On Sunday morning, Sindege Mayaka was feeding her chicken at her Morero village home in Marani sub-county, just before going to church.
Suddenly, a group of strangers brandishing pangas, hoes, axes and clubs stormed her home. They pounced on her and frog-marched her to the nearby Nyagonyi Primary School playground, behind the Lutheran Church, where she worshipped on Sundays.
The 83-year-old pleaded to be left alone, but the rowdy youths would hear none of it.
Her son, Mr Christopher Mayaka, tried to intervene as his mother was being roughed up, but was silenced by a panga cut to the back of his head. He fell down unconscious and was rushed to the nearby dispensary for treatment.
Pleaded for mercy
“I was here with my mother-in-law when they attacked. They cut my husband... when he tried to defend his mother,” said Ms Beatrice Chepkorir, who witnessed the death of her mother-in-law on witchcraft claims.
Mayaka was beaten up as she was dragged away to be lynched.
“She pleaded for mercy and even tried to bargain for her life with the little money she had after selling her cow so that she could go to hospital,” recalled Ms Chepkorir.
After killing her, the attackers took the Sh20,000 she had on her.
Mayaka was among the four women who were lynched in broad daylight on Sunday.
When the Nation toured the village, the home of Jemima Mironga, 60, was deserted while relatives of Sigara Onkware, 62, declined to talk to the media.
The fourth victim was Agnes Ototo Moraa, 57.
The women were accused of bewitching a 17-year-old boy. On Friday night, reports indicate that a cross was planted at the front of the boy’s house, which villagers interpreted to mean that witches had visited the homestead. The urgent assignment then became to hunt for the witches.
What followed was storming of the victims’ houses, frog-marching them away and vandalising their property.
Notably, all the four victims are from poor backgrounds but have sizeable pieces of land. Three of them are widows.
At Moraa’s home, relatives said there is a history of a land dispute with a neighbour.
“My father was murdered last month. He was stabbed to death by unknown people. His grave is still fresh. They’ve now come for our mother,” Ms Lydia Ototo said.
Law of the jungle
Kisii Governor James Ongwae, who hails from Marani, pleaded with residents not to take the law into their hands.
“The law of the jungle is unacceptable,” the governor said, announcing that he was creating a task force to determine the extent of the problem through the Culture department.
Marani deputy county commissioner Patrick Muriiura said they are questioning people of interest with view of arresting and prosecuting them.
“This is not acceptable in the modern day. I can authoritatively say that the victims were innocent because they have no history of having committed any crime,” Mr Muriiura said.
He said they had restored calm in the affected villages and want to prevent retaliatory attacks.
“I held a baraza there yesterday and called for calm,” the administrator said.
Authorities say they have no proper statistics of people who have been killed on suspicion of being witches. Gender activist Esnas Nyaraba condemned the killings, saying, most victims are usually old, widowed and poor.
“This has nothing to do with witchcraft. Authorities and researchers should investigate this and put it to an end,” she said.
“It’s just inhuman to witness our children turning against us. Mothers are supposed to enjoy the fruits of their wombs,” Ms Nyaramba sai