Mzee Ngoka at the Kaya Godoma Centre where he has sought refuge to avoid lynching after his sons labelled him a wizard.
[PHOTO: JOSEPH MASHA /STANDARD]
By JOSEPH MASHA
Kilifi, Kenya: Kahindi Ngoka, 69, from Dera village in Kilifi county is a man who finds no joy in his years since he lives in an area where being ‘old’ is a curse.
Whereas most African societies highly respect their elderly and strive to take good care of them, the opposite is happening here.
In this village, old men and women are more likely to be killed rather than fed or sheltered and Ngoka’s story best illustrates this strange phenomenon.
Ngoka said he was forced to run from his home two years ago after his sons hatched a plot to accuse him of practising witchcraft in the hope that he would get lynched.
“When I learnt of their plan, I fled for my life and came to stay at this centre established specifically to offer refuge to suspected witches’ Ngoka said.
Trouble began for Ngoka when he refused to surrender his two-acre piece of land to his sons who were plotting to sell it and keep the money for themselves.
“They came up with these ridiculous claims as a smokescreen to justify seizing my land. Yet I know nothing about witchcraft and have never practised it,” he said.
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Ngoka said he was rescued from the planned death by Kenga Manga who is the coordinator of Kaya Godoma — a shelter for displaced victims of witch hunts.
Before he fled from his home, Ngoka took his title deed which he keeps with him at all times. For now, he can only hope that his precious property is safe.
Manga said he set up the centre to take care of the elderly who were being lynched after being dubbed wizards and witches.
“It has been my experience that most of these people are innocent victims of people, often close family members, intent on taking their property by force,” he said.
Manga said he has so far rescued more than 200 people since setting up the centre.
Records from police in Kilifi County show that nearly 120 elderly people are killed in mysterious circumstances once accused of practicing witchcraft.
Police boss James Kithuka further confirmed that the hineous acts are often committed by or associated with the victim’s close family members.
Malindi MP Dan Kazungu said the law does not allow anybody to murder another for whatever reason.
He urged police in Malindi to deal firmly with those involved in the habit and urged residents to take a firm stand against the vice.
Kazungu noted with concern that elderly persons, including those who have retired from the Government, parastatals and the private sector, do not want to return home for fear of being murdered.
Malindi Deputy County Commissioner Joshua Nkanatha warned that family members who fail to report to the police cases of aged persons killed in mysterious circumstances will be arrested and prosecuted.
Nkanatha said this measure was put in place to stop close family members killing their kin without second thought.
Malindi MP Dan Kazungu said apart from property, the killings were occurring since young people did not want to shoulder the responsibility of caring for the aged due to rampant poverty.
Kazungu said the new initiative by the Government to give money to the elderly for their upkeep would play a key role in easing the strain.
He said about 533 aged persons from the county will be put on the Government’s pay roll to receive Sh2,000 per month for their upkeep.
He urged the Government to be fair in its selection so that the very needy benefit from the scheme.
The MP was speaking to the Malindi Constituency Social Protection Programme Committee.