Tales of witchcraft-engraved Kenyan politics

Some superstitions can drive you over the edge
Some superstitions can drive you over the edge

An

ingrained belief in magic during electioneering period is alive and well in Kenya.

A number of examples abound, some sound so bizarre as to be questionable

but they may well be true.

Fifteen Mombasa and Congo based witch doctors are said to be in dens in Maralal slums to aid opponents of Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal.

“They brought witch doctors to blind and confuse supporters,” the governor said.

An elected Kwale politician says “most” (politicians) seek dark forces and are ready to pay any price.

“With medicine, especially when tongues are incised by witch doctors, we are able to get huge crowds and support.”

Witch doctor Juma in Likoni says he charges Sh15,000 for an MCA and more for other seats.

“This enables us to trace your star and allow the "uncles" to tell us how to help you.”

Juma is dark and bearded, his hair tangled, his nails jagged.

He speaks in a deep voice and stammers as he talks to a reporter at night at Shelly beach.

“These rituals are sensitive. If you don’t appease the gods, you are doomed,” he says.

“We don't always succeed, no matter how hard we try. When that happens, you must step back, cleanse your path and make peace (with the gods).”

Juma says he goes into trances and the spirits speak through him to his clients.

“Afterwards, I am exhausted and I sweat profusely. Only the client knows what the spirits said.”

Witch doctor Mzee Ali in Likoni says; “A Bamburi teacher won a county seat courtesy of our services, believe it or not.”

Another Coast medicine man, who wouldn’t be identified, says he “handles” presidential candidates and visits politicians’ homes at night to “bless” them.

He secretly attends rallies to cast spells. The colours red, white and black are favoured.

Many common witchcraft items can be bought in stores - the spirits make them potent, he said.

They are “immersed" and prayed over.

The sorcerer inscribes a metal ring with a politician’s name, prays and does “secret things.”

It is smeared with perfume to give him an easy ride in office - mystical ‘lion’s oil’ is crucial, he said.

"Child kidnappings, especially of albinos, increase during campaigns as body parts are used for charms and fetch high prices,” said Haki Africa coordinator Francis Auma.

Reports say a former second-term MP rode a crocodile in Zanzibar after visiting a witch doctor in 2013. He lost.

Healer Annette Mutheu in Kisii says homes are “treated”.

A witch doctor goes round the homestead at night, sprinkling blood of slaughtered animals and burying concoctions.

A Nyanza governor was taken to a witch doctor by a wealthy MP and driven to the medicine man’s home in a sleek vehicle.

The governor stripped down to his shorts and a concoction was brewed.

Rituals were performed, he drank a potion, lay on an animal skin and was anointed with oil and sprinkled with herbs.

The witch doctor spoke in tongues.

The politician paid the Sh1 million bill for his friend.

Elsewhere, it's reported a Senate aspirant visited a Tanzanian witch doctor.

He was required to carry a python around his neck and drink a concoction. Afterwards, he was given a charm for campaigning.

Coastal shrines and caves are favoured, especially in Mwembe Tayari and Kongowea.

Politicians kneel and cover their heads with black cloth; they are surrounded by smoke and rituals are performed.

Their tongues and bodies may be incised in some occasions.

Mzee Mohamed Akida, 68, a healthcare practitioner and chairman of the Herbalist Society of Kenya, says no one is hurt with their magic.

Tongue incisions are discouraged due to transmission of disease.

“The spirits direct you,” says the seer with dark, wrinkled skin and a deep voice.

He speaks slowly and trembles. Anything can become a charm, like crushed leaves that politicians carry in plastic pouches and tie around their waists.

Women aspirants wear them around their necks.

Mwangaluche, papai dume and mrehani leaves are often crushed and mixed.

“One becomes lovable when they carry these charms at political events,” Mzee Akida said.

Sometimes, charms are buried at a politician’s home.

He says perfume is used while the Koran is quoted. Different spirits prefer different perfumes.

Metal rings are engraved with names, enchanted and worn by politicians.

Tigania East MP Mpuru Aburi created an uproar in February when he told a crowd that witch doctor Kaana na Njoka would help Senator Kiraitu Murungi win elections.

Kiraitu is vying for the Meru governor seat against incumbent Peter Munya.

Aburi introduced the witch doctor as Mugambi Barongo James.

“I am equipped with poison. When you get close to Aburi, I can bite you and you will not survive … my pockets are full of charms,” the supposed witch doctor said.

Later, everyone said it was all a bad joke, the witch doctor said he was misunderstood. Kiraitu disowned him.