Liberia: School expels K-1 pupil for alleged witchcraft

The following is a heartbreaking story. The administration of the TYNECEPLOH Education Foundation, which runs a school in Paynesville, in Greater Monrovia,  asked the parents of a six-year-old kindergarten pupil to stop sending her to the school. The reason? The child’s alleged involvement in witchcraft activities. My initial reaction was, and to a certain extent still is one of disbelief. Knowing Liberia, I am aware that among members of certain communities the belief in witchcraft still exists, even today, in 2021, in the 21st century. Many Liberians use a mobile telephone. Also, the use of internet is widespread in Liberia. Yet the belief in magical powers, superstition, witchcraft hasn’t disappeared. Superstition can only be eliminated from society through education and awareness, yet in this case those who are engaged in these institutions show that they too believe in witchcraft.

I was struck and outraged for three reasons. First, parents entrust their children to teachers in schools and kindergartens because they expect that their children are thus protected by people who are well educated and trained, and qualified for their job. And yet these teachers and administrators disappoint us by believing in witchcraft, humiliating an innocent six-year old child by expelling her from school and making her an outcast in society!

Secondly, in any well functioning society there exists a system of checks and balances, institutions that watch and check on the respect of rules which we have agreed on as a society. In Liberia, the Ministry of Education is responsible for overseeing the activities of schools. Moreover, there is a Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection with a clear mandate. I woud have expected an immediate reaction of these two governmental institutions. Besides, the school is located near the residence of President Weah. Where are the authorities in Liberia when a six-year old child and her parents need them??

Last but not least, it is mind-boggling that responsible, adult people decide to insult, hurt, – I even call it torture – an innocent, small child that needs love, protection and guidance, and who should not be rejected, stigmatized, expelled from school, rejected by her friends and the society. Those who are responsible for this reprehensible, repulsive behavior should be brought before justice since what they have done is nothing less than a crime. I mention here the school’s principal and notably the proprietor of TYNECEPLOH Education Foundation, Napoleon Chattah.
On a national level, President Weah and/or the Legislature should immediately summon the Minister of Education, Prof Ansu D. Sonii, and the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, William-Etta Piso Saydee-Tarr, question them how this can happen, ask them whether this is an unique act and situation or if it happens more frequently in the country,  and instruct them to take all measures needed to avoid a repeat of this situation.     
(webmaster FVDK)

School Expels K-1 Pupil for Alleged Witchcraft

Students at play at the TYNECEPLOH Education Foundation

Published: March 18, 2021
By: Daily Observer – William Q. Harmon

— Parents plead for gov’t, CSOs intervention; say no money to send child to another school

By Aryee Davis

A school in Paynesville has expelled one of its students for the child’s alleged involvement in witchcraft activities. Though without any form of proof, TYNECEPLOH Education Foundation, located in the Rehab Community, recently asked the parents of the six-year-old kindergarten student to stop sending her to the school.

According to the parents of the child, who we shall refer to as Miemie to protect her identity, the school expelled her in a bid to prevent the child from potentially harming other students through the alleged witchcraft activities.

Located just a few minutes from President George Weah’s residence, the administration of TYNECEPLOH has been in existence for just over a year. Little Miemie was among the first batch of students who started attending the school when it was established last academic year. The school’s administrators admitted to the Daily Observer that the child was expelled, but refused to disclose the reason for the expulsion.

The child’s parents are pleading with the government and human rights advocates to probe the case to enable her to be reinstated.

When asked whether the allegation against her is true, Miemie burst into tears. She denied ever being a witch, insisting that the school administration’s action against her was based on rumors spread by her classmates.

Her expulsion from the newly established primary school comes in the wake of the harsh economic constraints that Liberians are being faced with as parents struggle to fend for their kids and at the same time send them to school.

“My friends lied on me to my teacher so they say I should not go to school again. Every day, when I see my friends going to school I can be crying. I want to go back to school. I miss my friends and my teacher,” Miemie explained.

To make matters worse, Miemie is now being stigmatized by her neighbors because of the same ‘witchcraft’ allegations. Some families in the neighborhood have banned their children from associating with her.

“My friends in my yard can’t play with me again; they are afraid of me, and only my small brother and I can play,” she added.

“I was on my way to the school on Tuesday morning, I received a message from my daughter’s teacher, only known as Ruth, that I should go on the campus as they wanted to see me. So I went there to find out what happened and, shockingly to me, I was told to take my daughter home,” Miemie’s mother explained.

“When I got on the campus, I met my daughter’s class sponsor, the principal, and the proprietor, who told me that my daughter’s classmates told their teacher that Miemie said she will kill the teacher, the principal, and suck the children’s blood. For this reason, she will not attend school again. The next day, my aunty and I went on the campus to appeal for Miemie to end the school year but they told me that their decision is final,” Miemie’s mother continued.

Miemie’s grandmother, who sells boiled cassava and coconut to pay the child’s tuition, could not hold back her tears at the allegation. “How can this six-year-old child kill her teacher, principal and suck her classmates’ blood? I took care of this child from birth because her father is not working I have never seen anything relating to witchcraft about my grandchild,” she said.

The proprietor of TYNECEPLOH Education Foundation, Napoleon Chattah, confirmed to this reporter that the child has been expelled from the school but declined to state the actual reason for or details concerning the expulsion.

When asked to see the Principal of the school, the proprietor, who was now visibly irritated, said that the principal was not available to speak because he had gone out to run some errands for the school.

“I’m the best person to provide answers to all the inquiries,” Mr. Chattah sharply replied.

But a source from the school that asked not to be named hinted that the administration of TYNECEPLOH Education Foundation told Miemie’s parents to take her to pastors for what they termed as ‘deliverance prayers’, after which the parents will provide a note from the church or pastor confirming that the child is free from witchcraft practices before being accepted back in school.

According to the source, Miemie’s expulsion is on the basis that she’s a witch and that her presence at the school would be dangerous for other kids sharing a class with her.

With this argument, the source continued, the school is insinuating that little Miemie has the power of the ‘dark world’ and could potentially initiate other students.

Sources who are well experienced in the deliverance of suspected or known witches told the Daily Observer that those who practice witchcraft activities have the ability to initiate others. “It is often held that parents, close relatives or friends who are witches often find it easy to initiate other children into the practice. It is also believed that children who are members of the dark world are frequently sent on missions by their superiors to recruit or sometimes harm their peers,” one deliverance minister, who requested not to be named, explained.

Miemie’s parents are however calling on the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and Child Rights advocacy groups to probe what they consider to be an unjust decision by the school.

Asked why Miemie cannot be taken to another school, the mother said she cannot afford it because there is no money.

“The little money we had at the beginning of the school year is what we used to register our daughter. We do not have any money to take her to another school,” she said, adding, “If even we could raise a little money, we will not be able to also send her to a faraway school because schools within the community might not accept her because of the allegation. This is why we are calling on relevant authorities to probe into the situation to clear our daughter’s name.

