‘Goodbye my love’: My wife’s last painful words to me as villagers lynched her

Peter Mwangi Kibaara

Mr Peter Mwangi Kibaara, 76, whose wife Mary Njoki was killed by a mob in Kiamikoe village in Kiharu constituency on February 20 on suspicion of being a witch.

Photo credit: Mwangi Muiruri | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Mzee Kibaara says he opened his eyes when he heard his wife scream after she was slapped by one of the about 100 intruders.
  • Kibaara says it was exactly at 10.30pm when two tyres were brought to the scene.

At 10:30pm on February 20 this year, Mwangi Kibaara’s world turned black.

It started two hours earlier when his mud-walled kitchen in Murang’a County was swarmed by a gang of young men out to murder his 75-year-old wife, Mary Njoki.  

“We were in our kitchen, which is outside our main house. My wife had just finished preparing some tea for us. We lived only the two of us in the compound. I had arthritis pains in the knees and I had placed my legs on two cooking stones for warmth as I sipped my tea,” Kibaara recalls.

The couple has been married since 1973, he says, and they had grown to love each other more over the years.

The two had grown so fond of each other that they would engage in girl-boy talk. The latest of such banter was on February 16. “We lay in our bed joking about how we needed to get a baby to charm our ageing lives,” he says.

Mzee Kibaara describes his wife as “my greatest friend and mother of my five grown children (and) a woman whose Catholic faith provided our poverty with some optimism of a better future as we did casual labour to put a meal, fees and other bills on the table”.

On that fateful night, the intruders found them seated side by side in the kitchen lit by a tin lamp that threw their silhouettes on the walls.

“The kitchen was filled with dozens of blinding torch lights from people that I, at first, thought were police officers. As I closed my eyes against the painful lights, I heard a female voice shout in Kikuyu: Here she is, the witch,” he told Nation.Africa in his Kiamikoe village in Kiharu constituency.

100 intruders

Kibaara says he only opened his eyes when he heard his wife scream after she was slapped by one of the about 100 intruders.

“Come out you witch! Your days of causing death in this village by bewitching our people are over. In the next few minutes you will be in the company of Satan in hell,” Kibaara says he heard a young man warn before the slap that made Njoki scream landed on her face.

“I ignored the pain in my knees and stood up…I armed myself with a piece of firewood and gazed straight into the offending torchlights. I demanded that all leave my kitchen and compound immediately,” he says.

As he attempted to strike the nearest intruder with the piece of wood, a dozen hands restrained his frail hand.

“They had managed to drag my wife outside the kitchen. She was screaming since they were beating her up. I asked aloud why my grandsons’ and daughters’ age mates were beating their grandmother…I tried uttering curses on their lives and they laughed at me,” he says.

The beatings had become serious and the mob had dragged Njoki about 100 metres from her house to a public road where they had forced her to sit down.

Kibaara says he struggled to get to the front of the crowd to get a clear view of his wife and hear firsthand what she was being accused of.

“Give us the list of all your fellow witches in this village. Even the chief and his assistant are aware of this swoop against witches and you are the commander of witchcraft in this village,” he reports hearing.

Kibaara says his instincts had by then appreciated the fact that this was a serious matter and the mob that openly smoked bhang and snuffed tobacco was getting bolder in their talk and actions, declaring that his wife must die.

“I tried sweet-talking some of the youths and even offered to leave the village and legally transfer all of my two acres of land to them…I offered to leave immediately with my wife and never to come back again to the village…the beatings had become so severe to a point she was bleeding from her mouth and nose,” he recalls.

He says the beatings and interrogation lasted two hours. The gang even undressed Njoki.

“I removed my coat and threw it to her to cover her nakedness but a youthful assailant returned it to me declaring that I needed it more than her since they were about to permanently warm her life,” he recalls, fighting back tears.

Last moment

Kibaara says it was exactly at 10.30pm when two tyres were brought to the scene.

“One tyre was put around her waist and the other around her neck….all along she had remained seated…I screamed when I saw a youth douse the tyres with petrol…My wife’s eyes looked very terrified and the beatings had left her very weak…I loathed society. I hated life. I strongly felt that God had forsaken me. My wife getting murdered as I just witnessed with zero chance of rescuing her made me hate myself….Ageing is not exactly a blessing,” he says.

In the floodlights of the torches, his wife feebly beckoned at him.

“The five youths who appeared to coordinate the mob agreed that I get my last moment with my wife. The youths who had all along maintained a restraining grip on me shoved me forward and I fell over my wife. I was crying. If my strength could not make me express my distaste for what I was witnessing, I let my tears do the talking. Tears of an old person are a curse,” he adds.

In the cacophony of the mob, the excitement of the witnesses and the terror in Mzee Kibaara’s heart, as he held his wife by the shoulders, she feebly spoke up: “Tigwo uhoro mwendwa wakwa. Mekunjuraga buri itari undu njui no ndukamake, nindikuroraga ndi matu-ini (Goodbye my love, they will kill me for nothing but be of strong heart…I will be watching over you from the heavens).”

Those were the last words from his wife that he says made him feel very weak as the petrol fumes choked his breath until he vomited.

Tortured for hours

“I was pulled back and I heard the sound of a match being struck and moments later, my wife became a fireball that illuminated the neighbourhood. She twisted and rolled as the fire ate into her skin, driving the life out of her,” he narrates.

He passed out. He came to when police arrived to take the body to the mortuary. The mob had dispersed.

“I do not even know what I want now. Now I don’t have anyone to live for. The government can do what it wants with the case because I don’t care. It is three weeks now and the police have not arrested anyone. I simply don’t care whether they arrest or don’t. What I know is that the government is as guilty as the mob that my wife was tortured for two hours before she was lynched,” he says.

He adds: “If it was the chief’s house that had been raided, the government would have arrived within 10 minutes and if the mob had killed a rich person, the entire village would by now be in jail but since it was my poor wife, a woman who had no big person to defend her, her life was so casually claimed and it has been made to look very normal.”