consent of the dead person’s family, and there is usually no monetary gain on either side of the deal.” Kenya does not have a defined and cultured organ industry, partly because there are no efficient and reliable emergency services to preserve the bodies and organs in good shape awaiting surgical removal, and partly because cultural beliefs discourage organ harvesting. But that is not to say that we have been spared the ravages of this multi-billion-shilling industry. Chances are that, as families mourn the loss of loved ones, somebody somewhere is celebrating all the way to the bank.

In fact, the report notes, while most European cadavers are from people who died in hospitals, people trafficked from other parts of the world, like Africa, might be killed to obtain vital organs and tissues since the demand is on the rise. That rise in demand has translated into a rise in earnings per harvested cadaver. Ordinary “hustlers” wheeler-dealing with morgues in the United States can make up to $10,000 (Sh82,000) per corpse, and RTI Biologics, a tissue and organ selling multi-national, is said to have raked in $169 million (Sh13.8 billion) in 2011 from harvesting body organs from dead persons. A fully processed disease-free body, with all the organs recovered and applied to the various end uses, can generate between $80,000 (Sh6.56 million) and $200,000 (Sh16.4 million).

A case in point on how global organ trade has become a “blood goldmine” in the last few years is that of Phillip Joe Guyett, arguably America’s largest freelance organ harvester ever nabbed. Bragging of how senior executives from multi-national tissue companies treated him to $400 (Sh32,000) meals and five star hotel stays in order to clinch his services, Guyett writes in his peculiarly named memoirs, Heads, Shoulder, Knees and Bones, of how he started seeing the dead “with dollar signs attached to their body parts”. The party for him, however, ended in 2006, when he was handed a “prolonged jail term” for falsifying death records of his “victims”.

Most of this multi-million dollar “blood gold” empire has been going on for years without the knowledge of the victims’ relatives, most of whom just pick the bodies of their loved ones from the morgues and head straight to the cemetery without minding to check the cadaver’s conditions.  One of those families would have been that of Lubov Frolova, a Ukranian woman whose son’s organs and tissues were harvested. “On the way to the cemetery in the hearse, one of the shoes slipped off (my son’s) foot,” she told the ICIJ. “(The foot) seemed to be hanging loose. When my daughter-in-law touched it, she said it (felt) empty inside.” Police investigations revealed that two ribs, two Achilles tendons, two elbows, two eardrums and two teeth were among the organs missing in the body. Frolova’s eerie discovery, coupled with tens of other incidences, led to the uncovering of a huge syndicate of illicit organ trade involving Ukrainian morgues and US human tissue multi-nationals.

This has led to an outcry in the medical field because, besides violating the dead without the family’s consent, the shadowy trade also exposes the recipients to the dangers of infections since most of the tissues are not subjected to proper medical tests to establish the donor’s medical history. While blood donations and intact organs like hearts and livers are bar-corded and strongly regulated, it’s hard to verify the sterility of products made from skin and other tissues since there are no particular structures set in place to regulate the industry. Many countries leave the responsibility of identifying and confirming the identities of tissue donors to drugs makers and tissue banks.

However, this might change soon since the World Health Organisation (WHO) plans to track human tissue traded for transplants in order to ensure safety of donors and prevent illegal collections. The ICIJ says that a work group to look at the issue has already been set up and will have its first sitting in France at the end of this month. The group “intends to use codes for medical materials and other products derived from human tissues”. Although the United States is the biggest trader of products from human tissue, its authorities are unable to quantify the number of imported tissues, their country of origin or where the products subsequently go.

Many countries, especially in the Third World, including Kenya, do not have regulations on the use of human tissue. Where they have such legislation, the codes are weak, ineffective or unimplemented. The big boys are not fairing well either. For instance, although it supplies about two-thirds of the global human tissue product market, the United States, through its Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has the inspection records of only seven per cent of the 340 tissue banks registered with it. “When the FDA registers you, all you have to do is fill out a form and wait for an inspection,” Dr Duke Kasprisin, medical director for seven US tissue banks, told the ICIJ. “For the first year or two, you can function without having anyone look at you.”

