December 26, 2009

KENYA: Witch-hunt targets elders

. DOHA, Qatar / Al Jazeera / Africa / December 26, 2009 See Video The video contains some disturbing images Dozens of villagers in the Kenyan district of Kisii are falling prey to superstitious groups accusing them of witchcraft. The poverty-stricken western district, known as Kenya's sorcery belt, has seen an increase in mob attacks on individuals and even killings. The poor and elderly in particular are being targeted. Witches of Kisii Three months ago, a group of youths tortured five suspected witches before setting them on fire. Joseph Ondiek's 65-year-old mother was one of those killed. He says says he and his family are living in constant fear and cannot even think about getting justice for their mother's killing. "Our neighbours call us witches. We have no friends around and we are fearful," he says. "I am also forced to go as far as possible from my village in search of jobs. No one who knows me will offer me any work." Deeply rooted tradition Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow, reporting from Kisii, says witchcraft remains deeply rooted within the community despite the brutal killings. "Every ailment, misfortune or trouble is blamed on sorcery. Some say even success here is attributed to witchcraft," he says. "Lobby groups for the elderly have set up shop here to try and stop the targeting of senior citizens, spreading the message that burning of suspected witches is not an answer to sorcery." Harrison Nyaribo, 70, had his home razed by a mob on a witch-hunt. He was accused of practising witchcraft, but says the attack on his home had other motives. "I have never been engaged in sorcery. All this is is envy," he says. "My children are all grown up, educated and have good jobs. I am also one of few people here who have stone buildings. This is the work of envious people." [rc]