Source: School Expels K-1 Pupil for Alleged Witchcraft

Ghana Pentecostals come to the defense of accused witches

In Ghana, superstition is widespread, and Ghana is not the only SSA country where people firmly believe in the power of witches, witchdoctors, and witchcraft. The fear which many people have for those perceived to be witches may lead to abnormal reactions, as the case below illustrates. A woman was beaten to death just because she was thought to be a witch and accused of causing irregular rain.

Education is the only effective means to fight superstition. Meanwhile the rule of law must apply. A government and society cannot tolerate the law of the jungle.

The article presented below is only part of the original article. Members only have access to the full article published by the online news site Christianity Today. See the original link below. (Webmaster FVDK)

Ghana Pentecostals Come to the Defense of Accused Witches

Published: November 23, 2020
By: Christianity Today, Ghana – Daniel Silliman and Griffin Paul Jackson  

An old woman was killed when she refused to confess to causing irregular rain. Christians had to speak up. 

Pentecostals everywhere sing about the power of Jesus’ name. But in Ghana, they sing specifically that his name is powerful against witches.

More than 90 percent of Ghanaian Christians believe witchcraft is a problem in the country, and more than half have visited a Pentecostal prayer camp to ask for deliverance from witches and demons, according to a study by Opoku Onyinah, theologian and past president of the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council (GPCC). The Spirit-empowered churches in the West African country don’t take the issue of witches lightly.

But this summer, the GPCC decided to speak up for the women who are accused of witchcraft. The Pentecostal group, an umbrella organization of 200 denominations and parachurches, called for new laws and a national conversation about how to better take care of the more than 2,000 widows who have been exiled over allegations of working with demons.

The churches decided to make a statement after an elderly Muslim woman in a rural village was beaten to death when she refused to confess to witchcraft. Akua Denteh was accused of causing irregular rain, starting fires, and killing children with supernatural powers. A video of her violent death—as a crowd stood watching—was shared widely around the country, and Christian leaders decided they could no longer be silent.

“The elderly, weak and vulnerable must be targeted for the care and protection of our society,” the GPCC statement said. “We must, at all cost, seek justice for this 90-year-old woman and all those who have suffered such atrocities in the past.”

Onyinah, speaking on a popular radio program, called for laws controlling witch hunts and witch identifications. He added a specific ….. the rest of the article is available for ‘members-only’ (follow the link below)

Source: Ghana Pentecostals Come to the Defense of Accused Witches

Human sacrifices, myth or reality? – A viewpoint

On November 22, Blessing Mandabva, from Zimbabwe, shared with us his view on the history of human sacrifices as well as present-day practices of this age-old ritual. His contribution was published in The Standard, a Zimbabwean Sunday newspaper. Recently, I posted other articles with African voices protesting against this phenomenon of ritualistic murders, commonly called muti murders in Southern Africa. See the Op-Ed article in the online Namibian newspaper New Era Live, entitled: ‘Ritual killings: Cry my beloved humankind’, posted on October 27, 2020 and  an older article, dating from 2011, ‘Africa: Breaking the silence in ritual killings‘, written by Fanuel Hadzizi, also from Zimbabwe and posted on November 14, 2020.

The recent turmoil in Zimbabwe, following the death of a 7-year old boy, Tawire Makore, who was murdered for muti purposes, clearly shows that the gruesome practice of human sacrifices has not disappeared. See my October 26 posting on this ritual murder that shocked Zimbabwe.  

As Blessing Mandabva describes, more people have raised their voices against muti murders including Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (Zinatha) president George Kandiero who distanced his association and all members from all acts of ritual killings. George Kandieo, who also mentioned the ritual murder of Tawire Makore, confirmed what I have stated repeatedly on these pages: “These ritual killings are just a tip of the iceberg (…)“.

Also the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has denounced ritually-motivated killings and issued the following statement: “The ZHRC has noted with concern the alarming rise and high frequency of ritually-motivated killings in Zimbabwe, specifically targeted at children and young people.

What else can I add?? Read the following contribution and join the struggle against ritualistic murders and other acts based on superstition and motivated by the greed for power and/or wealth.

Warning: the following article contains graphic details of ritual murders (webmaster FVDK).

Human sacrifices, myth or reallity?

Published: November 22, 2020
By: The Standard, Zimbabwe –  Blessing Mandabva

Since time immemorial, human beings the world over have pursued answers to the puzzling questions of their origins, sickness, death and after death, poverty, power, the meaning of natural phenomena such as earthquakes, diseases and accidents, among others. They have also inquired on how to protect themselves from such mysterious events. Invention of personified deities, gods and the occult sciences, witchcraft, divination and soothsaying in order to seek the protection of supernatural powers has been the order of the day. Individuals used them for protection from their enemies, to dominate others in societies be it in business, politics, churches and other religious circles to gain power and to accumulate wealth. Human sacrifice has been a phenomenon which has been passed from generation to generation albeit it appearing in various forms.

Human sacrifice is defined as the ritualised, devotedly motivated killing of human beings. It is a fundamental which is not endorsed by any state, but was once practiced by societies across the globe in the past. In this landlocked country of Zimbabwe, there is a misconception on many deaths of humans, children, women and albinos being attributed to human sacrificial rituals which are said to bring quick wealth and fortunes. Human sacrifice, especially of children, occurs frequently despite the government’s efforts to stop it. Times are tough in Zimbabwe, and people are looking for sacrifices to improve their fortunes. Hunger and starvation coupled with the purported economic meltdown which has been attributed to the economic sanctions by the ruling elite whilst those in the opposition blame the ruling elite for poor governance.

Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (Zinatha) president George Kandiero distanced his association and all members from all heinous acts of ritual killings. 

He, however, said those ritual killings are mainly done by witches and witchdoctors. According to Kandiero, Zinatha has some specialists who could have been involved in the case of Tapiwa Makore to give guidance in finding a lasting solution. 

“It’s rather unfortunate Tapiwa is no more, but we believe the full wrath of the law will take its course. The perpetrators must be brought to book even if they are members of our associations,” said Kandiero.

”These ritual killings are just a tip of the iceberg since a lot of sacrifices in various forms are happening in the underworld. 

“Those who do such are everywhere including churches, homes and workplaces and this has to be addressed for people to live in harmony.”

Reverend John Makaniko, a United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe pastor, said: “Human sacrifice is a reality though in this contemporary world it’s now rare.

“The law has abolished human sacrifice and it’s now treated as murder.” According to him, in Christianity, only Jesus Christ was sacrificed for sins of all humanity. He becomes a sacrifice once and for all [Hebrew 10:10]. 

“Jesus Christ becomes a sacrificial lamb for salvation of all humanity. The human sacrifice done by individuals is for selfish reasons like riches and fame.
“This human sacrifice that is shedding blood of other people for selfish ends is evil, sinful and a serious crime.”

“As Christians, we are guided by the scripture’s teachings and commandments like: ‘Thou shalt not kill’ (Exodus 20:13) and our social principles say, ‘life is a sacred gift’; therefore, every human life should be treated with dignity and shouldn’t be sacrificed. 

“In short, human sacrifice is a devilish act that has no place in Christianity and progressive society.” 

