alexa When death knocks on the door and takes all - Daily Nation

When death knocks on the door and takes all

Monday May 30 2011

Photo/FILE  Residents of Ogada Village in Kisumu North celebrate as the house of a suspected witch goes up in flames.

Photo/FILE Residents of Ogada Village in Kisumu North celebrate as the house of a suspected witch goes up in flames. Kisumu OCPD John Mwinzi says things are likely to get out of hand if nothing is done to cool down the tempers and bring police services closer to the people. He also blames a loophole in Section Five of the Constitution that allows arrested suspects to be released back to the community as probe into their conduct is carried out. This, he says, agitates the community, leading to such acts of lawlessness. 

By STELLA CHERONO and AMOL AKOO [email protected]

Lorna Adhiambo, 28, lies helplessly outside the spot where her home once stood in Ogada Village of Nyahera in Kisumu.

She is terminally ill and has been left under the care of her grandmother Mary Aluoch, who is equally weak.

A fortnight ago, angry villagers, known very well to her, bludgeoned her parents to death and burnt their two houses.

Their sins? Witchcraft, according to the villagers.

Such is the terror enveloping Nyahera as citizens take the law in their hands, and the police say the situation is likely to get out of hand since “certain sections of the new Constitution force us to release suspects, who are invariably lynched by enraged mobs”.

“The crowd pounced on us after the body of an eight-year-old girl was found in a maize plantation. They blamed her death on my parents,” sobs Adhiambo, who has lost two children, to use her adverb, mysteriously.

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Within a year, two of her daughters were found dead in the homestead’s backyard. Their private parts, she told us, had been chopped off, and villagers pointed a finger at her parents.

When Adhiambo was pregnant with her fourth child, she says, the husband left her because of the witchcraft allegations.

“He left with our third child fearing the baby would also be killed. That’s when I began to search for truth behind the deaths of my children.

“One of the strategies I applied was to try and get closer to the top suspect — my real father — but he was lynched before I could complete my mission,” she sobs.

On the morning her father Bonga Odenyo and mother Nereah Akinyi were lynched, the body of Margaret Adhiambo, 8, had been found on a farm a day after she had disappeared.

Margaret’s mother, Theresa Onyango, said she had sent her daughter to buy floor and cooking oil, but she never returned home.

“Armed with machetes and other weapons, our neighbours forced their way into our homestead and dragged my mother to the field, where they were also holding my dad,” a teary Adhiambo recalls.

She remembers the enraged neighbours singing and chanting “Bonga ichinjo wa ndalo ma thoth (Bonga, you have butchered our own for long)” as they stoned them to death.

“I cannot describe the pain. My parents were killed in the manner people use to kill snakes. I wished I could help. They should have spared at least one of them to care for us,” regrets Adhiambo.

Not even the police could save the couple from the irate mob. “They were overwhelmed, and soon my parents were lifeless.”

After the crowd confirmed that Mr and Mrs Bonga were dead, they dragged the bodies into one of their houses and set them ablaze, claiming that, by so doing, they would completely get rid of the evil spirits they had been using to kill people.

“I only managed to crawl into the house and save my antiretroviral drugs before the villagers set it ablaze,” says Adhiambo.

The villagers had barred police officers from taking the bodies to the mortuary, saying that their ‘spirits’ had to burn with the bodies.

A villager (name withheld) who participated in the lynching says the whole village has decided to flush out and kill anyone suspected of being a witch.

To prove that Mr Bonga and his wife were indeed witches, the villager says a large snake slithered out of one the houses when they were torched, but it was stoned to death and pushed back to the burning house.

The lynching of suspected witches has been prevalent in Kisii and Nyamira districts, and now Kisumu seems to have borrowed a leaf.

Apart the suspected witches, those who associate with them or help them also face the same fiery wrath. And the mob variety of justice has extended its firm hand to other “transgressions” as well.

For example, on the morning of March 11, Kokul Village of Nyakach woke up to the foulest of murders. A man aged 72 and his wife had been burnt beyond recognition in their sleep.

Marcus Ong’idi is said to have been set ablaze by fellow villagers who claimed he had been helping members of a rival clan to graze their cattle on his clan’s piece of earth.

The clan, according to one of the victim’s sons George Ochieng, 38, had been embroiled in dispute with the villagers for a long time, with accusations of stock theft flying whenever tempers flared.

Chanting war songs

Ong’idi lived on the border between Nyando and Nyakach with his two sons and his ailing wife, Dorina Nyarang’.

George told our crew that the gang struck at around 8:30pm, chanting war songs as they hurled stones onto the iron roof of their small dwelling.

“They started with our parent’s home, and forced their way into the house where the old man and his wife were sleeping.

“They destroyed everything in the house and set it on fire. We could not rescue them because we feared for our lives,” he says, fighting back tears.

“They destroyed all the property and slashed several calves and a dog before burning the carcasses as well.”

It happened as Ochieng’ watched from a nearby sugarcane farm, where he had scampered to hide from the mob.

“I wanted to come out and rescue them, but I knew too well that they would kill me. I helplessly watched the group, which was composed of more than 20 men.”

And he says he knows most of the attackers. One of them, he says, lives near the home of the victims and was seated outside his house with his family and friends during our visit “to watch as mourners arrived.”

Villagers who arrived to console the family said the feud between Ong’idi and his clan had lasted for several years.

In another incident, three men were lynched by the public in Kasawino village of Kisumu’s Nyamasaria area on suspicion of being robbers.

Property worth hundreds of thousands of shillings was recovered from a house the men are said to have lived in.

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