Circumcision linked to cosmetics industry

One of the most unlikely human body parts that has attracted a lot of attention is the foreskin of the male organ, which is used in the production of skin treatment medication and products. And with WHO estimating that 30 per cent of the world’s males are circumcised, and that millions undergo the minor surgical procedure annually, it is clear that the supply curve will keep rising.

Treated as a medical procedure in the West and a rite of passage in many Third World countries, the global demand for circumcision was triggered by a United Nations and Centre for Disease Control report in 2007 that advised that removing the foreskin reduces the risk of contracting HIV during penetrative sex.

Riding the wave, the United States donated Sh960 million shillings towards Kenya’s five-year nationwide free circumcision campaign, but while a lot of attention has been focused on “the cut”, few have bothered to ask what happens to the foreskins of the millions of males who are circumcised around the world every year.

Besides being an important ingredient for numerous skin care products and interferon drugs, foreskin is also used in the production of fibroblasts (skin cells used in the regeneration of new skin). Due to their biological properties, fibroblasts are used in all kinds of medical procedures, from eyelid replacement, growing skin for burn victims and those with diabetic ulcers to making anti-wrinkle creams and other products in the cosmetics industry.  Scientific research has shown that one foreskin, which contains millions of fibroblast cells, when treated through a process called culturing, can be used for decades to produce miles of new skin for burn victims and those undergoing plastic surgery.

A single foreskin contains enough genetic material to grow approximately 250,000 square feet of new smooth skin. With this lab-developed skin said to cost around $3,000 (Sh246,000) per square feet, just one piece of this seemingly insignificant part of the male flesh can generate thousands of dollars in revenues over a prolonged period of time. According to the Caltech Undergraduate Research Journal, published by the California Institute of Technology, infant foreskins are preferred because they have more potential for cell division and less incidence of tissue rejection since they have not fully developed their individual identifying proteins.

The inner lining of the foreskin is usually fused with the glans at birth, making infant circumcision a precarious process. Although modernity has tried to alleviate the pain through contraptions like clamps, opponents of the practice among newborns argue that, besides exposing the baby to unbearable pain and possible permanent tissue damage, it is also a violation of the young one’s human rights.

Intercytex, a tissue generation company based in Cambridge, United Kingdom, has raised the foreskin utility business several notches higher by developing an injection-based drug called Valveta. Dubbed a “fountain of youth in baby foreskins”, Valveta rejuvenates and smoothens skin withered by age, wrinkles or damaged by scarring from acne, burns and surgical incisions. One vial of this medication, enough to treat an area of skin the size of a postage stamp, consists of about 20 million live fibroblasts, cells that produce the skin-firming protein called collagen, which becomes increasingly scarce with age. The number of Valveta vials that a patient needs is determined by the surface area of skin destroyed. However, the drug, which goes for about $1000 (Sh82,000) per vial, is not approved for use outside the United Kingdom, where it was introduced in 2007.

Despite spirited resistance from activists across the world, infant circumcision remains popular in several parts of the world, which ensures that baby foreskin remains in constant supply. In Where is My Foreskin? The Case Against Circumcision, Paul Fleiss, an American paediatrician and author known for his unconventional medical views, says “parents should be very wary of anyone who tries to cut their child’s foreskin since the marketing of purloined baby foreskins is a multi-million-dollar-a-year industry”. And there might be a point to these allegations, given that Dermagraft-TC, one of the many products grown from cells extracted from infant foreskins and used as a temporary wound covering for serious burn patients, sells for about $3,000 (Sh246,000) per square feet, according to some American medical journals.


Child Sacrifice, Organs Harvesting and Ritual Murders

Stories of child murders for body parts harvesting are rampant in Uganda and other countries of Africa. A story of Kato Kajubi a Ugandan business tycoon sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in Uganda for committing child sacrifice. This sad story is one amongst many on how children are vulnerable.

Story by Daily Nation MICHAEL SSALI 13th August 2012, watchmanafricA,

Godfrey Kato Kajubi was no pauper. At 56, he owns property in Kampala, including hostels for university students and other pieces of real estate.