Rev Makaniko added: “In contemporary society, faith in God and appreciating the dignity of hard work will result in success and prosperity.

“The core values of the United Methodist Church clearly state that, ‘we do good, do no harm and stay in love with God’; thus human sacrifice isn’t good because it brings harm to other people and breaks relationships with God.”

According to some South African media reports, body parts can be sold for as little as
R3 000 in that country. 

I recall vividly growing up in a township when public transport in the form of the commuter omnibuses had just been introduced. At that age, we were scared to death by the stories doing the rounds in the township of the disappearance of children. We were told how kids were being lured by strangers who promised them sweets. 

The next thing, their bodies would be found in the bushes with body parts missing. Rumours were that businesspeople were taking the children’s heads to Durban and were trading them off for taxis, kombis and grinding mills. Another unfortunate case is that of Given Flint Matapure who disappeared at Harare Exhibition Park in August 2011. The case took ages to be finalised.

Ritual killings, or human sacrifices, are committed for the purpose of taking human body parts which are said to be used to prepare charms and other traditional medicines for spiritual fortification. In some instances, ritualists and occults target vulnerable members of society such as the poor, women, children and albinos whose families often do not have the resources to demand justice. 

In some African countries there is a belief that female body parts possess supernatural powers that bring good fortune or make criminals invisible to police and other authorities. Children and young people are mostly preferred since they will be having a whole lot of life to live than the elderly. 

All the success which could have happened to them will now be transferred to the ritualist as the children continue to live in the underworld. It is time governments turned up the heat on culprits and put an end to this violation of human rights. 

Heavy sentences should be given to those who commission and carry out the ritual killings.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) denounced ritually-motivated killings.

“The ZHRC has noted with concern the alarming rise and high frequency of ritually-motivated killings in Zimbabwe, specifically targeted at children and young people,” the ZHRC statement read. 

“The heinous murder and mutilation of innocent people is disheartening and should be denounced in the strongest terms by our society and nation as a whole.”

ZHRC also stated that participation in ritual killings violates Sections 48 (1), the universal human right to life, of the Constitution and other sections of international agreements on rights to human life, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 

The rights body called for a collective effort among authorities to end the ritual killings and urged police to undergo further training to adequately deal with issues of human rights violations.

In July 2015, a four-year old pupil from St Lucy Primary School in the Kombo area of Insiza district in Matabeleland South province was found dead with her lips, liver and other body parts missing in a suspected case of ritual murder. Her body was found mutilated in a pond. The incident struck fear into villagers who indicated that they suspected the child was killed for ritual purposes. They started escorting their children to and from school. 

Legislator Pupurai Togarepi has moved a motion on the proliferation of chilling incidents of murder indicating that victims of such heinous crimes are the vulnerable and unsuspecting members of society, mostly women and children. 

In another bizarre suspected ritual killing in June 2020, a 25-year-old woman, Thabelo Mazolo, had her body mutilated and stashed into a drum filled with acid in Bulawayo. Part of the body, from the waist going down, was missing while breasts and palms appeared to have been sliced off. The ritualist murder had message from a sangoma with instructions to perform on the body, it reads “you must cut yourself and spill your blood onto a mirror. Gaze into the mirror and say out loud that you are selling your soul for riches.” 

The practice of ritual killing and human sacrifice continues to take place in several African countries in contravention of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and other human rights instruments. In this 21st century, human beings are still being hunted down, mutilated, murdered or sacrificed for ritual purposes across the region. 

Several cases of kidnapping and disappearance of persons are traced to the vicious schemes and activities of ritualists. Ritualists hunt for blood and harvest human body parts to prepare charms and magical concoctions. In some cases desperate ritualists invade cemeteries and exhume dead bodies to extract body parts, said one anonymous source.

Many cases of ritual sacrifice take place in secret locations. They are largely unreported, not investigated and go unpunished. The perpetrators and their collaborators capitalise on the prevalent irrational fear of the supernatural among Africans, and the poor and corrupt policing and justice system, to get away with these egregious violations. 

Victims of ritual sacrifice are mostly minors nd vulnerable individuals who do not live to seek justice or redress or who lack the resources to seek redress if ever they survive the ordeal. 

Human sacrifice is real, it is neither fallacious, frivolous nor fiction. It is a cancer which needs urgent attention and collective efforts by all stakeholders from grassroots level before it is normalised by satanic and evil forces in our societies.

Source: Human sacrifices, myth or reality?

Liberia: woman dies after reportedly taking ‘sassywood’ to clear her innocence from witchcraft allegations

In Liberia, superstition is widespread. On more than one occasion I have written about this phenomenon in the West African country, Africa’s oldest republic, founded in 1847. The most recent occasion was on July 5, 2020 after a girl had been terribly tortured by her siblings who accused her of witchcraft. At the end of July another case which had actually happened in the preceding month was reported.

This time it was linked to an old ritual, trial by ordeal or ‘sassywood ordeal’ as it is called in Liberia. The Liberian government has outlawed the ‘sassywood or sasswood ordeal‘ many, many years ago, but It enacted a law that was never enforced – for various reasons. In 2009 seven people, accused of witchcraft in River Gee County, in the south of the country, died of whom two died from drinking the poison.

On Monday June 27, Sarah Togba, a woman in Gaye Town, in Grand Gedeh County, died after she ‘voluntarily’ took a ‘sassywood’ to prove her innocence after she had been accused of witchcraft causing the death of several persons. I fear that she will not be the last victim of this age-old practice of trial by ordeal, in fact a kind of mob justice. Still in the 21st century the rule of law is not applied in Liberia (webmaster FVDK).   

Liberia: Woman Dies after Reportedly Taking ‘Sassywood’ to Clear her Innocence from Witchcraft Allegations

Published: July 27, 2020
By: Front Page Africa – Lennart Dodoo 

GRAND GEDEH – A woman in Gaye town, Gbarzon District 3 in Grand Gedeh County met her untimely death on Monday, June 27 after she voluntarily took a ‘sassywood’ (trial by ordeal) to prove her innocence of allegations that she has been involved with witchcraft activities and had orchestrated the death of several persons.

Sarah Togba, according to reports gathered by FrontPageAfrica, was accused along with 13 others of being responsible for the death of one Zean Lolee Sayee who died recently in the country. He was 58 years old.

An eyewitness, Albert Thoudou, told FrontPageAfrica that Sayee’s children, during the funeral rites, confessed to being witches and claimed they knew who caused the death of their father. Sarah and 13 others were mentioned, according to the eyewitness.

He explained to FrontPageAfrica that some of those accused verbally denied the allegation, but Sarah who has on many occasions been accused of being a witch, opted to clear her name by voluntarily taking the “sasssywood”.

“By our tradition here, we have a tree in the bush we call the sassywood tree, if you shew the bark of that tree and you’re innocent, nothing will happen to you and if you’re guilty you’ll die. Sarah went into the bush and people saw her coming back with the sassywwod tree in her mouth. But she suddenly fell and died on the spot,” Thoudou explained.

He added, “I witnessed the incident, she was not forced by the elders. She decided to do it herself. She has always been accused of being a witch, so, maybe, she wanted to clear her name once and for all.”

