Outrageous: The lynching of “witches” in Kisii

April 17, 2009

Warning: The link below contains extremely graphic content. It is not for the squeamish!


To say that I am totally disgusted with the “witch” lynchings that routinely take place in the wider Kisii region of western Kenya would be an understatement. I am ashamed of my community. We’re in the 21st century for christsake! Civilization has no place for arbitrary condemnations such as those being meted out by mobs wielding machetes, clubs, rocks and other crude weapons—without first holding a fair trial. Witch-hunts are almost always based on accusations without hard proof; which is why the vigilante prefer to evade the legal way as they know it wouldn’t accommodate their accusations. But I’m not interested in arguing along legal lines here.

My major concern is the fearful fact that modern, educated, grown humans who should know better actually believe in witchcraft! Sorcery is a myth. Why can’t people understand that there isn’t any mysterious, supernatural power controlling their lives?

The failure to recognize this has led to a great many persecutions and a rise in vigilantism in Kisii against people perceived to be different. Poor, lonely, old and powerless people whose sole crime was oddity at a time when crops failed or milk spoilt have paid the ultimate price. People have been targeted for no reason other than a strange birthmark, living alone, mental illness, cultivation of medicinal herbs, or simply because they are falsely accused, sometimes out of jealousy.

What can be more atrocious than the condoning of murder under whatever guise? It is the height of primitivity to believe that misfortune is directly caused by witchcraft. If the crops failed, someone loses their job or a you or a loved one falls ill, blaming a witch is the “convenient” thing to do. Sadly, this is not a fallacy held only by ignorant peasants but also by the educated (including Christian preachers who actively perpetuate the myth!) amongst the Gusii who often juice up their fantasies with elaborate satanic theories. Indeed the community even has a saying that goes “tiyanya gokwa etaberegeti getondo” loosely translated, it means that nobody dies without a reason (we all fucking die, stupid! It is natural!). The Gusii have this outrageous idea that some people(witches) domesticate wild animals i.e. snakes and hyenas, which they then use as means of teleportation to remote and far off places for their evil work. (If there was any such science we’d be the most advanced society ever, don’t you think?)

Some five centuries ago Europe experienced a similar superstitious uprising. An instructive book was even crafted during that time purporting to prove that witchcraft existed. “Malleus Maleficarum” was meant to be the guide-book for magistrates on the procedures that should be used to find witches out and convict them. Consequently, the manuscript became the handbook for witch-hunters and inquisitors during that dark period. Among other crazy things, it described what were then known as “ordeals”. If you passed the ordeals then you were innocent and if you failed you were guilty. One such ordeal was the “ordeal by cold water”. The long and the short of it was that if a suspect was brought forth, they were tied up and immersed in cold water whereby if they sank, they were innocent and there was to be no punishment but if they floated, they were guilty! Talk of a“catch 22”situation! The Malleus Maleficarum should serve as a horrible warning about what happens when intolerance takes over the society. Sadly that has not been the case.

Like the then Europe, people who are being accused of witchcraft in Kisii now are mostly old women that often take care of children or are out begging for money. Sometimes if a child died in her care, there is always a chance that she would be accused of bewitching the child.

The enlightenment that occurred in Europe starting 400 years ago helped to end the witch-hunts there. It brought empirical reason, skepticism and humanitarianism which helped defeat the superstitions of the earlier age. It gradually occurred to people that there was no empirical evidence that alleged witches were responsible for any calamities and taught that the use of torture to force confessions was inhumane.

What shall it take for us to be enlightened?


16 Responses to “Outrageous: The lynching of “witches” in Kisii”

  1. irspariah said

    In case someone is thinking this couldn’t happen in modern western society, think again. The holocaust is just a different name for scapegoating, witch hunting, whatever you want to call it. Don’t be deceived by the fact that a different name is ascribed to the activity. The end result is the same!

    • ericomanga said

      then education alone is not enough to end this stupid intolerance. what do you advocate? we cannot just sit and watch stuff like this happen. we keep saying “never again”, but that is not helping… even after that declaration there’ve been serious cases after the holocaust; bosnia, rwanda, darfur, the caste system in india, tibet… and counting…
      should we just give up?
      i’ve added a video link to one of the incidents i’m talking about. extremely grisly i should add.
      thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Bob said

    If today’s humans believe that a woman gave a virgin birth or a man flew into heaven on a horse… there’s not much difference.

