Stop killing us, say elderly men living at the mercy of armed lynch mob

Kilifi County Assembly Clerk Michael Ngala (centre) joins Mijikenda elders outside the assembly hall in Malindi, Kilifi County on Thursday. The elders want their grey haired elderly colleagues protected from killings by local youth. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]
Mudzomba Katana Fondo, 72, never imagined his life would take a sudden twist at such an advanced age.

A few months ago, when his granddaughter Joseline Kasele, 18, died after a short illness, villagers came for him and his two wives.

They were baying for blood, chanting that he and his wives Kademu Katana and Sidi Katana had bewitched the Form One student.

Samson Masha, Assistant Chief of Maunge village, Ganze Sub-county where Mudzomba and his family had lived for years says he got reports that the villagers were planning to kill them, and decided to act.

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Darkness of night

In the darkness of night, he sneaked Mudzomba to Kaya Godoma rescue centre, a place where the elderly who have been condemned by society seek solace. The wives went back to their parents’ homes.

They had narrowly escaped death. Kalama Jimbi, an 80-year-old Kaya elder was not as lucky.

He was slashed to death by a young man who accused him of being a witch.

Leaders in Rabai Constituency condemned the killings and accused the security team of laxity in addressing the matter.?

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Led by Kilifi Deputy Governor Edmond Saburi, the leaders demanded quick action to ensure all culprits behind more than 16 deaths of the elderly within that month to be arrested and prosecuted.?

At the funeral, the issue of young people taking advantage of the witchcraft narrative to kill the elderly and take over their land emerged.

Cases of children killing their parents to inherit their property while tagging them as witches were discussed at length.

Grace Lwambi, a youth representative from Kaya Rabai said the killings were as a result of youths seeking to inherit land and wealth from their parents.

Aging men and women could not hide their fear. Some trembled as they talked, begging young people to spare their lives.

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Others openly shed tears, talking about how they go to bed hoping nobody comes for them.

Their pleas pointed to the reality of how cultures and beliefs in some Coastal communities endanger the aged.

According to Kilifi County Commander Fredrick Ochieng, 84 elderly people -- 67 males and 17 females -- were killedbetween January 2017 and June 2018.?

?Mijikenda Kaya elders from Kilifi County are now seeking intervention from the County Assembly to protect the elderlypeople spotting grey hair.

Eleven elders from various parts of the county dressed in full traditional regalia aired their grievances to the  assembly in Malindi on Friday. They urged MCAs to enact legislation to protect them.

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They held a meeting with the County Assembly Clerk Michael Ngalla for about one hour.

During the meeting, Tsuma Kombe, coordinator of Mijikenda Kaya elders who led the delegation, expressed worries that elderly people in the region were under siege.

Ngalla promised to forward their proposals to the MCAs.

The clerk said the killings were happening because there are no laws approved by the assembly to give guidelines on how to curb the murders.

“I think the issue of elders being killed is both sad and a curse to the people of this county. White hair is not a ticket for death,” Ngalla said.

Kombe said Magarini has lost over 300 elders who were hacked to death for allegedly practising witchcraft in recent years.

The murders were also reported to be common in Kwale County. They plan to mark the day of the elders at Godoma at Mrima wa Ndege area in Ganze Constituency next week.

As the elders were meeting, a report that an elderly man had been hacked to death at Goshi in Kilifi over witchcraft claims sparked protest from the senior citizens.

Two years ago, Kilifi County Assembly adopted a motion tabled by Deputy Speaker Teddy Mwambire to ensure the elderly accused of practicing witchcraft receive full care and support from the County Government. 

Emmanuel Katana, Chairperson of the Kaya Godoma rescue centre said they have been having meetings among family members to reintegrate the aged back home.

He said there was a time when they would get more than three elderly men who had been threatened with death. 

“We will be happy if the centre does not have a single old person. Killing is not the solution in addressing witchcraft,” he said.

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