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Elderly targeted in Kwale villages over witchcraft claims

Wednesday October 10 2018

Kilifi County Kaya Council of Elders

Kilifi County Kaya Council of Elders in a ritual to appease the dead at Kaya Kauma. They convened a meeting to discuss the brutal killing of elders by their close relatives over witchcraft claims. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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There is an outcry in rural villages in Kwale County following increased attacks targeting elderly people over witchcraft claims.

Kinango security and peace committee chairman, Harrison Nyawa says there has been an increase in allegations of witchcraft in parts of Kinango and Lunga Lunga sub-counties with penalties including violence and execution.

"Accusations of witchcraft in Kinango have increased and have gained attention because of the severe impact they can have on the lives of those accused. These include deprivation of property, banishment from villages and in some cases physical violence and deaths," he said adding that those affected are the elderly.


"Two days ago, an old woman in Gandini village, Kinango Sub-County was lynched by unknown people on grounds of practising witchcraft," he said.

He said that the bloodbath is the latest in region and awakens ugly memories of tens of elderly people lynched on suspicion of practicing witchcraft.


However, authorities link witchcraft accusations to wrangles within families fuelled by land and property inheritance.

Msambweni Deputy County Commissioner Ronald Enyakasi, said there are many instances in which the elderly are accused of witchcraft in an attempt by the youngsters to inherit property and land.

"Elderly are at risk because their removal can expedite accuser's access to property," he said, adding that this has led to family break ups.


He said people with vested interests in land and property target elderly people who are too weak to defend themselves.

“Assailants usually target the elderly to forcibly acquire their land and property," he said, adding that most accusers are driven by greed and possible want to inherit their parents properties.

He said persecution of accused witches persist in poor settings in part because witchcraft can be used in communities without access to modern medicine and science to explain seemingly inexplicable instances of death and misfortune.

Mr Nyawa said the belief in witchcraft is not an issue but transformation of belief into accusations and subsequent harm is not right.

"The accusation should not continue to criminalise individuals into death traps and family break-ups," he said.