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Malindi MP wants Witchcraft Act amended to contain witch hunt and other “night practices”

COUNTIES
By Wilfred Ayaga | June 15th 2015

NAIROBI: If you are the kind of person who is always quick to blame neighbours for your misfortunes such as the death of your loved one or even your child’s lacklustre performance in class, you might have learnt the hard way that the law doesn’t share your line of thought.

The truth is those found guilty of accusing their neighbours of being witches are imprisoned for up to five years.

Chapter 67 of the Laws of Kenya, Article 6, says: Any person who accuses or threatens to accuse any person with being a witch or with practising witchcraft shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding Sh500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years: Provided that this section shall not apply to any person who makes an accusation to a DC, police officer, a chief or any other person in authority.”

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS

It adds: “Any chief who directly or indirectly permits, encourages or facilitates the practice of witchcraft or the doing of any act contrary to the provisions of this Act, or who knowing of the practice does not report it to a DC, shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding Sh500,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.”

But this tough law has not been a deterrent to people who believe they are victims of charms and other evil spells by their neighbours. For the majority of these people, revenge is the first option.

Last week, The Nairobian published the story of a man who allegedly killed his own mother after she allegedly attempted to pass her evil powers to him. In places such as Malindi and Kisii, suspected witches have been lynched by angry villagers and vigilantes who accuse them of tormenting their neighbours and causing them sleepless nights, never mind there is no scientifically proven method of determining whether a misfortune was caused by witchcraft.

These incidents, and many others, appear to have inspired the planned amendments to the Witchcraft Act by Malindi MP Dan Kazungu who has sought the approval of National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi to introduce a new Bill that he says will cure the current gaps in law that have promoted anarchy among communities that believe in witchcraft and other “night practices”.

The MP wants alternative dispute resolution mechanisms that are beneficial to both the alleged victims and perpetrators of witchcraft anchored in law. According to the MP, the current laws have left no alternatives for alleged victims, who have resorted to lynching and other illegal acts to take revenge on their alleged tormentors.

“The Witchcraft Amendment Bill 2015 is premised, among other things, on the fact that the existing Act does not address current issues related to witchcraft, which has seen lives lost in Malindi constituency, the rest of Coast region and other parts of the country, including Machakos, Makueni, Kisii, Siaya and other counties,” says the approval request addressed to the Speaker.

LIVES LOST

“In the absence of ways of sorting out these issues amicably, victims are left with no choice but to kill and maim. We even have a case of a whole family languishing in jail after they killed a neighbour for allegedly casting charms on one of their own,” says the MP.

There has been little or no attempt to repeal the current laws on witchcraft, which have remained in the statutes for decades.

In some areas where witches have been lynched, witchdoctors and even “innocent” night runners have also been caught in the crossfire.

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