Many mortals would have been satisfied with just a roof over their heads. But it is not with Kajubi who will spend the rest of his life in prison.

The businessman, who also owned an expensive house at Gayaza near Masaka town, where he would often spend weekends, was seized with the conviction that there was more to making money than business acumen.

He believed in the unseen hand of spirits and the power of blood and human flesh in business and prosperity — precisely the sort of dark alchemy that leads to ritual murder.

And it was just a matter of time before it happened but it takes two to tango.

Kajubi’s partner was Umaru Kateregga, a young witchdoctor. Kateregga had apparently helped the businessman to recover the potency of his (Kajubi’s) personal shrine for which he was paid handsomely.

 Kateregga and his wife Mariam Nabukeera lived in Kayugi village in Mukungwe sub-county, Masaka District, where the witchdoctor had a shrine.

 According to Kateregga’s testimony in court, Kajubi asked him to find him a boy to work as a farm hand, collecting eggs on his poultry farm at Gayaza.

 Kateregga took time looking for the right candidate. He finally zeroed in on a neighbour’s grandchild, 12-year-old Joseph Kasirye, a Class Five pupil.

“The boy was our friend and he used to visit us,” Kateregga told the court.

 “He looked miserable and had told us he did not like school. When we told him about a rich man who would employ him  to collect eggs on his farm, he seemed excited about the idea.

So I went ahead and rang up Kajubi and informed him that I had found the boy he wanted. He told us that he would come for him on 27 October, 2008,” Kateregga testified before Mr Justice Michael Kibita.

On 26 October, 2008, Kateregga visited his neighbour, Mzee Matia Mulondo, 73, Kasirye’s grandfather and guardian.  At the compound was also Kasirye’s paternal uncle, Paulo Kasirye, who was visiting.

 In court, Paulo Kasirye recalled Kateregga asking for water. He remembered Kateregga pulling the boy aside and the two speaking in whispers. The reason would soon be clear.

Just before sunset, the boy took a jerry can and headed for the village well. His family never saw him again.

That evening, Mzee Mulondo and many family members combed the village for the boy but there was no sign of him. They also visited Kateregga’s home, but were told the boy had not been seen there.

In court, Kateregga admitted that Kasirye was in his house waiting for the rich man to pick him up. He testified that a bed was made for the boy in the living room after supper when Kajubi called to say that he would be late.

At about midnight, Kajubi called again to confirm that the boy was at Kateregga’s house. The businessman showed up past midnight carrying bottles of beer, soda, and samosas.

He offered a beer to Mariam and a bottle of soda and the samosas to the boy, who had been woken up when he arrived. Kateregga drank the rest of the beer.

Although both Mariam and Kateregga were Muslims, the court heard, they often drank beer.

After a few minutes, Mariam and the boy fell unconscious.

Kateregga told the hushed court that Kajubi called a man he referred to as Stephen, who had remained in the car.

According to Kateregga, Kajubi drew a pistol and ordered him and Stephen to carry Mariam out of the house through the back door.  Kateregga told the court that the gun-wielding businessman made him swear that he would never disclose what was about to happen.

Kajubi told Stephen to fetch a bucket, a gunny bag, and a knife from the car. At that stage, Kateregga  told the court that he was terrified, but he obeyed Kajubi’s orders because he feared that he would shoot him.

The witchdoctor testified that the businessman ordered him to take the sword and chop off Kasirye’s head. He and Stephen were then told to tap all the blood from Kasirye’s body into the bucket. The head was also put into the bucket.

Kajubi then ordered the two to cut off the boy’s genitals and put them in the bucket, then cover it. Kateregga and Stephen were told to wrap the body in a polythene sheet, then place it in the gunny bag. The bag was put in the boot of Kajubi’s car along with the bucket.

The court was told that Kajubi ordered Kateregga to get into the car and sit between Stephen and himself as Stephen drove.

Kateregga was supposed to show them a safe place in the swamp to dump the corpse. After disposing of the body, Kajubi took the wheel and drove Kateregga back to his house, then left.

