Ganze MP urges protection of local healers

Ganze MP Teddy Mwambire speaks at the Coast Youth Symposium on Peace and Security on Monday/ERNEST CORNEL
Ganze MP Teddy Mwambire speaks at the Coast Youth Symposium on Peace and Security on Monday/ERNEST CORNEL

An MP has called for the protection of traditional healers in Kilifi county, warning that they could be eliminated.

Ganze MP Teddy Mwambire expressed his worry at the rate in which lynch mobs attack the healers, saying it was ‘getting out of hand’.

He called for protection of the ‘doctors’ through amendment of Witchcraft Act.

According to the law, any person who holds himself out as a witchdoctor and is able to cause fear, annoyance or injury to another is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

Speaking on Monday at Mnarani Club when he presided over the closing ceremony of a two-day Coast Youth Symposium, Mwambire said he will introduce amendments to the law to stop the killings.

The MP wants those behind the killings prosecuted.

The lawmaker has set up a rescue centre at Kaya Godhoma in Vitengeni where the ‘doctors’ are housed, clothed, fed and protected from ‘possible attacks.

“Ignorance is to blame for the rampant killing of the elderly in our society. People associate advanced age with witchcraft, a trend that has seen hundreds murdered,” Mwambire said.

The MP said Kisii ‘doctors’ have also suffered the same fate as those from Kilifi.

“We must cushion the elderly from such retrogressive and severe acts from the public,” he said.

Mwambire called on youth from the Coast to preach peace and reconciliation saying they are in a position to bring an end to the killings.

He said the ‘doctors’ are a walking target yet they offer commendable services to the community.

Mwambire said the healers are often consulted when there is a disaster and offer important advice.

At the Coast, they are most sought-after during the electioneering season.

Politicians determined to ensure victory at the polls offer the ‘doctors’ huge sums of money believing that this would capture voters’ hearts, repel adversaries and competition on their way to clinching power.

However, some ‘doctors’ have been accused of causing the death of innocent residents.

The Witchcraft Act says a person who accuses another of being a witch shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding Sh500,000.

According to police records, at least 20 elderly persons from Kilifi are killed every month on claims that they are practicing witchcraft.

Those aged above 65 years are said to be the most targeted by those opposed to the practice.

Some elders in Kwale and Kilifi counties have also been wrongly linked to witchcraft leading to their killing.

Back in 2014 when Mwambire was deputy speaker at the assembly, he proposed that ‘doctors’ be vetted and only genuine ones be given a licence.

Mwambire said the licensing would bring to an end the killings of many elderly people mistaken to be practising witchcraft.

In July, over 80 Italian tourists flocked to Magarini constituency in Kilifi to seek the services of Mijikenda witch doctors.

Most of them came for treatment of chronic diseases and to know the sources of their problems.

The tourists who were members of a yoga and herbalist group in Venice visited a cultural centre in the area and paid for their healing and knowledge of the Mijikenda culture.

Tsuma Nzai, the director at the centre, said there are more than 3,000 traditional doctors in Kilifi.