Seers would summon strong youths in the dead of the night who dragged the suspect to the ‘execution chambers’ which were in the high rocky cliffs
By Pascal Mwandabo
Social misfits such as thieves, witches and sorcerers have been a thorn in the flesh of the society since the days of yore. A family known to have people of such dubious character was shunned and any form of involvement with them in areas such as friendship and marriage was discouraged.
The evil that such characters like sorcerers can visit upon a community was dreaded and such misfits had to face justice upon discovery. Traditional Taita justice system was very elaborate and according to one of the Taita elders Mzee Lenjo Musamuli, social misfits were identified and carefully tracked before made to face the full force of the traditional legal system. It was elaborate and very thorough.
“There was a council of elders known as njama ya waghosi, which dealt with issues to do with justice and retribution” says Mzee Musamuli.
“The elders and seers usually struggled to unravel the cause of social ills that befell the society and once the culprit was uncovered punishment was instantly meted, which at times involved death,” the elder explains.
The elder says some strange occurrences such as children death during birth or strange happenings like miscarriage were either because of witchcraft or curses. In the case of the former the sorcerer had to be carefully tracked.
“There was always a suspect in the ills that befell the community. Most of them were people who descended from family of sorcerers. They were evil and wicked and people shunned them,” he says.
“Witchcraft was inherent and this was handed over to future generations,” he says.
Once a suspect was put before the council of elders he had to defend himself.
“He was to either admit wrongdoing or he would go through rituals that would expose him or absolve him from any wrong doing,” Musamuli goes on to explain.
For instance, a suspected sorcerer would be asked to admit wrongdoing. If he claimed innocence the justice system would take its course.