By then, Kateregga’s wife was regaining consciousness. She asked if the rich man had left with the boy. Kateregga told the court that he told her what had happened and the couple decided to flee the village.

The following day, nearly everybody in the village was looking for the missing boy, but Kateregga and his wife were not in the search parties.

The villagers became suspicious because witchdoctors are rumoured to be notorious for child sacrifice and the traditional healer was not participating in the search.

Their suspicions were confirmed when they realised that the couple was preparing to leave. They arrested them and took them to the police.

A search at the witchdoctor’s house yielded Kasirye’s clothes and the empty jerry can from his grandfather’s home. Blood stains were also found on the floor.

On interrogation by the police, the story spilled out and Kateregga even directed the police to where the body was hidden.

When the story broke, Kajubi, a well known businessman in Kampala, presented himself to the police when it emerged that he was being sought.

Kateregga and his wife Mariam were prosecution witnesses in the case before Mr Justice Moses Mukiibi, who on 23 April, 2010 ruled that Kajubi had no case to answer and that he should not be prosecuted because the evidence before he court was not sufficient.

However, the State appealed and the ruling was overturned. The Court of Appeal ordered that Kajubi be arrested again and charged with murder.

The businessman went missing for almost a year until he was arrested early this year inside a shrine along the Entebbe-Kampala road.

On 1 February, Kajubi was charged with murder. The State appointed Mr Fred Kamugunda to represent him. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The dark art of harvesting human organs for riches

In September 2009, a six-year-old Sudanese boy, Emmanuel Agwar Adar was kidnapped   and murdered in Nairobi.  The murder was gory as it can be but they still rubbed it on by cutting off his tongue.

Barely a month before, the city’s taxi drivers took to the streets to protest the murder of their six colleagues in mysterious circumstances.

The taxi men claimed all the victims had their private parts chopped off before being dumped in the outskirts of the city.

Although there was no official confirmation, the drivers said the murders were related to a mix of occult and extortion.

Witchcraft hasn’t disappeared from African culture just as it refuses to go in the West. For centuries, human body parts have been used as ingredients for magical concoctions and charms.

To obtain body parts, performers of these dark arts kill people in order to harvest specific organs for use in the occult.

Things haven’t been easy for them with the advent of the nation-state in Africa where murder is a capital offence, meaning witchdoctors can only acquire these body parts from underground organ hunters.

Cases similar to that of the Kenyan drivers, where people disappear mysteriously, only for their bodies to be discovered several days later minus various body parts are so many in the continent today that they are treated as routine crimes in some countries.

According to the South African Police Service Research Centre reports, there is a belief that body parts taken from live victims are rendered more potent by their screams, which means victims must be subjected to pain before death.

Ritual killings have been reported in Mozambique where the country’s Human Rights League has blamed them on the proliferation of witchdoctors from western Africa.

Authorities have also confirmed that although most of the organs trafficked in that country are for transplants, extraction of organs for witchcraft purposes also happens.

Human skin appears to be one of the most sought-after things by ritual killers in Africa. During the early 2000s, there were widespread cases of people being killed and skinned in the Mbeya region of Tanzania and Mwiki outskirts of Nairobi.

Investigations by the media and police revealed there was a high demand for human skin in Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa where it fetched $2,400 (Sh180,000) to $9,600 (Sh180,000) depending on the age of the victim.

Nigeria has the highest number of occult killings in the continent. Not surprisingly, the vice has found thematic expression in the country’s vibrant film industry.

According to Nigerian authorities, the killings are perpetrated by people commonly known as headhunters, who act at the behest of juju men.

Cases of children being abducted and ritually slaughtered are so many in southwest Nigeria that they once sparked a spate of murderous protests and mob lynching that left more than 20 suspected kidnappers dead.

The murder in London of a Nigerian boy, which British police named “Boy Adam” for lack of positive identification, in September 2001, brought to international attention to Nigeria’s ritual killings.

Forensic examinations on Adam’s torso, found floating in River Thames, revealed that he was a native of Yoruba Plateau in Nigeria and the state of the cadaver indicated a style of ritual killing practised in West and Southern Africa.

