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Witchcraft holds out against modern age

Sunday April 18 2010

Lynching of people suspected to be witches is common in some parts of the country. In Kisii, officers from Nyamira Police Station arrived too late to save a woman who was killed at Kiabiraa Village of Nyamira North District in March. Photo/HENRY NYARORA

Lynching of people suspected to be witches is common in some parts of the country. In Kisii, officers from Nyamira Police Station arrived too late to save a woman who was killed at Kiabiraa Village of Nyamira North District in March. Photo/HENRY NYARORA 

By JULIUS SIGEI and GEOFFREY RONO

The practice of witchcraft persists even in communities that have made the transition to a modern society.

Referred to as “black magic”, “juju” or “evil art”, witchcraft is defined as the wicked use of supernatural powers. It is also described as using sorcery with malevolent intent.

Religious authorities are now increasingly acknowledging its existence.

According to Mr Michael Katola, a theology lecturer at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, witchcraft is real and is destroying the Church.

“It is not superstition. Many communities in Kenya know these powers exist,” Mr Katola says in the website Catholic Online.

He says the Church continues to dismiss witchcraft as mere superstition, unwittingly advancing it.

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“Christians who suffer because of witchcraft are often dismissed by priests as superstitious. And because they do not get help there, they seek out witch doctors or join the mushrooming evangelical denominations offering healing and deliverance,” he says.

Sister Bibiana Munini says that Christians consult diviners and magicians because the Church does not pay much attention to integral healing.

She says if the Church continues turning a blind eye, it would lose to the devil.

Pastor James Akula of the Deliverance Church says witchcraft casts doubt on success.

“Success is looked at with suspicion,” he says.

New breed

Pastor Akula says a new breed of witches and wizards has invaded the church. “They move around with Bibles, ostensibly praying for people but they do not open them.

“This has brought a lot of confusion to the Church because they come in the name of Christ,” he said, adding: “Some pastors indeed practice witchcraft.”

Mr Samuel Kipsang, a postgraduate student of theology said the existence of witchcraft is backed by the Old and New Testament. He quotes from Samuel 28: 6-19 where King Saul disguised himself, visited a witch and beseeched her to bring him Saul’s spirit.

“Demons are used by Satan and Christians should not be filled by their spirit,” he said.

Some people, however, do not believe witchcraft exists.

Mr Joseph Mutai, a teacher, said it only exists in people’s minds.

“It was meant to instill fear so that people would refrain from doing bad things,” he said, adding that it was impossible to convince people who believe in witchcraft that it does not exist.

Among the Kipsigis, a sub tribe of the Kalenjins, certain families and clans are known to practice witchcraft.

“Women from families known to be witches rarely get married,” says Mrs Martha Tanui, a teacher in Sotik.

Ms Edna Chepwogen, a clinical officer at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet says she has seen patients who were operated on to remove stones and metal objects believed to have been put there by witches.

“How they get in, I don’t know, but I think witchcraft is for real.”