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Looming unemployment in Kenya’s witchcraft sector

By Mike Mswati and Nanjinia Wamuswa | Monday, Apr 10th 2017 at 09:58
Compared to other East and Central African countries, the country will soon face rampant unemployment in the dark arts sector. We investigate and reveal why Tanzania witchdoctors seem to be doing better than their counterparts in the region

Are you an aspiring Kenyan witchdoctor or even an established one? Well, you have every reason to be worried. Following our investigations and conversations with industry players, sociologists, anthropologists and locals who consult witches, Crazy Monday has discovered there is a sharp decline in the number of people enlisting the services of witchdoctors in Kenya, compared to other countries in the region.

Except for this election year when more politicians are reported to be seeking and paying top dollar for the services of witches, more and more Kenyans have either become more religious, better educated or have discovered witchcraft doesn’t provide surefire solutions to their problems, after all.

Same, however, can’t be said of our East African brothers and sisters where there is booming business in the witchcraft sector. The ‘Pew Research Center’ has just released one of the biggest ever studies on attitudes to religion and morality in Africa, which has revealed a host of interesting facts.

According to the research carried out in 27 African countries, Tanzania is a leader of sorts with over 80 per cent of its population listed as firm believers in witchcraft. Less than 50 per cent, however, of those interviewed confessed of having consulted witch doctors for this or that problem.

The ‘traditional healers’ strongly believe magic potions are more effective if they contain body parts of people with albinism. Kenya, shockingly, scored only 20 per cent, which could suggest that there is rampant unemployment in Kenya’s witchcraft sector.

So popular are Tanzanian witch doctors that when you move across East, Central and Southern Africa, they are the highest exporters of witchcraft, with many of their witch doctors scattered all over the region.

But with bad business in some countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda (which scored the least with only five per cent of its population practicing the dark arts), Tanzanian witches have had to pack and go back to their home country.

This has now forced some Africans to even fly or brave the days-long journey by road to consult witches in Tanzania and in the surrounding islands such as Zanzibar and Pemba.

An albino was recently having dinner at around eight in the night when he heard a cry for help outside his house and rushed out to investigate. Outside, he met three men who held him down and quickly chopped off his leg and ran off with the limb, leaving him bleeding and in pain. That is how bad the Tanzanian witch doctors need albino body parts.

Some Tanzanians interviewed in the research we used to do comparative analysis while compiling this report strongly believe their witches are so good, that they have magical powers that can make a victim die, disappear or change their shape into animals, say goats. A lion isn’t so bad but a bleating goat?

Anyway, following the attack on albinos, the Tanzania government launched a crackdown on witch doctors and the BBC reports that so intense was the heat most of them fled to Uganda. In Uganda, they found a culture more open to their practices.

Some Tanzanian witches openly advertise on Ugandan radio stations to attract wealthy customers. Like many African countries with such deep-rooted cultural practices, the Tanzanian witch doctors have become the doctors for every kind of diseases.

Not surprisingly, child sacrifice in Uganda has risen by 800 per cent, according to the BBC. One expert, Ugandan witch doctor Uri Mabiriizi, says the influx of Tanzanian witch doctors is fostering kidnappings and ritual killing of children in Uganda.

“In Uganda, we had no witches sacrificing children, traditionally speaking. It was introduced to us just recently by witches from other countries such as Tanzania,” he said in an interview.

The practice of human sacrifice is on the rise in Uganda and in Central Africa, as measured by ritual killings where body parts, often facial features or genitals, are cut off for use in ceremonies. The number of people killed in ritual murders in Uganda has continued to rise with the percentage almost doubling according to local police.

The informal count is much higher — 154 suspects were arrested last year and 50 taken to court over ritual killings. The problem is bad enough that last year the Uganda police established an Anti-Human Sacrifice Taskforce.

The rise in human sacrifices in Uganda appears to come from a desire for wealth and a belief that drugs made from human organs can bring riches, according to task force head Moses Binoga.

“They may be fueled by a spate of violent Nigerian films that are growing in popularity, and showcase a common story line: A family reaping riches after sacrificing a human,” said Binoga in a report. The sacrifices are also linked to a deep belief in traditional healers, or witch doctors, who can be found practically every half mile in Uganda, he said.

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