Horror of Kenya’s ‘witch’ lynchings
Villagers, many straight from their farms, and armed with machetes, sticks and axes, are shouting and crowding round in a big group in Kenya’s fertile Kisii district.
I can’t see clearly what is going on, but heavy smoke is rising from the ground and a horrible stench fills the air.
More people are streaming up the hill, some of them with firewood and maize stalks.
Suddenly an old woman breaks from the crowd, screaming for mercy. Three or four people go after her, beat her and drag her back, pushing her onto – what I can now see – is a raging fire.
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.
I had been visiting relatives in a nearby town, when I heard what was happening. I dashed to the scene, accompanied by a village elder.
He reacted as if what we were watching was quite normal, which was shocking for me.
As a stranger I felt I had no choice but to stand by and watch. My fear was that if I showed any sign of disapproval, or made any false move, the angry mob could turn on me.