One evening in March 2014, 67-year-old Samwel Nyiro was attacked at his home in Ngerenya village, Kilifi County. Before his neighbours could respond to hi distress call, the assailants had fled.
“I remember it was at around 10 pm when my door was flung open and three people armed with pangas and other crude weapons descended on me. They slashed me on the head, leaving me severely injured," he said, showing scars on his head.
He was later rushed to Kilifi County Hospital. After being discharged, he was told to find accommodation nearby so that he could have his dressings changed, so stayed with his brother for a while.
About a month later, he returned home. But his stay at home was short-lived after he learnt that some people were planning to kill him.
“Back in the village, people began speculating that I was a sorcerer, and that I must be killed for the village to have peace. I could not wait for certain death since I was convinced that I would be killed. I came to this rescue centre after a villager told me about it," he told the Nation at Kaya Godhoma, a rescue centre for the elderly.
He said he suspects that his cousins, who want a share of a 12-acre parcel of land, are behind his problems.
Duni Nzai Mseche, 85, another man, had to flee from his wife's funeral in 2014 after a group of youths accosted him, accusing him of having bewitched her. He fled to the Vitengeni Chief's camp in the dead of night and only returned for her burial the next morning.
“My wife died of heart problems at the Kilifi County Hospital in 2014. She had been ailing for some time, and I had sold two acres of my 12-acre piece of land for her treatment.” he said.
Meanwhile, Kahindi Ngoka, 84, came to the centre seven years ago after running away from his home in Tsangalweni, Ganze. His wife and one of his children accused him of being a sorcerer, and that he be killed, so he fled to the centre.
But before he fled , he asked his son to go and call a witch buster from Kwale County.
“After a session with the man, it turned out that it was his wife who was a witch.
His wife returned to her paternal home for seven years and then came back.
“When my wife returned, she again started claiming that I was a wizard. They planned to kill me one night but someone tipped me off and I fled and sought refuge at the Ganze district office.
The following day, I someone put me in touch connected with the late Mangi Mitsanze, who used to run this centre,” he said.
Mzee Ngoka is worried beacause his wife and children are selling off his 10-acre pacel of land. “If they don’t like me, why are they selling my land? I am very bitter.
They have sold almost the entire parcel, why?” he asked before breaking down in tears. These three are among the lucky elderly who survived after being accused of engaging in witchcraft. Many have not been so lucky.
In 2014 alone, 108 elderly were killed and by the end of November 2015, 104 had been killed on suspicion that they engaged in witchcraft. Last week, Ganze MP Teddy Mwambire visited the centre and brought them traditional mats and bedding to protect them from cold nights.
“For a long time, Ganze has been in leading in the killing of the elderly people and we have since established that some of the problems are connected to family and land disputes.
We want to have the centre fully operational, and that is why we have brought these people some food and bedding. I admit we have a problem , and the county security team also needs to address the issue,” said the legislator.