Man found cooking a snake having being instructed by a witchdoctor

EAS Sunday, July 15 2012 

Residents of Enoosaen trading centre in Trans Mara West District got the shock of their lives when they found a middle-aged man cooking a snake inside a bush.

Abuya, 40, was pounced on by the passersby when he was preparing to cook the delicacy inside a thicket, barely a few meters from his house.

The embattled man had lit a fire and the puff adder he had killed was lying in a sufuria ready for boiling.

Noticing the weird occurrence, angry residents set upon on Abuya and gave him a severe beating saying such an incidence was an abomination.

Fortunately, his screams for help attracted Administration Police officers who rushed to the scene and rescued him from the charged locals who were baying for his blood.

According to one of the witnesses, Geoffrey Sialo, they initially thought that Abuya was harvesting honey only for them to find out that he was preparing to cook the reptile.

Upon interrogation, Abuya confessed that a witchdoctor in the neighbouring Gucha District had promised him ‘good money’ if he found a snake of certain specifications.

“He told me to kill it (snake), fry, dry  and crush it into powder  and take to him for use as herbal medicine,” the man confessed.

Sialo said that Abuya told them that he was working on a farm with other men at Nkararo area when they came across the snake, which they killed.

He decided to carry it to Enoosaen to prepare it before taking it to the said witchdoctor.

Abuya was arrested and later taken to the Kilgoris Law courts and arraigned before Resident Magistrate Amos Mokoross for hunting game.

The accused person pleaded guilty to the charges and was jailed for three months or an alternative fine of Sh10,000 in default.

In mitigation, the accused asked the court to forgive him saying that he did not know that it was a crime to a kill a snake. Evidently, he had bitten more than he could chew.

In the meantime, and going by recent stories such as the seizure of a dead hyena destined to a witchdoctor’s hut, game rangers may be forced to shift their big guns from poachers’ hideouts and point them at witchdoctor’s dens.

Where witch tag is a death sentence

Alternative text.

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).


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.

Kenya Blue Hearts Grassroots Initiative (KBHGI)

Blue Hearts against human trafficking
TheBlue Hearts Campaign against human trafficking by UNODC, The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) calls human trafficking the crime that shames us all.

Fern Poetry, Sanalimu Art Ensemble and Rafiki Mwafrika are local youthful grassroots educative organizations that use performing arts to educate the public on issues of social economic justice. These three organizations together with Consolation East Africa (CEA) and Riruta Environmental Group (REG) have come together to form an initiative known as the Kenya Blue Hearts Grassroots Initiative (KBHGI).

The three artistic organizations intend to created artistic productions on human trafficking in a bid to reach a wider audience in Kenya. REG on the other hand intend to use its environmental mobilization activities to spread the counter human trafficking message. Apart from UNODC Blue Heart campaign, the groups have been inspired by the Koinonia Research and Development Service (KARDS)  study of 2009 on the proliferation of human trafficking within the East African Region. The blue hearts campaign by the  UNODC  presents an easy and simple image to reach out as many publics as possible. It could also be explained in the following ways:

  • There is need to help eliminate the contemporary forms of slavery in Kenya and East Africa. These include the exploitative massage parlours, brothels, gardens, sex tourism, exploitative domestic work, mines and the forced labour, and the sexual exploitation and exploiting  the bodies of other human beings for organs to be used for medical and other purposes.
  • Women and men  get smuggled across borders in search of jobs as house servants. Once in their destinations they become captives and cannot escape ending up as victims of human trafficking. Young girls and women on the other hand are offered a plane ticket to take a well-paying job in another country to find out upon arrival that the job is nothing better than prostitution, and cannot escape until they have reimbursed the investment that was made in them, are the victims of human trafficking.
  • Vulnerable children who are taken away from their home environments for purposes of being sponsored and then end up becoming slaves too are victims of human trafficking.
Following the 2009 study, KARDS has used various approaches to educate the various publics on the extent of both domestic and international human trafficking. The KARDS campaign is done through Consolation East Africa (CEA) a local NGO dedicated to spreading the awareness against human trafficking in Kenya and Tanzania’s FBOs and Grassroots organizations. CEA on its part builds the capacity of grassroots organizations to educate their own communities by use of “grassroots innovative approaches.” Hence it is for this reason that Fern Poetry, Sanalimu Arts Ensemble and Rafiki Mwafrikaare now collaborating through the use of arts and drama to disseminate counter trafficking messages to schools, faith based organizations and general publics as part of their community outreach programs.
It is in this same spirit that the member KBHGI  have provided partial sponsorship for this play. They intend to perform their play known as Blue Hearts in the local theatre groups in Nairobi and also take it to the grassroots through in their community outreach program and school tours.The KBHGI initiative is looking for more partners and supporters. Their main aim is to use performance and visual arts and environmental tools to spread  messages against human trafficking.The activities of the KBHGI can be seen from here:

