The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) was on Saturday the butt of jokes online after it celebrated the arrest of suspects with the assistance of a witchdoctor.
This is even as lawyers questioned whether a person nabbed through a practice banned in law can be prosecuted in court.
In a post uploaded at 1.59am on Saturday, DCI praised a witchdoctor whose spells saw three animal theft suspects walk into the home of the man they had allegedly stolen from while carrying the animals they had rustled.
And, as they carried the goat and calf they had allegedly stolen, a swarm of bees mobbed the suspects’ hands. They were also “bleating and mooing rhythmically” as reported by the DCI.
Kakamega Central Police Commander Valerian Obore told the Nation that the three were in custody after they allegedly stole the animals on Wednesday last week.
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The suspects are aged 20, 22 and 28 years old.
Mr Obore said the complainant, Tolibert Imbiakha from Eshisiru Sub-Location in Butsotso Central Location, had recorded a statement with the police after positively identifying the stolen animals.
“We have the suspects in custody but we do not want to link the issue with the reported incident in which the complainant is said to have visited a witchdoctor to help him recover his stolen animals,” said Mr Obore, adding that the suspects will be taken to court on Monday May 30.
The suspects are reported to be from Joyland in Shirere Sub-Location.
The DCI praised the witchdoctor’s role in the arrest: “If you thought witchdoctors were only used to cause harm in society, you better reconsider your thoughts.”
Lawyers interviewed by the Nation over the incident were dismissive of the arrest, with one calling it “nonsense”.
Mr Richard Onsongo, a Kisumu-based advocate specialising in criminal law, said a case based on a witchdoctor’s arrest cannot see the light of day.
“Such unorthodox ‘methods’ of investigations are not constructional. Neither are they legal,” said the lawyer.
“Secondly, the ‘mganga’ has no authority, constitutional or statutory, to undertake or be part of an investigation. The law outlaws any form of witchcraft under the Witchcraft Act. Accordingly, the result of the use of witchcraft is as illegal as the witchcraft itself,” he added.
Lawyer Maureen Odeck, the chair of the Law Society of Kenya’s Kakamega chapter, said it will be an interesting case to watch because of the realities around it.
The Witchcraft Act, she said, says that a person who solicits the help of a witchdoctor is guilty of a crime —though the Act appears slanted towards those who seek those services to commit harm.
“The Act is silent on if you use it for a good cause,” she said.
“The Act only says that if you do it to cause harm, then that is an offence. It also says that if I go to a witchdoctor to unearth or discover a crime by witchcraft, I, the person who went for the service, I’m the person who is guilty of a crime. It’s an interesting case and the perspective is also quite new. We would be also interested to know what their defence is,” added Ms Odeck.
She added that it will also be an interesting prosecution because the suspects are reported to have carried the stolen property.
“You may say you’re not the one who stole, but were you not found in possession of a stolen item? So, it will be very interesting to see the kind of defence. It’s a tricky situation, because, remember the police came after these people returned the stolen animals. The police are not the people who went to solicit the help of a witchdoctor; it’s the owner. And, you see, the Act says it’s the owner who may have committed a crime,” said Ms Odeck.
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Online, Kenyans mocked the DCI over the post.
“I think the witchdoctor should be recruited into the National Police Service as exceptionally skilled the same way we have exceptional sportsmen being recruited into the service,” posted Hassan Maloba. “Arresting innocent people will now be a thing of the past.”
“You’ve just gone from the profound to profane. It beggars belief how such a well-funded institution of scientific research falls for such a ridiculous marketing gimmick,” wrote Kipkoech DK.
Gathu Gitu wrote: “Each village in Kenya should be allocated at least one good witch and two arresting officers.”
The witchdoctor-assisted arrest bore similarities with another one which was reported in Maraba Estate in Kakamega Town a week ago, which involved a suspect reported to have stolen a television set.
The suspect was spotted carrying the TV set on his head with a swarm of bees buzzing on his hands.
He ended up in the house of the witchdoctor and collapsed after handing back the device. Police officers on patrol picked up the suspect after angry residents wanted to lynch him.
The sub-county police commander said the incident was still being investigated.
Residents said the witch doctor had relocated to the slum estate recently and has been offering his services to aggrieved residents who have fallen victim to criminals involved in theft of household goods and livestock.
But some residents have raised doubt about the arrests, saying they could be stage-managed by the witch doctor to attract clients for monetary gain.
In the TV theft incident, residents said they were taken aback after the suspect went to the home of the witchdoctor rather than the complainant’s.
“This story does not add up. What we are witnessing could just be another melodrama to hoodwink the residents so that they can seek the services of the witchdoctor,” said a resident.
Families in Butsotso Central and other parts of Kakamega including Butere, Matungu, Shinyalu and Ikolomani have raised the alarm about the theft of livestock at night from their homes.
The animals are hardly recovered since they end up being slaughtered and the Meat is sold butchers. Some of the stolen animals are driven to the neighbouring counties of Siaya and Busia.