    Using myths to condemn our fellow human has a long tradition.

    So what will it take? Prosperity and population control. We know this – stop people from breeding, start educating people to admire knowledge and knowledge seekers like educators and scientists.

    • ericomanga said

      just as some people go around bombing others in “defense” of their god! if this god is all powerful, why fight for him? he should be able to handle his own battles without your help. ridiculous!
      you are right; more education is to enlighten people and make this world a better place.
      i just added a graphic video link to the post. people should be enraged so that they can talk about it.
      thanks for your thoughts:)

  3. bootsinowski said

    righteous post, my friend.

    i saw some video today that pertains to this issue, and although i am already aware that things like this still happen, it is somehow even more disheartening to see it recorded, because you realize to yourself, someone was calmly watching this killing, and just kept recording, and did not help the people. i wonder what causes a person to do that. hopefully i will never find out.

    i cannot enact the change that would be needed to stop this. i don’t know if anyone can. education is key to this situation, and that is a tall order i am sure in rural parts of Kenya. all we can do is talk about how wrong it is in the hopes that we can get a message out there.

    goodbye and thanks for reading.

    • ericomanga said

      i’ve added the barbaric video’s link to my post in the hope that people will be upset enough to atleast talk about it. that is the least i can do. i come from the kisii community and this has been happening for ages. thank god for the internet, it’s now getting into the global domain.
      thanks again.

  4. simon omare said

    Witch hunting in kisii is as a result of scramble for land as a scarce resource,competition in business and rising levels of economic hardship.why rise in 2009?inflation has not been well understood.luck of money is associated to witchcraft.there is nothing like a witch.those are false accussations.people want to eliminate others so that they benefit.go to kisii,walk at night to witchcraft portended areas,you cannot see any sign of a witch.

  5. joseph maina said

    after reading your text,i was triggered to respond.we shouldnt condone the habit of killing people on allegations that they are witches.however when in primary school,we used to have morning preps as from 4am.so one day as i was going to school,i met this group of naked people sitting on the roadside.i flashed my torch at them and almost froze and started chasing me.i yelled and save that nearby there was afuneral and people were keeping vigil and came to my rescue.so my question is ;why shuld adult men and women sit on the roadside at 4 am naked?lets us not deny these things and protect them.why shuld somebody keep on knocking at your door at night.aye mose abarogi are there and if caught,the best solution ni moto!

  6. Polycarp said

    It’s a shame. The kisii people are some of the very progressive tribe after the kikuyus. If only we can band togetther to eradicate coruption, we build a stronger society. Just stop the jealousy and let’s wrk together. Only God is the true judge. Live it to Him.

  7. Mathews Wauye said

    This is a shame in today’s world. Am sure they died innocently since someone somewhere was jeoulous of their achievements. God forgive them. Everyone has a right to life and it’s only God who can take one’s life. Lord have mercy,Lord have mercy. Amen.

  8. unteer said

    “Why can’t people understand that there isn’t any mysterious, supernatural power controlling their lives?”

    95% of people believe in some form of supernatural, omnipotent force, whom most know as God.

    As far as mobs go, burning 5% of a population is nothing when democracy rules, especially in a world of 6+ billion.

    Ultimately, you have to have a reason to not like someone, and that reason is the one that you can convince the most people to believe in. When such vast majorities of people believe in some form of religion or another, it becomes the world’s greatest enabler of action… all action.

  9. Sombega said

    If all kisii’s would stop witchcraft then nobody would beg,pøor,unfortunate,et. I belief since kisii is a fertile land,everyone culd be satisfied’ tiga endamwamu abagusii gaki’.and thats what leads to witchcraft.

  10. juniverses said

    This post is very interesting. Thank you. I didn’t even imagine that such things kept happening nowadays… It’s good to blog about it to spread the facts… and to try to figure out how to avoid such “barbary” in the future.

  11. Anengiyefa said

    Africans are still in the middle ages apparently, since the perpetrators of these brutal acts will always always evade the operation of the law. In Nigeria, even agents of the government regularly engage in these inexcusable killings. Very sad indeed.

  12. kerubo nyantika said

    Lets stop pourin blood.let God be de only judge

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