Politicians seek services of witchdoctors

It is that time of the year again when politicians angling for various elective posts are seeking the services of witchdoctors.

Only last week, Tigania East Member of Parliament Aburi Mpuri went public with claims that Meru County Senator Kiraitu Murungi will clinch the gubernatorial seat, courtesy of assistance from charms.

Mpuri may have made just a casual observation, alternatively he may have implied that Mr Kiraitu will mysteriously emerge victor at the ballot, but one cannot rule out the persuasion of candidates for the gubernatorial seat in Meru to use traditional charm to win over voters.

The use of witchdoctors is as old as independent Kenya’s democracy and cases of the same have been reported in virtually all parts of the country during the electioneering period.

But it is the dramatic death of newly-elected Yatta MP James Mutiso in May 2003 that perhaps brought to the fore the connection between politics and witchcraft in Kenya.

The MP and two other occupants in his car drowned when their vehicle was swept away by flash floods at Mbakoni River just a few hours after hosting a grand party to celebrate his victory.

Among those who died were his driver and a woman — a suspected witchdoctor. Police said they recovered “weird looking” suspected witchcraft paraphernalia at the accident scene concealed in a bag. The woman’s presence in the MP’s car heightened suspicion among Mutiso’s opponents that she might have been instrumental in his election.

Earlier, in one of the highly publicised witchcraft election petitions in the country, former Cabinet minister Musikari Kombo lost his Webuye parliamentary seat in November 1994 after a three-judge bench found him guilty of an election offence for engaging in witchcraft practices.


The former Ford-Kenya party boss was accused of hiring two witchdoctors to administer a traditional oath on voters, referred to in the local Bukusu dialect as khulia silulu (literally meaning “to eat the bitter thing”).

Detailed accounts of the bizarre and dramatic manner in which khulia silulu was allegedly administered left audiences in the courtroom in stitches.

Thirteen years earlier in the neighbouring Busia County, a man in Busia South constituency (present day Budalang’i constituency) is said to have gone mad and died after a local oath, referred to in the Bunyala dialect as nakhabuka, was allegedly administered in his compound in 1979.

These allegations were made public in April 1981 at the hearing of a petition against the then Livestock Development minister, James Nakhwanga Osogo, in a case filed by a voter, Nicholas Okada. The nakhabuka oath was allegedly administered by Osogo’s brother, Samuel. Mr Osogo denied knowledge of the oath and responsibility for the death of Okuku Obara, who was believably overwhelmed and strangled by the spirits of nakhabuka.

These are just but a few selected instances of witchcraft believably practised by the political class. So rampant are the cases that in July last year, members of the clergy went public about it.

The Evangelical Bishops and Pastors led by Deliverance Church head televangelist Rev Mark Kariuki warned politicians against use of witchdoctors in the General Election.

They claimed some politicians went as far as South Africa, West Africa and Tanzania to look for mystic powers to win polls.

“This time round, their snakes will die before reaching Kenya,” said Kariuki.

In the latest incident, Mr Mpuri may be angling for a local witchdoctor to help Mr Kiraitu achieve his political dream. This may well be empty political rhetoric to scare opponents that their challenger has support from some “supernatural source”.

We were unable, however, to establish from Mr Kiraitu or Mr Mpuri whether the witchdoctor talk was real or just a political teaser.

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