11 Witches Killed in Kenya
Posted by shadmia on May 23, 2008
A group of up to 300 young men killed 11 people, aged between 80 and 96, who were accused of being witches and wizards in the western Kenya villages of Kekoro and Matembe. The gang moved from home to home through the two villages, using a list of suspected witches and wizards and the kind of spells they were believed to have cast on the community, said Ben Makori, a local councilor.
“The villagers are complaining that the (suspected) wizards and witches are making the bright children in the community dumb … These (suspected) witches are not doing good things to us,” Makori told The Associated Press.
In some cases the gang slit their throats or clubbed them to death before burning their bodies. The victims were then thrown back into the homes that the gang already had set on fire. About 30 houses were torched.
Ndirangu, the commissioner in charge of Kisii Central district where one of the villages is located, said that residents are superstitious and have often targeted suspected witches and wizards. But this week’s attack was the most shocking in recent years, Ndirangu said.
Police chief Kibuchi, said the villagers had recounted holding a meeting in Nyakeo earlier on Tuesday to try and dissuade those who wanted to go ahead with the killing. Five of the victims had supposedly “confessed” at this meeting to practicing witchcraft and had begged for mercy, he said.
Police said on Thursday they had jailed 19 people suspected of burning to death the 11 people. A police spokesman, Charles Owino, told the BBC that those arrested may not have been involved in the killings but possibly incited the attacks.
“You may find that they could not have been involved directly in the killing, but if you have evidence that they were involved in war cries, then they will have another offence of inciting,” he said, adding that those proven to have been involved in the attack would be charged with murder.
Despite the peaceful co-existence of traditional African beliefs, Christians and Muslims in Kenya, there is widespread suspicion of sorcery, particularly in the west, which has a long history of witch doctors and faith healers. Residents have been ambivalent about condemning the attacks because the belief in witchcraft is so widespread in the area. Kenyan Lecturer Ken Ouko discusses the murders and talks about the place of witchcraft in Kenyan culture in the following video.
To learn more about the people and culture of the Kisii Central District in southwestern Kenya, check out their website here.