Are witchdoctors breaking the law in helping catch criminals? (Feature)

It is a warm and humid afternoon. Hundreds of locals are gathered outside a boarding house chatting animatedly while huddled into small groupings. They are discussing a ‘couple’ who allegedly got entangled while engaging in an illicit love affair.

Two stern faced security guards armed with batons are overzealously restraining the surging crowd curious to catch a glimpse of the alleged spectacle.Suddenly, a deep silence descends on the crowd when police arrive to disperse the now agitated mob.

A shabbily dressed woman arrives at the scene wailing while cursing and triumphantly declares that her charms have ‘trapped’ the illicit lover who wrecked her marriage.She is shouting obscenities and acrimonious remarks at the alleged husband snatcher oblivious that the victim is actually her younger sister.

This scenario was replicated a few weeks ago at Nakuru’s Tanners estate in an incident that evoked mixed reactions.Among the majority in the crowd, there was widespread belief that witchcraft was the cause of the ill-fated couple’s predicament.

However a medical doctor dismissed it as absolute nonsense explaining that the condition is a rare medical occurrence when muscles in the woman clamp much more firmly than usual on the man leading to entanglement.

For a few self-professed religious ones the proverbial forty days of a thief had caught up with the amorous couple. Indeed self-proclaimed witch doctors have become unusually bold and openly declare gleefully that they are the architects of such scenarios. Many have confessed to having the ability to harness powers of nature and influence such events by remote control.

The Tanners incident was not bereft of comical relief as a self-styled witch doctor crawled out of the woodworks and triumphantly declared that she was behind the couple’s woos before shamelessly and publicly setting out monetary terms to separate the duo.

Numerous cases of self-proclaimed witchdoctors purporting to harness powers of nature in remotely smoking out criminals and alleged illicit lovers have gripped Kenyans imaginations.

The big question is, why are such self-confessed witch doctors not arrested? What are the rights as enshrined in the country’s statutes of alleged ‘victims’ of these witch doctors? Is witch craft an offence in Kenya?

Various professionals and law enforcement agencies have varied and conflicting opinion on whether self-confessed witchdoctors are engaging in criminally liable activities.Legal experts assert you can actually file a petition in the High Court against any individual who confesses to deploying powers of witchcraft to entangle cheating couples.

Nakuru based lawyer Gordon Ogola maintains that aggrieved parties, in this instance, the entangled couples are protected by the constitution which guarantees rights to privacy and association.Witchcraft is repugnant to morality, it is anti-religion. Police should move swiftly and arrest these characters who openly confess to deploying mystical powers to catch criminals.

The Criminal Procedure Code provides that such a confession must be recorded before a magistrate or a police officer of a rank of Chief Inspector and above for it to be admissible as evidence before court.

So common is the belief that witch doctors have mystical powers to entangle cheating couples that they have developed thick skin and apparent disdain for law.Consequently they are openly advertising their services complete with their physical addresses and phone numbers, cleverly employing exaggerations, fear, falsehoods, suspicion and irrationality to win prospective clients.

Curiously the smitten woman in Tanners incident openly bragged that she had forked out a stunning ksh.40, 000 to the witchdoctor, quite a handsome amount for an average woman residing in the sprawling slums to secure the services.

Though belief in witchcraft may be gradually fading amongst Kenyan communities that had strong faith in its potency, many still hold that it exists despite the debate and controversies surrounding it.

Lawyer Ogola says the practice is nurtured by the inherent belief indirectly, directly or remotely of human beings in supernatural powers. Aggrieved individuals should be encouraged to seek legal redress for being subjected to public ridicule and embarrassment. They should file a petition against infringement of their rights. Entangled couples have not committed any criminal offence, nevertheless adultery is a sin and morally unacceptable, he says.

The counsel explains that the only way that adultery can be cited before law courts is when it’s used as a ground for divorce or separation. He observes prosecution of self-confessed witchdoctors is complicated by societal attitudes that hold mystical powers in awe.

Because of fear of repercussions, potential witnesses who directly perceive, hear or see the witchdoctor in action, chicken out and are not willing to testify in courts. Under the Penal Code witchcraft is an offence and in civil matters it becomes actionable as it interferes with social wellbeing of others.

In an apparent and thinly veiled defence of self-professed witchdoctors engaging in ‘compassionate’ activities of helping out victims of crime, Nakuru East Deputy County Commissioner Omar Salat is categorical that no criminal charges should be preferred against them.

The administrator unprecedentedly maintains that witchdoctors who are said to smoke out cheating couples should be viewed as allies in fight against crime.

To me adultery is an offence. It is socially unacceptable and a sin in the eyes of God. Anybody who helps the society forestall such abominable behavior should be given a leeway, said the administrator.

He continues: Although my sentiments should not be misconstrued to be in support of dark powers, if at all the said witchdoctor has helped unravel morally untenable activities, then he should not be subjected to statutes that outlaw the practice because he has not harmed or caused death to anyone.

