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Kisii witch hunt: Governor Ongwae forms task-force to investigate mythical beliefs

By Erick Abuga | October 26th 2021

A relative of a witchcraft suspect assess the loss incurred after angry villagers lynched and torched her houses after they suspected her of engaging in witchcraft at Ikuruma village Marani Sub County, Kisii County. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

Kisii County Governor James Ongwae has appointed a 14-member task force that will look into witchcraft myth which has led to extra-judicial killings targeting senior citizens.

This follows recent killings in Marani Sub-county.

A week ago, four elderly women – Sindege Mayaka, 83, Jemima Mironga, 60, Sigara Onkware, 62, and Agnes Ototo, 57 – were lynched in Bomokona village Marani on allegations of being witches.

The governor said it is unfortunate that in the 21st century, some people in the community are still steeped in mythical beliefs based on witchcraft.

“We grew up hearing fairy tales on witchcraft but not once in our life-times we ever came across witches or witchcraft. Scapegoats based on suspicion where particularly the elderly members of society are being branded witches and eliminated has, unfortunately, become the trend,” he said.

Ongwae noted that there are legal mechanisms of dealing with suspects of any nature.

“Indeed, there is no reason whatsoever to lose precious lives due to mob justice on flimsy grounds of suspicion on alleged witchcraft. The women who died in a shameful manner, in the hands of fellow villagers, deserved justice,” he said.

He added: “And if we do not rise up and protect senior citizens, we risk losing them on such grounds and as Gusii community, we will end up picking the loathsome witchcraft stereotype before the world.”

Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi said they strongly condemn those who negatively label people in the community as witches and those who form gangs to lynch them.

“There are better ways of dealing with such issues and may we learn to live cohesively with one another,” he said.

The task force, through the County Department of Culture, has express terms of reference to find out and determine the extent of the deep-seated problem pitting the elderly with the rest of the population, where the former get eliminated on suspicion of being witches.

The team includes county staff and key stakeholders from the public and human rights organisations.

Due to the gravity of the situation, it will expedite and prepare the final report in the next three weeks.

The bereaved families of the four elderly women will each receive Sh 100,000 for funeral arrangements. The county government will also cater for the postmortem examination costs.

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