By Donald B Kipkorir
“Do not turn to mediums or spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I Am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:31
In Kisii, women who live to old age are killed on whispered allegations of being sorceress. Among the Miji Kenda, our evening news regularly regales us with this cat or those bees having magical powers. In Kitui, witchcraft is sold in the markets. In Luoland, people fear to build permanent houses fearing evil eyes. As long as witchcraft abounds in Eastern, Coast and Nyanza, we will never move on to create a prosperous nation. Witchcraft and development never reside together. It is time, we bring to an end serious belief in witchcraft and let people understand that is all mumbo-jumbo and abracadabra.
Witchcraft and its twin-sisters, magic and sorcery have been with us since the dawn of history. For any phenomenon that we couldn’t explain, we attributed it to the unknown spirit world. And for answers we couldn’t get, we went to the occult. On electricity poles, newspapers and walls, we see advertisements by “Doctors” from Tanzania offering solutions to sex, power, money, employment and enemies. To crown it all, our laws recognise witchcraft in Witchcraft Act, Cap. 67.
The fear and criminalisation of witchcraft ended in Europe in the 18th Century. The modern foundation to kill and ostracise witches was laid by the German Roman Catholic priest and inquisitor, Heinrich Kramer [1430-1505] in his tome, Malleus Maleficarum (hammer of the witches). For the next 300 years, many were accused by the Church, both Catholic and Protestant, of being witches and were burnt on the stake, hanged or banished from society. It was in the 18th Century, after enlightenment, that this practice ended. England repealed its Witchcraft Act in 1735. Since then, witchcraft in Europe and America is a subject for fairy-tales and novels as in the phenomenally successful Harry Potter books by the British novelist J.K. Rowling.
The underlying reasons in Nyanza, Eastern and Coast regions that breed and sustain belief in witchcraft is extreme poverty coupled with little education and bad weather. Sir Edward Evans Evans-Pritchard [1902-1973], who was a renowned Professor of Anthropology in University of Oxford pioneered groundbreaking studies on witchcraft that explained its social context. Other scholars have built on it.
When people are afflicted by such misfortunes as ill-health, poverty, unemployment, infertility and poor crops, instead of seeking earthly solutions, instead want spiritual intervention. My consistent arguments have been that as long as we are still held captive to primitive culture of 18th Century, we will never make national progress. Belief in the dark occults of witchcraft is a millstone on our progress. The practice inhibits entrepreneurial spirit of the people. What kind of malevolent spirit can stop you from building a stone-house or going to school? What spirit makes you not celebrate success? It is the same evil spirit that makes us in this day and age to still engage in stupid acts of cattle-rustling, female genital mutilation and human sacrifice.
It is the time now, to tell the people of Nyanza, Eastern and Coast, that witchcraft is a lot of nonsense. And the first step is to repeal all laws that criminalise witchcraft. Those claiming to be witchdoctors, magicians and sorcerers ought to be allowed to practice their craft freely and openly. When Europe moved on, these con-artists became entertainers. Magicians like David Blaine and David Copperfield are celebrity multimillionaires. We need our magicians and witchdoctors to make money in shows and contribute to our GDP.
As primary schools are free and mandatory, and basic health care free, Kenyans need to be forced to abandon being captives to magic spells. The Christian and Islam faiths ought to be in the forefront to eradicate this practice. It is a sad indictment that where witchcraft is practiced mostly, do you see churches and mosques dotting the places. The Bible and Koran without equivocation abhor witchcraft and warn those who practice or believe in it to eternal damnation in hell. So, why do so many decide to miss earthly riches and joy, and then also miss heaven? How can you make such terrible choices of suffering both here and in heaven by believing in witchcraft?