Activists raise alarm as women attacked on witchcraft claims

Samburu Women Trust Executive Director Jane Meriwas. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Human rights activists and civil society groups have raised alarm over killing of women in Marsabit County on allegations of practicing witchcraft.

According to Defenders Coalition, Samburu Women Trust (SWT) and the Pastoralists People’s Initiative (PPI), there has been a series of attacks targeting women.

Margaret Aleya Eisimonte is the latest victim of the attacks.

Aleya, a resident of Rongumo clan in Kargi was beaten to death on February 18, 2024, by a group of morans on instructions of elders from the Rendille community.

“It is alleged that a traditional medicine man was invited to the Rongumo clan to identify witches in the Manyatta, who in turn gave a list of women, accusing them of the diabolic practices happening,” read a joint statement by the organisations.

“The pronouncement by the medicine man led to the brutal assault against Aleya by the morans," added the statement.

Wareheya Sahado, another victim, is said to be recuperating after being attacked by morans and had to seek specialised medical care.

“We are shocked by this occurrence. We fear that more women are likely to be attacked and killed,” said Margaret Super, a human rights defender from Marsabit.

“This is murder and the perpetrators are going scot-free. This is unacceptable. We do not know the number of women on that list by the medicine man and we fear that more women will be targeted for assault and murder, just like Aleya,” she added.

The activist called on relevant security agencies in Marsabit to bring the perpetrators to book.

Samburu Women Trust Executive Director Jane Meriwas, said Aleya's attack was one of the many that remain unreported while the perpetrators go unpunished.

“We are concerned that this is a purely femicide issue because it is only women that are accused and targeted for alleged witchcraft. We are worried that if not stopped, the morans will come for the woman who survived the attack or even go for other women. We are not safe here,” said Meriwas.

Defenders Coalition Executive Director Kamau Ngugi expressed concern over the rising cases of women being killed and the reluctance by security officers to take action.

Ngugi noted that more than 20 cases of femicide have been recorded since January.

He called on President Wiliam Ruto to publicly condemn violence against women in Kenya.

“We call on all the relevant security agencies to thoroughly investigate the matter, arrest all perpetrators and ensure their prosecution and guarantee the safety and security of rural women in Marsabit, specifically those from Rongumo clan,” said Ngugi.

The activists, at the same time, urged the public to abhor femicide and report such incidences to relevant authorities. 

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