Salat maintains that the witchcraft Act should be adhered to the letter but in such a situation interests of victims of infidelity should prevail. Infidelity is wrought with a myriad of dangers ranging from diseases, broken marriages, neglected families, insecurity and emotional distress. Surely any individual out to avert such is a valuable ally to any society.

He however cautions that the line between benevolent deployment of the practice and its vindictive use must never be blurred.When the so called witchdoctor is engaged in acts of injuring others, causing mayhem and destruction of property he is in violation of The Witchcraft Act Chapter 67 and must be subjected to the punitive legal process.

Police are of the opinion that their hands are tied by failure of potential witnesses to record statements and testify in courts against self-professed witchdoctors.

Nakuru OCPD Joshua Omukata explains that entangled couples do not commit any cognizable offence in the Penal Code unless the act involves minors, mentally challenged persons or partners proven to have been unwilling participants. Our Penal Code expressly outlaws witchcraft. When a person confesses to being the architect of entangling couples, the criminal procedure code demands that police parade before court a witness to corroborate the confession, he notes.

He says as much as police are willing to initiate arrests and effect prosecutions of self-confessed witchdoctors the cases remain stillborn as the society apparently attaches itself to activities of such characters.

To the Muslim clergy any form of witchcraft, use of charms and dark powers is unacceptable activity punishable by death sentence.

The chairman to Council of Imams Nakuru, Abdulraham Nasib observed that self-confessed witchdoctors have taken advantage of deteriorating social order and breakdown of moral fabric to conduct their act with disdain for law and impunity to God’s teachings.

Islamic religion indeed acknowledges existence of witchcraft. Nevertheless it strongly disallows the same. There is a very casual approach in our current society in adhering to moral standards.

The Imam says the general public which is no longer pious and averse to minimally acceptable norms offers some sorts of protection to self-confessed witches and they know it.

He says the sanctity of marriage is at a risk as evidenced by disenchanted couples engaging services of witchdoctors. He warns that the contemporary society will continue to witness such shenanigans as it has lost respect, trust and commitment to marital fidelity.

A Lay leader at World Overcomers Ministries Reverend Charles Amwayi Ahindi concurs that witchcraft is as old as humanity and its use in modern times should not be taken as something alien. He is of the opinion that the society is turning to the practice due to failure of the church and its clergy in imparting morals and giving guidance.

Even in the Bible influential personalities hired witchdoctors to do their bidding. The Bible documents accounts of witchdoctors like Balaam, Barjesus, and Simon who were used by malicious characters to cast evil spells on innocent people.

Historically he says, people resort to witchcraft to manipulate or dominate others in the belief that it’s a quick fix to their problems. The lay leader says as much as the church frowns against adultery, it is equally wrong to secure services of a witchdoctor in cases of cheating couples.

In essence this is a couple that does not need a witchdoctor. His/her intervention only worsens the situation. In the worldly realm these witchdoctors are criminals and extortionists who are out to distort the social wellbeing of others. I encourage couples to have faith and commitment to their nuptial vows and seek advice from experienced counsellors whenever they run into headwinds.

In a research paper titled The Impact of witchcraft on the Friends Church in Lugari- Western Kenya Elly Kigunyi Lugwili observes that it is inappropriate to engage services of witchdoctors and a sin, as the practice offends God.

Witchcraft relies on material strength (Micah 5:2-5). God’s attitude towards witchcraft is that it has a defiling effect on His people. The Old Testament is clear that God hates sin of divination, sorcery, witchcraft and magic. These are acts of defiance towards his authority and sovereign rule, Lugwili says.

He states that the society has to make deliberate steps to disassociate itself from dark powers and its practitioners.

God’s attitude and response is stated in Exodus 22:18. Do not allow sorcerers to live among you. For those who practice all these offence to the Lord contaminates themselves. The act of following other mediums and spiritists and leaving the true God is itself a rebellion, he adds.

John Ashono Shatsala, a retired secondary school teacher holds that there is nothing illegal about practicing witchcraft maintaining that supernatural and mysterious potent powers of witchcraft are real.

It is possible to use witchcraft to entangle illicit lovers. Witchcraft deployed in such a manner is beneficial to the society. Characters against witchcraft are out of touch with reality and drowned in useless foreign and impotent concepts.

He says statutes outlawing witchcraft were malicious creations of wazungus in the colonial era. Anything to do with a black man was considered evil, annihilated and set aside, the negative perception of witchcraft is a foreign creation consequently we are seeing the breakdown of the moral fabric as exemplified by the increasing number of unfaithful couples.

A village elder in Kaptembwa Joash Otundo Obare concurs that the practice of employing witchcraft to dissuade potential cheating spouses should be promoted and must never be outlawed.

He adds there is nothing criminal about it and the activity should be protected and viewed as a creative African innovation.

Obare questions: We have seen so many white missionaries and evangelists come to Kenya and perform miracles such as healing the sick, making the blind see, and the deaf hear which they always refer to elatedly as God’s power to mankind. But when a rural African performs the same you dismiss it as witchcraft.

Source: Kenya News Agency