Elliot P. Skinner it was who intoned “
Superstition, poverty and ignorance accounts for why, many decades after many societies have progressed, the African life is still loaded with primitive passions and preliterate conditions. Kenyans and Nigerians recently demonstrated their primitiveness. On April 22, 2008, the Reuters news service reported that the Kenyan Police “jailed 19 people suspected of burning to death 11 elderly Kenyan men and women accused of being witches in a case that has horrified the east African nation…A mob in the Kisii area of west Kenya went from house-to-house identifying people on a list and burning them to death in their homes.” In a similar incident in 1983, “eight elderly people from Kisii were also accused of witchcraft and burned to death in their huts by a mob.”
Responding to the dastardly event in
A month after the sad and regrettable event in
There are several interpretations of witchcraft. Used in different context in different societies and in different era, it could mean a number of things. In general however, witchcraft is associated with the supernatural, with magic and with evil deeds. There are historical testaments of witchcraft in all societies, one of the most famous being the Salem Witch Trials in
Amongst the Ijaw ethnic group, the cost and implication of witchery are expensive. For instance, the so-called witches are generally never accorded the dignity of land burial as their remains are usually thrown into the river. It is therefore not uncommon to find corpses floating in the rivers and waterways of the Ijaw Nation. The children and immediate family members of the accused also suffer public ridicule and suspicion; they may be maligned, shunned and disassociated from village events. To be thought of as the child of a witch carries heavy penalty. The villagers may wonder if (even you) have been “infected and afflicted” and have the power to do them in.
Belief in witchcraft and all such phenomenon is a product of deep-seated fear, ignorance, backwardness, illiteracy of the mind, gullibility, self-loathe and an inability or refusal to take responsibility for ones stupidity, failings and shortcomings. The rest of Nigeria is not different in this regard: if your car malfunctions, you blame the witch; if you have heart attack or stroke or other medical conditions, you blame your father’s second or third wife; if you do poorly in school or if you are denied admission to the school of your choice, you blame the woman down the road. Witches are to be blamed for everything!
According to Tracy McVeigh of the Guardian (UK), “Evangelical pastors are helping to create a terrible new campaign of violence against young Nigerians. Children and babies branded as evil are being abused, abandoned and even murdered while the preachers make money out of the fear of their parents and their communities.” Indeed, pastors have now taken the leading role in pointing accusatory fingers at the innocent. The white-garment Churches are especially notorious for these. One wonder how many men and women — especially women — have been accused of evil, and who forever lived a lonely and dejected life? Even in death, they are slandered. For generation thereafter, their children and grandchildren may even suffer from such lies and hate.
There are several ironies to the belief in witchcraft; one being that even among the western educated Africans, there is a widespread belief in the omnipresence and omnipotence of witches. There are Africans, who, even with advanced degrees in science and technology and with residence in the
What happened in Kisii (