According to him, four of the accused admitted to the allegation prior to Sarah opting for trial by ordeal. The eyewitness further disclosed that six others are on the standby to prove their innocence.

Meanwhile, he disclosed that the children of the deceased who leveled the witchcraft allegation and also claimed to be witches and wizards have cautioned that unless some traditional rites are performed in the town, six other persons would die in similar fashion their father died.

Source: Liberia: Woman Dies after Reportedly Taking ‘Sassywood’ to Clear her Innocence from Witchcraft Allegations

Ghana: women accused of witchcraft find refuge in outpost run by sisters

Ghana has a fairly good reputation, both on the African continent and beyond. This positive reputation mainly applies to the state of the economy and the country’s political affairs. (This has not always been the case. Notably in the 1970s Ghana offered a very different outlook. It is thanks to flight-lieutenant-turned-president Jerry J. Rawlings – and the two Bretton Woods Institutions (BWI), World Bank and the IMF – that Ghana nowadays is what it is).
However, superstition is rampant in the country. I drew attention to it at earlier occasions. See my posting on the work of Anas Aremeyaw Anas and Seamus Mirodan, both fighting infanticide in Ghana as well as Burkina Faso, Benin and Nigeria (June 4, 2018), and the activities of Seth Kwame Boateng and Jospeh Asakibeem (June 23, 2018), also fighting ritual baby killing in this West African country.

The article below treats the fate of women who are accused of witchcraft, sometimes triggered by jealousy and criminal intentions, sometimes based on superstition and a belief in the supernatural powers which the victims of the repression and mob justice are supposed to possess. Fortunately, the women are being rescued  by a group of benevolent nuns, but shouldn’t it be better if these age-old practices and belief in witchcraft cease to exist? (webmaster FVDK).

Women accused of witchcraft in Ghana find refuge in outpost run by sisters

Vivian Salamatu, outside her house, relates how she escaped death from angry villagers who had accused her of killing her brother-in-law. (Doreen Ajiambo)

Published: April 13, 2020
By: Global Sisters report – Doreen Ajiambo

GUSHEGU, GHANA — Vivian Salamatu and 200 hundred other women here are bound together for life. They share each other’s misfortunes and all have a similar story. They were accused of witchcraft, beaten, cast out and sent to “witch camps” that serve as havens.

“When my nephew died after a short illness, everyone hated me,” Salamatu explains in Dagbani, her native language. “My brothers-in-law said I was responsible, they accused me of being a witch.”

Dozens of elders and villagers gathered at her home to determine her innocence or guilt. One of the elders participating in the ritual test grabbed a chicken, slit its throat and flung it overhead. After it finished struggling, the chicken fell head first and died face down.

It was clear by the village standard she was a witch.

“If the chicken had died face up, then I would have been declared innocent of witchcraft,” said Salamatu, 39, a mother of three. “That night, villagers led by my brothers-in-law attacked me with machetes and set fire to my house. They wanted to kill me with my children.”

Her attackers, who had tied her up with a rope, were intercepted by nuns and local authorities. She was rescued with her children and taken to Gushegu “witch camp,” located in the north of the country.

One of the mud huts where women accused of practicing witchcraft live in the Gushegu camp of northern Ghana (Doreen Ajiambo)

“I can’t believe I’m alive today,” she said, noting that the allegations came barely a year after losing her husband in a road accident. “I had no one to protect me from the angry villagers. But I want to thank God and the sisters who came and rescued me. It was a miracle!”

Salamatu is among hundreds of women who have been rescued by the Missionary Sisters of the Poorest of the Poor and taken to Gushegu. The refuge, which is run by Sr. Ruphina Anosike and other sisters, provides homes to women accused of witchcraft. Anosike also cares for the homeless by providing meals and other necessities such as medical care and education for their children.

The immense majority of these women are widows with children. They have been accused by relatives, or sometimes by a competing wife, neighbors or village elders, of witchcraft, mainly of killing their husbands or other family members, said Anosike.

“It’s heartbreaking to see that these women suspected to be witches are no longer needed in their families and communities,” she said, noting that her camp, which accommodates more than 200 women, has become a safe haven for widows accused of witchcraft. “They stay here because they have no place to go, no food to eat, and no one cares for them.”

The motive to call someone a witch

Anosike notes that the chief motive behind such acts is often greed, and labeling these women as witches becomes a means of taking away their husbands’ wealth. Camp residents also include mentally ill women and children who are considered outcasts in Ghana, she said.

Salamatu agreed there is a motive.

“My father-in-law wanted to take cows, land and some money that my husband had left, and I refused,” she said, adding that her husband’s relatives became hostile to her and toward her children. “They later accused me of practicing witchcraft so that I could be chased away and leave them everything. One of my neighbors told me they held a meeting to discuss how they could chase me away so that they would be able to take my properties.”

Thousands of women and their children in northern Ghana have been left homeless after being accused of witchcraft, according to a 2018 report by the U.S. State Department. The report indicates that there are more than six witch camps spread throughout the northern region, holding 2,000-2,500 adult women and 1,000-1,200 children.

There is a widespread belief in witchcraft in the West African nation, according to 2009 Gallupsurveys, despite 96% of the population declaring themselves to be active worshippers in one of several world religions. The belief in the phenomenon has devastating consequences. Elderly women believed to be witches are often persecuted, ousted from their homes or even murdered. Their children are also cursed and not allowed to go back home after they have grown.

Though both men and women can be accused of witchcraft, the vast majority are women. Men are considered to have a strong socio-political base and are therefore better able to successfully contest the accusations leveled against them, knowledgeable observers say.

The witch camps are unique to northern Ghana. However, the West African nation shares with other African countries an endemic belief in witchcraft, with drought, death, poor harvest, illness and other natural disasters blamed on black magic.

Screenshot of the GSR video of sisters and women at the Gushegu camp in northern Ghana (credit: Doreen Ajiambo). Click on the picture in the original article (see source below) to watch the video.

The situation has prompted religious sisters in this part of the country to provide residential shelter for the women and children shunned by relatives. Anosike depends on supporters to build homes at the camp and she pleads for food, clothing, bedding and other necessities from neighbors and passers-by.

“I actually go out every morning to beg for food for these women to ensure they have something to eat,” said Anosike. “The bishop also helps us very much, especially with food and money to run the camp. These women also survive by collecting firewood, selling little bags of peanuts or working in nearby farms.”

A superstition that sticks

Witchcraft is a stubborn phenomenon in African cultures, experts say. Witches and wizards are thought to possess intrinsic and supernatural powers that are used to create evil. Many seek out the services of witchdoctors and wizards to find solutions for their relationships, troubles and even for good health. However, the practice has for years also had its negative side. In worst-case scenarios, such beliefs lead to murder and destruction of the accused witches, they said.

“The belief in witchcraft is deeply entrenched in Africa culture and dictates people’s lives,” said Charles Nzioka, a professor of sociology at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. “Witchcraft is in people’s minds. If someone loses a job, Westerners assume that it’s due to economic conditions or poor performance. An African is likely to say that someone used witchcraft to make or confuse an employer to hate and sack the person concerned.”

