How we narrowly escaped lynching on claims of witchcraft

Sarah Moraa Ayunga, the 29-years-old woman from South Mugirango in Kisii County who was accused of practicing witchcraft

Mrs Sarah Moraa Ayunga, the 29-years-old woman from South Mugirango in Kisii County who was accused of practicing witchcraft together with her 12-years-old daughter. She escaped lynching by a whisker.

Photo credit: Courtesy | Nation Media Group

The terror that Mrs Sarah Moraa Ayunga and her 12-year-old daughter faced on September 3 will forever be etched in her mind.

Mrs Ayunga, 29, and her daughter were rounded up by an irate mob that was baying for their blood alleging that they were witches.

They escaped lynching by a whisker, thanks to a voice of reason that emerged from among the mob, questioning how the two were proved to be so-called witches. 

Had Mrs Ayunga and her daughter not been saved by police, they would have added to the growing statistics of men and women lynched by mobs on claims of practising witchcraft in Gusii. The lynching is normally without no proof to support the allegations.

Police sources said that just a few days before the incident, a woman from the same neighbourhood was lynched on claims of practising witchcraft.

Speaking to the Nation, Mrs Ayunga said the traumatising events of that day still haunt her, saying her daughter has had nightmares that killers were coming after her.

“I have no strength. I am unable to get outside my house. They attacked me with kicks and blows and crude weapons,” said Mrs Ayunga, recalling how they were frog-matched from their home, taken to a gravesite and forced to admit they were witches.

Photos of the young mother and her daughter were widely shared on social media last weekend, with claims that they were found dancing atop the grave of an evangelical cleric in Ruora village, South Mugirango, the Friday before.

The mother of five, who hails from the neighbouring Maroo village, said that although they declined to admit to something they had not committed, they had already faced the wrath of their attackers before police came to their rescue.

Mrs Ayunga said her eldest child is mentally disabled and sometimes leaves home and roams in the village.

“She had been missing for three days and we had looked for her without success. On Saturday night, I received a call from my father-in-law that he had been informed by a villager where my daughter was. I went out to get her,” said Mrs Ayunga.

She said she found her daughter, a Standard Six pupil, at the homestead of the cleric who had been buried the previous day.

The girl was in a chair left outside the cleric’s house and a woman at the homestead spotted her and called her.

“She took her inside one of the houses and at midnight, she took her outside and started alleging that my daughter was a witch,” she said.

Mrs Ayunga said she was with her husband, Elias Aunga Mauti, but he was asked to leave immediately, with the few villagers who had already gathered there claiming that she and her daughter were witches.

Her husband, a labourer in South Mugirango, did not want to argue with the irate villagers and left to seek help from other villagers.

“Her hands were tied with a rope and I was immediately forced to join her. The few people who had gathered at the homestead also tied my hands and frog-matched us to the gravesite,” Mrs Ayunga said.

“They forced us to place our hands on the cross on the grave. They demanded my daughter to talk even though she had difficulties in communicating due to her mental challenges. They were asking her to reveal what she had eaten.”

All this while, some people were busy taking photos of them at the gravesite, she said.

Suddenly, some of the people around them started screaming, claiming that they had caught the witches dancing on the cleric’s grave. This drew dozens of other residents, who came ready to attack and lynch the two.

“Luckily, an old man in the crowd came forward and asked villagers what evidence they had to support their claims that we were witches and that we were dancing on the grave. He asked that whoever wishes to lynch us should first start with him,” she said.

She added: “We were then taken to one of the houses in the homestead and locked up. Some irate residents still wanted to lynch us and even got to the rooftop. Some stoned the house as others tried to force their way in.

“Luckily, someone had informed police about the incident and after some time, they arrived and rescued us.”

She said she was still wondering why the villagers targeted her and her daughter given that she is a staunch Christian and goes to a local Adventist church.

She married her 35-year-old husband on April 28, 2010 and wondered why she was suddenly targeted after all these years living in the village.

Otendo location Chief Shem Ayienda said he was still pained that an innocent woman was almost lynched on false claims.

“Mrs Ayunga is a Christian, an SDA faithful and a choir member. She was called from her house at midnight, only to be told that she is a witch together with her special-needs daughter,” said Chief Ayienda.

That night, he said, he received a call from a clan elder asking him to rush and rescue the young woman.

“It was about 2am. I found the woman and her daughter locked in a house. An irate mob was baying for their blood. Together with some security officers who accompanied me, we rescued them and took them to safety,” he said.

The administrator now wants those who instigated claims that Mrs Ayunga was a witch arrested.

Etago police boss Laban Omol said they rescued the woman and her daughter just before villagers lynched them.

“The allegations that she was on the grave are not true. Once we were alerted about the incident, we moved with speed and rescued them. A week ago, the same residents lynched another person over witchcraft claims,” said Mr Omol.