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Witchcraft narrative is superstitious propaganda conjured by Kenyan mothers


I recently buried a relative – a bright young girl, only 24. Marjorie was the only one of her siblings who completed school and was a polite and hardworking young person to boot. Her illiterate parents had long decided there was no point educating a girl and so after a couple of months of sitting at home, she came from the village to my parents and asked them to help her complete her education.

They agreed and helped her complete the last two years of O-Level, and another two years of a catering course. Her mother was not impressed, complaining that the girl had 'ashamed' her and was trying to put herself at a higher standard than she was worth. Her father had long since exited the picture so he wasn't there to consult or give consent. As these things go, Marjorie grabbed hold of the opportunity and ran with it. It wasn't long before her mother began asking her for money to educate her younger siblings. She was a kind hearted girl and she agreed to take on school fees for her three siblings. Eventually, the requests from her mother stretched to rent for the rented house she was sharing with her most recent 'husband'.

Marjorie confided in us that she was barely able to save a penny, but she felt compelled to help her family. After a while, she met someone, fell in love and got pregnant. For whatever reason, she chose to keep the pregnancy a secret from my parents. It turned out to be twins, and she developed blood pressure. After a difficult pregnancy, she called her mother when the time to give birth drew near. Her mother sent one of her siblings to take care of her. Labour was difficult and protracted and a C-section became necessary. Neither Marjorie's mother nor sister saw fit to tell our family what was going on, notwithstanding the fact that between my father, brother and aunt there are two doctors and two nurses. One of the twins did not survive the procedure. Several hours later, Marjorie also bled to death. It is at this point that our family was informed. At a time like this one may be tempted to play the blame game, but she was dead, so what was the point?

Her boyfriend brought the body to the village to bury, where drama ensued because her father – a practising witchdoctor – insisted on burying her with all manner of charms and herbs. Her maternal relatives, however, insisted that they raised her as a Christian and removed the traditional things from the coffin. In the chaos, her boyfriend and his relatives left with the surviving baby, whom Marjorie's father and mother were laying claim to.

It did not stop there. Marjorie's mother, who has had children with three different men and is currently living with a fourth in a one-room house called my parents to ask them to demand for the baby on her behalf. She has no rent money and no school fees for her four younger children, but she feels that it is important for her to take her grandchild as well. Reason being: her personal witchdoctor has informed her that Marjorie's boyfriend has another woman who is responsible for bewitching and killing Marjorie, and is now looking for a way to kill the surviving child. I have been going through these events in a bit of a daze, trying to make sense of it all. What is the moral of the story? Maybe, that we should educate our girls. We cannot have mothers in 2017 still telling their daughters that pre-eclampsia is witchcraft from ex-girlfriends of their lovers. We cannot

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