Nzioka said that the belief in witchcraft in Africa is intended to keep order in society; any deviation in behavior may lead to an allegation. As in Ghana, women who do not want to conform to society’s expectations may fall victim to the accusations of witchcraft, he said.

“For instance, when a woman accumulates wealth and becomes independent, she deviates from local norms that recognize only men to own wealth, and as such she becomes a target,” said Nzioka. “Sometimes women are targeted by relatives of the husbands in order to inherit their son’s wealth.”

Nato Blenjuo, who has lived at Gushegu camp for the last two decades, explained how she escaped death by a whisker after villagers claimed she had used witchcraft to kill her ailing husband. A post-mortem was reportedly held, establishing that her husband died of malaria, she said. Malaria has continued to be the leading cause of death in the country, according to 2018 data of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“They really wanted to kill me,” said the 66-year-old widow who lives in one of the huts made of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung and cow’s urine. “My stepson led other irate villagers with machetes to attack me at night. They set my house on fire, but I was lucky to escape with my three children into a nearby bush and I made my way to this camp.”

Srs. Ruphina Anosike, left, and Monica Yahaya, second from right, help sort out the grains that had been swept from the market by women accused of witchcraft in Ghana. These women survive by collecting firewood, selling little bags of peanuts or working in nearby farms. (Doreen Ajiambo)

Sr. Monica Yahaya said that women are seen as the most vulnerable members of the population and are therefore often labeled as witches because of their inability to contest the accusations. This explains why there are no men at the camps and women are predominantly the victims, she said.

“The problem here is that relatives cannot allow widows to inherit their husband’s possessions,” said Yahaya, who works with Anosike at Gushegu camp. “They will definitely look for a reason to accuse them and then send them away from their homes in order to take properties left by their dead husbands. Without a husband, these women really have no way to defend themselves after such an accusation.”

Osei Ekow, an elder, denies that greed is the impetus behind calling someone a witch. He says the villagers rely on the traditional slain chicken ritual to determine whether a woman is a witch.

“That’s our culture, and we must respect it,” said Ekow, 75, who says he has witnessed tens of thousands of widows being sent away from their homes. “There’s no way that ritual can be wrong. These women taking refuge at the camps are all witches because it was culturally confirmed.”

The government has on several occasions tried in vain to close down the camps in a bid to discourage attacks on women. Officials contend the very existence of witch camps encourages people to levy allegations of witchcraft knowing that the women they accuse will find refuge at the camps.

“People should stop accusing and harassing innocent women of witchcraft,” said Issah Mahmudu, a government official who oversees the Legal Aid Department in northern Ghana. “We want to encourage suspected witches and wizards who have been harassed to report to the police so that investigations begin. The law protects every citizen.”

Mahmudu said the incidents of witchcraft accusations have recently declined but encouraged local chiefs to dispel outdated cultural practices that are injurious to others.

“These women are vulnerable, that’s the reason they are attacked,” he said. “The chiefs should arrest any person committing offenses that are recognized under the law. The laws of this country condemn dehumanizing the fundamental human rights of all citizens.”

Anosike and other sisters are trying to shape the way people think about witchcraft. They conduct weekly seminars in various villages to campaign against ongoing violence on women, educate the public about the myths that surround witchcraft, rehabilitate and reintegrate women into their homes, and call for an end to the persecution of alleged witches and to superstition.

“Cases of women being chased away from their homes have of late been reduced as a result of the ongoing campaign, but more needs to be done,” she said. “We are going to continue educating people in the villages to ensure women live freely without fear of their rights being abused due to the belief in witchcraft.”

However, victims of the attacks call for more to be done.

“I have never been a witch, I don’t know how witchcraft works,” said Salamatu. “Men should treat us with dignity because we are all human beings created in the image of God.”

A child stands outside her mother’s hut house at Gushegu camp. Her mother was accused of killing her husband. (Doreen Ajiambo)

Source: Women accused of witchcraft in Ghana find refuge in outpost run by sisters

Districts in Northern Ghana (in the northeast: Gushiegu District)

Kenya: elderly Nyamira woman killed over witchcraft in what has been viewed as a ritual killing

Superstition, witchcraft, fear, mob justice, murder, ritual killing – what is the common denominator?
Yes, ignorance. Lack of education. Which does not mean that well educated people are not involved in ritualistic murders. Bu that’s another story (webmaster FVDK).

Elderly Nyamira woman killed over witchcraft
Published: January 26, 2020
By: Standard, Kenya – James Ongwae

Police in Nyamira are investigating the killing of an elderly woman in what has been viewed as a ritual killing. 

County Commissioner Amos Mariba said he had ordered the immediate arrest and bringing to book of all the people believed to have been behind the killing of Agnes Kwamboka Nyagwachi,60, at Bundo in Bogichora, Nyamira South.

Mariba said the body of the woman was found in a eucalyptus farm, about 50 meters away from her house.

“The body was lying on the ground and beside it were things which have led us to believe that it was a killing related to witchcraft or some form of rituals and currently we are narrowing down on possible perpetrators of the cold blood murder,” Mariba said.

The County Commissioner said some of the things which were retrieved beside the body included two dead rats, two brooms, two stones, one white pair of shorts, a full dress, two empty sacks, a black track tracksuit alongside a red pen.

Mariba said the deceased’s husband Peter Nyagwachi reported to authorities that his wife was picked from her house Sunday morning at around 3 am by a group of people known to him on suspicion that she was a witch.

James Orutwa, a clan elder at Bundo Village said he heard people wailing from the scene where the body was recovered and went there only to find out that the woman had long died.

“From a close look, the body bore multiple injuries on the left side of the head and superficial wound on the left leg.

Mariba said police had swung into action and all that was possible was being done to ensure anyone who participated in the killing faces the law.

This is not the first incident of such a ritual killing.

Two years ago, another woman from Bonyamatuta village was also killed on suspicion that she was a witch.

Source: Elderly Nyamira woman killed over witchcraft

Related article:

Sixty year old woman killed in Nyamira over witchcraft
Published: January 26, 20202
By: KDRTV, Kenya – Cynthia Mutinda

A 60 year old woman by the name of Agnes Wamboka Nyagwachi was found dead at Bundo Bogichora, Nyamira South over what id believed to be a killing ritual. Her body was found on the ground in a eucalyptus farm which is located about fifty meters from her house.

”The body was lying on the ground and beside it were things which have led us to believe that it was a killing related to witchcraft or some form of rituals and currently we are narrowing down on a possible perpetrators of the cold blood murder,”County commissioner Amos Mariba said.

Amos revealed that two dead rats,two brooms, two stones, one white pair of shorts, a full dress, two empty sacks, a black tracksuit and a red pen were some of the things retrieved besides Agnes’ body.

Investigations of the killing are currently being carried out by the police in Nyamira.

The court commission has ordered for the arrest of all the people that are believed to be behind the demise of Agnes Kwamboka Nyagwachi.