Fern Poerty

Sanalimu Arts Ensemble

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

Contact or 0736 935 387,  and 0720 812 638 or 0720 444 545

Programme: Counter Human Trafficking Symposium for the Faith Based and Grassroots Organizations in East Africa

Counter Human Trafficking Symposium for the Faith Based and Grassroots Organizations in East Africa

Tuesday 22nd to Thursday 24th Nov.2011

Scientific Committee

1. Richard Ochanda

2. Elias Mokua

3. Paul Kisolo

4. Kuria Njenga

5. Mary IRCK



 8.00-8.30 hrs: Registration Hall A

 8.30 to 10.30 hrs: First Session Welcome and Introduction Moderator Paul Kisolo, Executive Consultant KARDS

 Practical Experiences I

1. Combating Human trafficking along the Kenya Coastline – Paul Adhoch – Trace Kenya, Mombasa

2. Commercial sex workers in Mombasa and exposure to human trafficking- Ruth Lewa, Solwodi, Mombasa

3. Human Trafficking in the Great Lakes Region: Focus on Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo Region. John Ndayishimiye. Koinonia Community. Nairobi

4. Organization landscape and social innovation amongst the FBOs and CSO’s tackling the problem of Human Trafficking in East Africa- Richard Muko Ochanda, KARDS, Nairobi

 11.00 to 13.00 hrs: Practical Experiences  II  Hall A: Moderator  Richard Muko Ochanda

 4. Experiences of those affected by the problem of human trafficking- Joseph Kamau-Former Coordinator, Peace and Justice Commission, Tangaza, Nairobi

5. How the human trafficking problem contributes towards the street children phenomena-Joyce Mango- Hope for the Children, Dar es Salaam

6. Problems encountered by domestic workers and their susceptibility to human trafficking. Albert Masawe, REST, Dar es Salaam

 11.00 to 13.00 hrs: Practical Experiences  III Class C4: Moderator Carolyne Wairimu

 7. Vulnerability of women in Nairobi’s poor areas and exposure to Human Trafficking- Martha Mwende- Kivuli Youth Group, Nairobi

8. Environmental concern in relation to countering human trafficking –  Godfrey Rayo Kilei-REG, Nairobi

9. Refugees and vulnerability to human trafficking- Dr. Andre Niyonsaba –UNILAC, Nairobi


 11.00 am to 13.00 hrs: Practical Experiences  IV Hall A: Moderator Kuria Njenga

11. Resource mobilization opportunities and challenges for the counter Human trafficking organizations in East Africa- Paul Kisolo- KARDS, Nairobi

12. Social  networking amongst the counter human trafficking organizations in East Africa and data management-Richard Muko Ochanda, KARDS, Nairobi

13. Attracting media attention to enhance counter trafficking work amongst the FBOs and the grassroots. Esther Kabugi, Koinonia Community, Nairobi

 14.00 to 16.00 hrs: Psychological and Emotional Care for the Traumatized Hall A: Moderator, Ruth Lewa

14. Enhancement of trauma healing through support structures; focus on trafficked victims and badly exploited persons.  William Omondi –Chief counselor  Koinonia Community, Nairobi

