Emotions run high at burial of three Kisii mob victims

Sindege Mayaka, Jemima Mironga

Mourners overcome by emotions during the burial service of Sindege Mayaka, Jemima Mironga and Agnes Ototo at Nyagonyi Grounds on November 6, 2021. 

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

A sombre mood engulfed Nyagonyi village in Marani, Kisii County during the burial of three women lynched three weeks ago on allegations of practising witchcraft.

Three caskets carrying the remains of Sindege Mayaka (83), Jemima Mironga (60) and Agnes Ototo (57) lay side by side at Nyagonyi Grounds where a joint burial ceremony took place.

One of the victims, Sigara Onkware (62), was buried a fortnight ago.

The four victims lost their lives in a most cruel manner after they were frog marched from their homes to the grounds where they were lynched. The victims were hacked with machetes, clobbered before their bodies were set on fire as villagers watched.

On Saturday, hundreds of mourners who included relatives, friends, villagers, national and county government representatives and human rights activists attended the burials.

Several relatives of the deceased, who were overcome by emotions, broke down.    

Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi led the county government officials in mourning the four women.

Mr Maangi said the devolved unit had given each of the affected families Sh100, 000 to help with the burial expenses.

Life is sacred

"What happened here is very unfortunate and regrettable. Life is sacred and should be protected," said Mr Maangi.

The four women were suspected of bewitching a Form Four student. According to police records, the student was unable to speak, prompting the villagers to initiate a process of identifying the alleged witches.

Marani Assistant County Commissioner Julius Rono said the police are looking for more suspects. 

Six suspects have already been arraigned in court in connection to the lynching of the women.

Agnes Ototo

Three caskets carrying the remains of Sindege Mayaka, Jemima Mironga and Agnes Ototo lay side by side at Nyagonyi Grounds where a joint burial ceremony took place.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

Human Rights activists asked the state to ensure the formulation of policies that will protect elderly persons who are being lynched on allegations of practising witchcraft.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) said that the Constitution should be implemented in a manner that enhances the enjoyment of adequate security by all.

The Commission noted that the lynching trend largely targets old and poor widows in Gusii.

Old widows

While some old men have been victims of the horrid practice of “witch burning” in Gusii, women – particularly poor, old widows - are predominantly targeted.

"Government officials such as chiefs and law enforcement officers must speed up investigations to stop this outlandish practice to ensure that protection, justice and redress is served," said Dr Bernard Mogesa, Secretary to the Commission and Chief Executive Officer.

Dr Mogesa called for urgent change of response mechanism, early warning signs and enhancing social protection systems for the vulnerable older persons.

"As the relatives and family members of the deceased prepare to lay to rest the last three victims of  mob lynching, KNCHR wishes to state that Article 26 of the Constitution of Kenya under the Bill of Rights, guarantees all Kenyans the right to life," said Dr Mogesa.

He explained that no Kenyan should lose their life because of some ill-defined accusations like witchcraft which are difficult to prove in our courts of law.

The commission commended Kisii County Governor for inaugurating a task force to establish the circumstances where poor and elderly persons are victimised and accused of witchcraft.