Peter Nyagwachi, the deceased husband told the authorities that a group of people known to him came to their home on Sunday morning around 3 am and picked his wife on a suspicion that Agnes was a witch.

James Orotwa, a clan elder at Bundo village said that he heard deafening screams coming from the eucalyptus farm and upon arrival at the scene found  the woman long dead.

He revealed that the body bore multiple injuries on the left side of the head with a superficial wound on her left leg.

This is however was not the first time that such an incident has occurred. Two years ago, another woman in Bunyamatuta village was murdered on suspicion that she too practiced witchcraft.

Mariba promised that the police are working hard to ensure that the culprits who participated in the killing of Agnes face the law.

Source: Sixty year old woman killed in Nyamira over witchcraft

Nyamira County, Kenya

“Johnny’s Town Murder Trial: Finally, Justice Is Done!” – Liberia

Last week, one of Liberia’s leading newspapers, the Daily Observer, published an enthusiastic article, lauding the judiciary system in Liberia, following the jury’s conclusion that 7 defendants in the Sinoe murder case (‘the Johnny Town Murder Trial’) were found guilty of murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation. The article focuses on harmful traditional practices in Liberia, such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), forcible initiation into secret societies, trial by ordeal (particularly the use of sassywood), accusations of witchcraft, and ritualistic killings. The authors conclude that the verdict rendered in the Johnny’s Town Case is a landmark example. 

The article provides a useful summary of the case, its background and significance, and is therefore highly recommended. I fully agree with the main conclusion: 
“This landmark verdict has brought great relief to survivors and their families and set the right precedence that would possibly deter would-be perpetrators of harmful traditional practices in Liberia.”
(webmaster FVDK).

Published: September 3, 2019
By: National Institute for Public Opinion (NIPO) and Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI) – published by the Daily Observer 

The Case 

Late last year, three young Liberian women in Johnny Town, Kpayan District, Sinoe County, were accused by a group of community dwellers of kidnapping a three-month-old child for witchcraft rituals. Angeline Saydee, Florence Tarkleh and Willete Nyewallah were subjected to trial by ordeal and abused, tortured and gang raped. One of the women, Willete, was killed. Another was hospitalized and later discharged. Stories surrounding the third woman, who happens to be the mother of the missing child, are quite conflicting.

It is said that Willete, who was killed in this incident, was few months pregnant prior to her unfortunate death. All the accused women fervently denied involvement in witchcraft and in the disappearance of the child. These women experienced unimaginable abuse. They were stripped naked before public glare and paraded from one corner of the town to another; thereafter, they were taken into the bush and subjected to trial by ordeal and to other violent crimes. Before these young women were abducted, tortured and one killed, they were living peaceful lives with their families and loved ones.

The young men accused of these crimes allegedly committed these inhumane acts under the orders of some traditional leaders, including a female traditionalist who allegedly subjected the women to trial by ordeal.

Harmful Traditional Practices in Liberia 

Trial by ordeal is a harmful traditional practice in which suspects are subjected to torture and other forms of inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. The practice is usually done in extremely brutal manner and is intended to have suspects forcefully (and likely falsely) confessing guilt. The pain that comes with trial by ordeal is often raw and severe and can force people to confess guilt even if they were not the actual doers of the act for which ,they were accused. This practice has been outlawed by the Government of Liberia but it still persists.

An UNMIL and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights assessment of Harmful Traditional Practices in Liberia found that some traditional and cultural practices common to many Liberian ethnic communities have a significantly negative impact on the enjoyment of fundamental human rights. These include FGM, forcible initiation into secret societies, trial by ordeal (particularly the use of sassywood), accusations of witchcraft, and ritualistic killings. The assessment found that “these practices have particularly affected certain groups such as women, children, elderly persons, persons with disabilities, as well as the poorest Liberians” ( UNMIL and OHCHR 2015-An Assessment of Human Rights Issues Emanating from Traditional Practices in Liberia p.2).

This high prevalence is fundamentally why we believe that all must be done to step up the fight against harmful traditional practices. A critical starting point was ensuring the rule of law with particular focus on increasing access to justice for women and girls. We submit here that the verdict rendered in the Johnny’s Town Case is a landmark example!

Civil Society Supports the Survivors 

Immediately after these vicious crimes committed against Angeline Saydee, Florence Tarkleh and Willete Nyewallah came to light, the National Institute for Public Opinion (NIPO) coordinated county-level advocacy actions with the active involvement of the Sinoe County Women Platform and the Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI). Soon after, the case captured national and international attention. The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection got involved, as did some concerned Liberian women and women’s organizations.

At national level, advocacy actions were coordinated by the Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL) in close collaboration with NIPO and FCI. As part of these actions, the coalition presented its position statement to the National Legislature, calling on the Government of Liberia to provide reparation for survivors, relocate and resettle survivors and transfer the case to neutral location to avoid “local interference” or “manipulation”. Copies of this statement were presented to key embassies near Monrovia including the American and British Embassies. Subsequently, ten arrests were made and the case was transferred from the 3rd Judicial Circuit Court in Sinoe County to the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County. The case was scheduled to be heard during the August Term of Court.

Trial Proceedings 

The August Term of Court opened on August 12th, 2019 and the Johnny’s Town Murder Case was the first on the docket. Seven persons indicted for murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation faced a jury trial with fifteen jurors handing down the verdict. Initially, ten persons were arrested, indicted and taken to court in relation to this case. Three were nolle prosequoi, (the legal term for dropping charges against an accused for lack of evidence). Final arguments in the case were heard on Friday, August 30. Immediately thereafter, the jury unanimously handed down a guilty verdict against all seven indictees.

Sinoe County Women Platform

Prior to the opening of the August Term of Court, NIPO and FCI jointly sponsored ten members of the Sinoe County Women Platform to Grand Bassa County to continue advocacy actions and witness legal proceedings. The sponsorship covered the travel, accommodation and feeding of the ten-member team. They arrived in Grand Bassa County on the 10th of August and were met on arrival by NIPO and FCI. Advocacy in Grand Bassa was coordinated and executed alongside the Grand Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA).

The women gathered before the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court holding placards with inscriptions such as “No Excuse for Abuse” and “They Deserve Justice”, and called for a speedy and fair trial. They were assured that there was no need for protest actions because the case was the first on the docket.  This position was reinforced by the president of the Grand Bassa County Bar Association who spoke with the women and assured them that the Bar would do everything necessary to ensure that justice is served in a timely manner.

This case significantly helped the Platform to expand its network and amplify their voices at the regional level. Thanks to collaboration with the Grand Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA). The women continuously recommitted themselves to continuing their advocacy until the case was brought to a logical end.

Lorraine G. Mennon is the chairperson for the Platform. She committed to providing leadership in planning, organizing and implementing continuous advocacy actions and coordinating activities of the Platform until perpetrators were brought to book. She described the unanimous guilty verdict as a magnificent precedence and prayed that the state takes similar action against other people indicted for harmful traditional practices and violence against women and girls across Liberia. Madam Mennon informed NIPO and FCI that they will keep the Platform proactive, indicating that smaller community awareness actions will be organized and implemented to inform local women and girls about the effects of harmful traditional practices, expand knowledge and information about the Platform and create linkages with towns and villages with the view of monitoring, documenting, reporting and advocating against these bad cultural practices.

