A newly-elected MP hastening to his coming party and his personal witchdoctor dies in a freak accident when his car is swept away in a swollen seasonal river. A high court annuls the election of a senior politician because he induced voters to cast votes in his favour using juju in a ritual called khulia silulu.
A tycoon who launders his towels and lives in the plush leafy suburb of Karen in a ‘palace’ is eulogised by the head of Anglican Church at the All Saints Cathedral but buried with a lit torch and a knife by his people to avenge his killers through khusalisia, a traditional rite. Not too long after, a matatu driver is caught stuck in a married woman’s ‘honey pot’ and is only let loose after paying a fine and getting slapped repeatedly on the buttocks by an angry husband who consulted a mganga to fix him.
Welcome to Kenya, one of the most religious countries in the world where people carry Bibles and pray all the time, but still keep a talisman from a witchdoctor for additional security. From acute medical problems to domestic strife, crime, unemployment, court cases, politics, cheating spouses, jobs and exams, the mganga is Mr Fix It, Bwana Dawa.
But which communities are most feared for witchcraft?
The Kamba community is often stereotyped as the mother of all witchcraft, hosting powerful politicians and professionals with a string of degrees in search of ‘protection’ and ‘power’ and the holloi poloi desperate for a miracle against impossibly odds.
Joseph Nganda Mwikali who has been in the witchcraft trade since his childhood says the room where he conducts business was built by a politician.
“The room from which I do my witchcraft was built by a politician who wants to be a governor somewhere in this country.” Nganda, who resides at Kiima-Kimwe in Machakos says.
The crib is full of feathery fibres, charms, horns, amulets, talismans, calabashes, gourds, pots, drums, and sacred symbols which Nganda says he inherited from his grandfather who was also a witchdoctor. Curiously, one of the items in the room is a holy book.
The man who charges between Sh7,700 and Sh27,700 counts politicians, lawyers, businessmen, counsellors and even university students among his clients. He routinely traverses the country armed with wild paraphernalia in the line of duty, just one among a horde of experts who dabble in the dark arts of Ukambani.
So entrenched is the belief that Wakamba hold the stick when it comes to matters juju that for decades, few knew that in matters herbal, Embu and Tharaka Nithi have fearsome medicine men.
Witchcraft has caused panic in public and instilled fear in others, even those in leadership positions in Tharaka Nithi County. A perfect example is a recent incident that targeted the Chuka, Igambang’ombe MP Onesmas Muthomi Njuki.
Panic engulfed the local community after several metal boxes containing a goat’s body parts were discovered in four schools. It was believed that the boxes had been bewitched. These incidents were supposedly targeted at the MP’s decision to distribute metal boxes to Form One students in February this year.
Elders from the community however moved with speed to perform rituals meant to ‘counter’ the witches’ move; and stripped naked to perform the ritual.
Tharaka Nithi borders Kitui County to the East and South East. Kitui is famed for its powerful sorcerers. Stories from those two regions are told of how some women use these powers to ‘lock down’ their husbands and keep them from straying.
They are given potions to put in their meals, and utter incantations while at it, to ensure that the magic takes effect.
But Fred Njau, a senior pastor at World Harvest Church in Chuka, says not all these acts qualify as witchcraft.
“Some are just done to instill fear in people or keep them from doing something unacceptable in the community,” he says, adding that through prayers, he is able to discern between real and fake magic.