The scene played out like a straight-up black comedy. Right in the middle of the street on a busy weekday morning, two men stripped naked and started acting all crazy. The crowd watched in disbelief for hours as one man had a snake around his neck and seemed to be unable to remove it from his neck. The scene got even more grotesque as the men started sharing a bottle of their own urine and finally somebody figured out why they were stark raving mad.
“Hawa ni wezi wa gari wamerogwa na mganga wakue wazimu hadi mganga na mwenye gari waje.”
Translation of this statement is,
“These two are car thieves and have been cursed by a witch doctor to go mad until the witch doctor and the car owner show up”.
The above events took place in Mombasa, Kenya on 6th September 2017. However, it was later revealed to be a fake plot planned by a local witch doctor so as to boost sales and gain popularity. Before the exposure however, Kenyans had bought the story hook, line and sinker because this was not the first time black magic had been used to return stolen property.
After the 2007 Kenyan elections, looting was rampant amidst the chaos and when the dust settled, a story gained national news status because of the powerful charm used by a witch doctor to salvage his client’s looted property. People walked into the business premises carrying what they had stolen, tears rolling down their eyes and in apparent agonizing pain. They all had the same story, they had not relieved their bladders and bowels ever since they took the property and after three days went by and the doctors had no answer, they went home. On the fifth day, news traveled fast that the businessman would lift the curse on all those who took his property. One by one people showed up grateful that finally they would be out of their misery. After millions worth of property was returned, the poor souls were released from their pain. These events also took place in Mombasa City.
Black magic in Kenya is something that is often talked about and it has its fair share of firm believers and reasonable skeptics. However, even the ones who do not believe in its existence usually accept that the events they witnessed were so bizarre they could only be explained as the work of a powerful witchdoctor.
The Eastern Province of Kenya is home to Kitui and Machakos counties. From this region hails some of the best stories involving witch craft. Infidelity for the most part is sorted out through arguments and counseling sessions for normal folk. In Nairobi, scores and scores of women share stories on some strange things they do for the witch doctors to ensure that the charms against their cheating husbands work. There has been a high number of women sharing their stories of how they even has sexual intercourse with the witch doctor as it was part of the ritual so that the charm against their husbands would be effective. They are not the village women as you may expect, but well educated women with great careers and immense wealth.
Whenever black magic is mentioned, we generally picture some Hollywood type chant and bubbling potions but in the true sense most of the rituals are rather simple and the most that can be done is the spilling of chicken or goat blood. However, this is just when it comes to the daily small requests like good luck charms, infidelity issues and love potions.
Witchcraft can go really dark, becoming a scary story that even the creators of Saw movies would be afraid of a person capable of such atrocities. In Tanzania and Malawi, albinism is viewed as a source of income for witchdoctors. With myths such as an albino contains gold and their body parts are good luck charms, only 2% of albinos in this country live to see their 40th birthday (http://metro.co.uk/2017/02/20/witch-doctors-are-harvesting-albinos-body-parts-for-medicine-6460173/). Albinos have been mutilated, murdered and their bodies ‘harvested’ for parts so that the witch doctors could use these parts to make luck charms for their clients. Despite lessons trying to educate the people of their fallacious thinking, the practice has not died down at all. The bodies are now carefully buried so that the cases go unsolved and the witch doctors never pay for their crime.
Black magic is generally frowned upon in Africa but there is always some form of double standard concerning its use. When the curse is directed towards a person who is perceived as evil, the end justifies the means. If it used for monetary gain at the expense of someone else’s life, the witch doctor responsible will be lynched by the mob and no one will come to his or her aid. There have been extreme cases where just being accused of being a witch doctor gets people beaten senseless or even killed. In Kenya’s Kisii County, an old woman was lynched by the mob when she was accused of being a witch and when her grandson tried to mediate he was also lynched and called a witch doctor. This sheds light on the love-hate relationship that Africans have with black magic.
In the pursuit of love, good luck or success, witch doctors are a necessary tool in the achievement of these intended goals. Kenyan politicians are known to visit renowned Tanzanian witch doctors for charms to win the electoral seats that they are vying for. This is the norm every election year and has even stopped being a shock. However, witch doctors are only popular in the gray areas. Once the line is crossed and tragedy befalls a community, they are ostracized and punished for their actions. It is only fair to note that black magic is only practiced by marginally few witch doctors. Most are just traditional herbalists who provide medicine for the poor members of the community who have no means of accessing a conventional hospital to obtain the treatment they need.