NIPO’s Lawyer joined the Prosecution Team

On Monday, August 12th, NIPO’s lawyer, Atty. Freeman, joined the prosecution team and promised to put his legal and research expertise to the disposal of the government towards winning the case. He promised to play active role in the cross examination of defense witnesses but later restricted his role to liaising with and motivating state lawyers. He told NIPO that after examining all the pieces of evidence against the accused, proof was evident and presumption great for their conviction. Atty. Freeman was hired and is paid by NIPO’s access to justice project, funded by UNDP-Liberia through Oxfam.

Conclusion

The Johnny’s Town Trial was a landmark case involving harmful traditional practices which inflicted serious injuries on two of three young Liberian women. This inhumane and criminal act led to the gruesome death of one of the victims and the hospitalization of another. Due to sustained advocacy actions at both the county and national levels, ten arrests were made, the case transferred to a neutral location and the survivors relocated. Legal proceedings in the case began in this August Term of Court. NIPO, FCI, Sinoe Women’s Platform and other women’s groups including the Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA), were very unwavering in supporting the survivors’ protection and access to justice in this case.

NIPO and FCI’s advocacy around this case was supported by Oxfam with funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.  The project, called “Funding Leadership Opportunities for Women” or FLOW, has the goals of promoting women’s rights to be heard and to live free from violence. The FLOW Project has successfully run in Liberia since 2016.

The lawyer hired by NIPO to support the State’s case is paid by the UNDP through Oxfam. This project is called “Strengthening Access to Justice for Women and Girls in Sinoe and Grand Gedeh.”

Due process was necessary to rendering justice against harmful traditional practices, protecting women and girls from the dangers of the practice, punishing perpetrators for wrongful actions and finding redress for victims and survivors. This landmark verdict has brought great relief to survivors and their families and set the right precedence that would possibly deter would-be perpetrators of harmful traditional practices in Liberia.

Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of Oxfam, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, or the UNDP.

Source: Johnny’s Town Murder Trial: Finally, Justice Is Done!

Liberia: Court to sentence 7 defendants found guilty in Sinoe County murder case

The article below – published by Liberia’s leading newspaper FrontPageAfrica – reports that on August 30, the Trial Jury of the Grand Bassa County Circuit Court unanimously found seven defendants guilty in the Sinoe murder case. This is not consistent with an earlier article, published by The Bush Chicken – another well  known Liberian newspaper – which reported that 10 of the 12 jurors voted for a guilty verdict, while 2 abstained (see my September 2 posting). 

Judge Joe Barkon of the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County is to hand down final ruling in the Sinoe County murder case on Monday, September 9.

To be continued (webmaster FVDK). 

A photo of the women who were claimed to be witches

Published: September 3, 2019
By: Kennedy L. Yangian – FrontPageAfrica

Monrovia – Court sources at the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County, have disclosed that Judge Joe Barkon is to hand down final ruling in the Sinoe County gang rape and murder case, on Monday, September 9.

The judge’s ruling will be followed by the sentencing of the seven defendants found guilty of murder and gang rape in

Trial Jury of the Grand Bassa County Circuit Court Friday, August 30, unanimously found the defendants guilty in the murder and gang-rape case.

This comes after more than two weeks of legal battle between government lawyers, led by Cllr. Wesseh Alphonsus Wesseh, Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation, and Defense lawyers, led by Cllr. Paul Philip Jarvan.

Judge Barkon reserved ruling into the case last Friday, August 30, in line with the law that provides for time in sentencing of Defendants who are found guilty.

 The seven guilty defendants are Moses Solo, Ellis Karpeh, Sylvester Chardy, Swen Kelgbeh, Teah Gmanwolou, Victor Solo and Pyne Nyene. They will be sentenced for Murder, Gang Rape, aggravated Assault, Criminal Conspiracy and Facilitation.

The defendants were among 10 persons who were arrested by state security and indicted in Greenville City, Sinoe County in 2018 after they accused three ladies, Williete Nyenwlah, Angeline Saydee and Florence Tarklay, for being responsible for the disappearance of a four-year-old child in Johnny Town, Normorpoe District, Sinoe County on December 12, 2018.

The three women were stripped  naked and paraded publicly  in the town and then taken to the society bush where they were allegedly tortured  and  sexually abused  with the men  inserting  sticks  into their private parts resulting to the death of one them, Williete, who was buried secretly  in a swampland.

The case was to be heard in Greenville Sinoe County but state prosecutors requested for a change of venue to the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County based on what the prosecutors termed as due to local prejudice. 

As the case was called for trial this August 2019 Term and before the reading of the indictment to the defendants, Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh, Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation, entered a plea of Nolle Prosequoi (free) in favor of three co-defendants, Anthony Karmon Marshall Gballa and Shelton Kelgbeh for lack of sufficient evidence to prosecute them while the rest of the defendants were arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the multiple charges.

During the trial, the state produced five general witnesses including the two survivors and three rebuttal witnesses. 

While on the witness stand, two of the five co-defendants, Moses Solo and Alex Karpeh, described themselves as the “devil’s spokesperson” and the town crier of Jonny Town, respectively, though they denied the allegations but admitted been present and member of the country society that took custody of the victims.

 The two co-defendants said the deceased died after she was questioned by the country devil, who shouted at her and she allegedly dropped dead after she was transformed into a dragon and that her left eye was removed and given to her father who according to the defendants turned her over to the society people or country devil.

However, the other five co-defendants denied been members of the secret society and that they were not in Johnny Town when the incident occurred and that they were  arrested based on mistaken identity by the Liberia National Police. 

Their testimonies prompted the state lawyers to introduce the father of the deceased as one of its three rebuttal witnesses who denied been the head of the Zoe people and that it was him who turned his daughter over to the country devil to be penalized for been a “witch.” 

During the final legal argument, state lawyers argued that the defendants were under obligation to have brought in witnesses to prove their defense that they were arrested based on mistaken identity; but they miserably fail to do same while the Defense lawyer, Cllr. Paul Jarvan, counter argued that the state did not prove its allegation against the defendants.

The other defendants, who claimed that they were not in the town of the incident, did not produce witnesses to testify that they were not in the town when the incident occurred.

Source: Liberia: Court to Sentence 7 Defendants Found Guilty in Sinoe County Murder, Rape Case

Kenya: Witchcraft tales in thirst for land put elders lives at risk

Introduction – under construction

A volunteer teacher Nguma Kiwala (right) talks to elders at Kaya Godhoma Centre in Kilifi County. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Published: April 13, 2019
By: Baya Samuel and Siago Cece

Hidden deep in the thicket, just a kilometre from Mrima wa Ndege township is Kaya Godhoma Centre, a sanctuary that has hosted tens of elders since 2008.

As we made our way in, we were stopped on our tracks, and told we had to undergo a cleansing ritual, as we were entering a cultural place.