15. Trauma counseling and debriefing for the seriously emotionally disturbed; focus on human trafficking victims- Marcellina Obudo -Rescou Counseling Center, Nairobi

16.  Human Psyche in Human Trafficking: A self Consulted Decision: Nuru Ya Nyota, Nairobi

16.00 to 17.00 hrs: Performance by FERN POETRY


 8.30 to 10.30  Moral Reflection: Hall A: Moderator Paul Adhoch

16. Theological reflection on the problem of human trafficking- Dr. Elias Mokua-Jesuit Hakimani Center, Nairobi

17. Selfishness, pursuit for economic success vs. morality, Richard Muko Ochanda, KARDS, Nairobi.

11.00 to 13.00 hrs: Community Participation I Hall A: Moderator Joyce Mango

18. Student role in mitigating human trafficking; focus on tertiary institution-Kuria Njenga- IMCS, Nairobi 

19. The role of community media groups in tackling human trafficking, Faith Mwende, KOMNET, Nairobi

20. How FBOs can act to counter human trafficking- Pastor Allan Asava,  Purpose for Living Church, Nairobi

11.00 to 13.00 hrs: Community Participation II Class Hall C: Albert Masawe

21. Soliciting the collaboration of peace and justice commissions in combating the Human Trafficking problem from the national to the grassroots-Joseph Kamau-Former coordinator Peace and Justice, Tangaza College,Nairobi

22. The role of performing arts in mitigating human trafficking-Bernard Muhia – Fern Poems, Nairobi

11.00 to 13.00 hrs: Education and Empowerment Class C4: Godfrey Kilei

23. Primary adult education as a strategy to mitigate against Human Trafficking-Kivuli Language Centre

24. The role of technical education in reducing the vulnerability to Human Trafficking – Eric Kirea- Diakonia Institute, Nairobi

25. Education as a mitigating tool against human trafficking- Felix Shivachi-  Topmark, Nairobi

14.00 to 16.00 hrs: Legal and Judicial Assistance Wednesday Hall B: Moderator, Tom Owenga

26. The legal aspect and human trafficking-Radek Malinowisky, HAART, Nairobi

27. The Kenya Anti Trafficking Law and Ensuing Implementation Challenges – Richard Muko, KARDS, Nairobi

28. The Tanzania Anti Trafficking Law and Ensuing Implementation Challenges – Albert Masawe, REST, Dar es Salaam

29. The Legal Chalenge vs Child Labour and the Need for Survival: Experience of AFCIC in Thika Municipality.  Phillip Wairire, AFCIC and KLAW, Thika.

16.00 to 17.00 hrs: East or West Home is best. Sanalimu Art Ensemble


8.30 to 10.30 hrs: Monitoring and Evaluation Hall A Thursday: Mary IRCK

29. Counter Human Trafficking Interventions Impact assessment using the RE-AIM framework, Tom Omwenga, Child Aid Organization, Nairobi

30. Counter Human Trafficking Interventions Impact assessment using the Rainbow Score Card, Paul Kisolo, KARDS, Nairobi

31. Knowledge management for improvement of human trafficking practices-Sammy Mwangi-Consolation East Africa, Nairobi

 11.00 to 13.00 hrs: Social Cultural and Political Influences Hall A Dr. Andre Niyonsaba

32. Social-cultural aspect of human trafficking- Caroline Wairimu – HAART, Nairobi

33. Masculinity as a social construct promoting human trafficking- Charles Koech-Men for Equality, Nairobi

34. ICT and Problems Related to Human Trafficking. Harrison Kyalo, Koinonia Community, Nairobi

35. The Kenyan National Anthem as a tool against exploitation and human trafficking – George Ndikwe, KOMNET, Nairobi

14.00 to 16.00 hrs: Close up session and summary:

36. Moderator, Paul Kisolo Paul Adhoch-Trace Kenya,  Ruth Lewa-Solwodi and Richard Ochanda-KARDS

16.00 to 17.00: Vigilante Judges Drama by Rafiki Mwafrika

For any further information kindly call +254 736 935 387 or 0720 444545 or 0720 812 638

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