This article is from about five years ago, but it just got re-posted on Reddit and it’s the first time I saw it … so I’m sharing the love. This specific article is about the village of Nyamataro in the district of Kisii. Apparently five people had been accused of witchcraft in this predominately Christian region of the country, and were taken, beaten with sticks or machetes, and then set alight in a ditch along with some kindling to burn to death.
There’s a video in the first link above. It’s about as horrific as you’d think, as are some of the photos on the front page. Click at your own risk; this shit is NSFL (not safe for life).
Looking at the article and the rather obscure name of the website, I thought I would look for some additional information – maybe from BBC or the like, just to make sure the story was legit.
Ah. Here we go. “‘Witches’ burnt to death in Kenya”:
Eleven elderly people accused of being witches have been burned to death by a mob in the west of Kenya, police say. A security operation has been launched to hunt down villagers suspected of killing them in Kisii District.
Anthony Kibunguchy, the provincial police officer, told the BBC that the eight women and three men were all aged between 80 and 96 years old. The mob dragged them out of their houses and burned them individually and then set their homes alight, our correspondent says.
Wait, the numbers are off. One article says five, and this one says eleven. What gives? Oh, that’s because it’s a different group of people being burned alive for witchcraft in the same district. This is the town of Nyanza, not Nyamataro. Silly me. Little did I know that pulling this sort of shit is what you do when you live in this part of Kenya.
I was witnessing a horrific practice which appears to be on the increase in Kenya – the lynching of people accused of being witches. I personally saw the burning alive of five elderly men and women in Itii village. [OH HEY ANOTHER VILLAGE.] Village youths who took part in the killings told me that the five victims had to die because they had bewitched a young boy.
“Of course some people have been burned. But there is proof of witchcraft,” said one youth. “We are very angry and that’s why we end up punishing these people and even killing them.”
His friend agreed: “In other communities, there are witches all round but in Kisii we have come up with a new method, we want to kill these people using our own hands.”
I later discovered that the young boy who had supposedly been bewitched, was suffering from epilepsy.
That sounds about right. It also sounds familiar, back a few hundred years in this country when any sort of accusation of witchcraft would translate to a death sentence with only a cursory glance at something resembling due process (i.e. “how quickly can we assemble a mob?”) But, as with modern day Kisii, the belief in Satan, witchcraft, and the supernatural in the context of Christianity is alive and well, so the collective hysteria and their response to it seems, to them, perfectly reasonable in the absence of any better understanding of the natural world.
Back in January I wrote about an editorial cartoon portraying Islam as a heavy bomb held up by moderates, and being lit by extremists. Whether you agree with the image or not, I put forth the idea that while Islam is dangerous in some parts of the world, it is in my opinion a result of where it’s managed to take hold, as opposed to of any sort of ideas or characteristic unique to the doctrines or holy book itself.
What I’m reading about Kenya seems to back this up. Their Christian faith combined with their superstition, belief in the supernatural, and absence of any effective secular rule of law allow these murders to happen essentially unchecked. In their minds, they’re only obeying God’s word on something that is all too real in their minds: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”