“Let’s all stand up and form a ‘lungo’ (a traditional circle formed by a number of people gathered before prayers),” Emmanuel Katana, 45, the current chairman of the centre asked, and we all obliged.

For the next few minutes, together with the group of about 15 elders, we joined in their prayers, in Giriama dialect, thanking their gods for us, the visitors.

The prayers then ended with a handshake, signifying peace among the members. A brief introduction followed and later we were ushered inside the kaya minus our shoes, which we left at the bushy entrance.

KAYA MEETING

Looking famished, with despairing faces, several elderly persons trickled into the kaya meeting point, under a tree shade.

Some were dressed in faded shirts and torn clothes holding their three-legged stools, while supporting their thin frames with wooden walking sticks. The women, on the other hand, donning torn lesos, carried woven mats which they spread down for the rest to sit on.

Kahindi Ngoka cuts a figure of a man weighed down by worry. At 76, Mr Ngoka is bitter at how his family turned against him, as they eyed his prime land in Kilifi.

Mzee Ngoka was branded by his own wife and children a witch, before they attempted to harm him. All along, their prime target was his one-and-half-acre prime land.

WITCH

“The problem started in 2011, when my children accused me of being a witch. I defended myself, even suggesting that we go to a local witch buster called Mwasamani in Kwale County. Even when the ‘witch buster’ exonerated me, they didn’t stop,” Mr Ngoka said.

As he tried to ignore their accusations, the family upped the stakes by tricking him into a meeting at his eldest son’s house. “As soon as I entered, the doors were locked from outside and I knew that was the end. I had to act, sneaking through the thatched roof, and I escaped,” Mr Ngoka said.

What Mr Ngoka didn’t know was that a plan had already been hatched to push him out so that his land could be sold.

“Barely weeks after I escaped and came to Kaya Godhoma, I received news that part of my land had been sold and that one of my family members had gone to court to stop the sale,” Mzee Ngoka said. “I later realised that all the troubles were the plan of my wife and some of my children. They branded me a witch so that they could sell part of my land. I leave it to God,” he said.

WORRIES

Karisa Ndhudhi’s gait depicts a man burdened by worries about his life. The 63-year-old native of Konjora village in Kilifi, struggles to control his emotions, as he narrates his near death ordeal.

“I arrived here in August of 2017, having escaped death after a section of my family turned against me, branding me a witch. My problems started immediately after the death of my wife on December 24, 2013,” said Mr Ndundhi.

Immediately after her death, after a long illness, word went round that he was responsible for it, as he had bewitched her.

“Since I wanted to prove to them that I was not a witch, we went to a witchdoctor in Kwale, who exonerated me, after performing a ritual,” he said.

Thinking that he was off the hook, Mzee Ndundhi returned home, unaware that the worst was yet to come.

CHOLERA

“Four years later, in July 2017, my third born son contracted cholera, but unfortunately despite the quick medical intervention, he passed on. Hours after my son’s death, I was again accused of bewitching him and the villagers and part of my family members descended on me with stones,” he said.

As the youths stoned him, an assistant chief called officers from the nearby Ngerenya police post, who rescued the hapless old man.

“I was then taken to Chumani village where our larger family resides,” he said. “At Chumani, a decision was arrived that he must be taken to Kaya Godhoma.

“I still love my home but I fear that once I return, they will kill me. Now my land is at stake and I have heard that there is someone seeking to purchase it, with the help of my other children,” he said.

SAD TALES

Katana Thuva, 60, died a dejected bitter man. On paper, he was worth millions but in reality, he died a pauper, surrounded by elders who were also in the same predicament, offering nothing more than companionship and sad tales.

At the time of his death in October last year, Mzee Thuva owned a half-acre plot in Watamu, second row to the beach, which the current market value stands at Sh20 million.

He was also accused of practising witchcraft, even as he said his family was out to kill him, as they sought to sell his prized possession.

Mzee Ngoka and Ndhudhi’s predicament paint the sad picture facing hundreds of other elders in Kilifi and Kwale counties, which are being dispossessed off their prime land, some touching on the beaches, by money thirsty children, who want to make a quick killing from the black gold.

SOUGHT REFUGE

The elders have all sought refuge at the Kaya Godoma in Kilifi, a centre that offers them safe refuge; whiling time away, nursed by the haunted memories of their past, and the very resource they say connects them to their forefathers – land.

Within the Coastal counties, land ownership is still an emotive issue with the resource notably the cause of the killing of most elders.

In 2018, killings in Kilifi remained high with the security agencies stating that there are about 108 cases that were reported in the entire county.

Most of those we interviewed at Kaya Godhoma Rescue Centre in Vitengeni, Kilifi County connected their ordeal to land ownership.

Even with much spirited campaign from the government to end the trend, scores were killed especially in Kilifi and Kwale counties.

A report done jointly by Haki Africa and Institute for Land, Governance and Human Rights has shown that land ownership tussles were behind the killings. In an interview with Saturday Nation, Haki Africa executive director Khalid Hussein said that the report focused on the three years to 2018.

KILLED

The report shows that in 2016, 41 elderly people were killed, while in 2017, 37 lost their lives. Last year, there were around 25 old men and women who were killed. “The main thing we found from the residents is that witchcraft was being used as a trigger of forceful land inheritance, with the children becoming impatient,” Mr Hussein said.

“We are currently undertaking a programme which we are implementing with local leadership in Kilifi and Kwale counties to address this menace.”

Poverty is also said to be a contributing factor, which has driven a lot of the young people to have an insatiable appetite to sell their ancestral lands.

The report further said that most of the victims were innocent of the witchcraft accusation, but still lost their lives because of land tussles.

“When over 100 people are killed in a span of one year, then you know that there is a problem. The only thing we are doing at the moment is to raise awareness so that locals can desist from killing the elderly,” Kenya National Commission for Human Rights (KNCHR) Coast regional coordinator Brenda Dosio said.

WITCHCRAFT ACT

Ganze legislator Teddy Mwambire said he will be pushing for an amendment in Parliament to review the Witchcraft Act to cushion the elderly people from being murdered on suspicion of being sorcerers.

“The Act in its current form falls short of providing security to the aged. Ignorance is to blame for the rampant killings of the elderly in our society. People associate advanced age with witchcraft, a trend that has seen hundreds murdered. I will be seeking amendments of the Act or table another Bill altogether in parliament that will seek to cushion the elderly from such retrogressive acts,” he said.

DEEPER PROBLEMS

Mr Julius Wanyama, a Peace Programme Coordinator at Haki Yetu organisation, said “From our assessment, the witchcraft accusations against the elderly are an excuse, but a very fatal one. It’s a trigger to deeper problems within the society -that is the thirst for land and money.”

“As an organisation, we have had to seek a meeting with the county security team to address the problem. We discovered there was no ready forum to address or resolve misunderstanding and initiated a programme called ‘Wapatanishi’ (local interveners), who have helped especially when they of the targets. So far they have managed to save 20 in Kilifi County and 10 in Kwale who are currently living in their homes without fear of being killed.”

Source: Kenya: Witchcraft tales in thirst for land put elders lives at risk