Police cheer as Kenya's witch-wary looters return war spoils

Nairobi, Kenya - Dozens of looters who profited from Kenya's post-election unrest began returning or dumping their ill-gotten gains around the port city of Mombasa Monday, frightened of cursed goods, police said.

Television footage showed fearful, if not shameful, looters and their accomplices returning beds, sofa sets and other items after rumours that victims had deployed witch doctors to punish the thieves.

Police officials confirmed the report, saying witchcraft had facilitated their business of tracking down crooks.

"I am fearful for my life because of the ghosts, that is why I decided to return the property," said John Joash, who confessed to looting a bed during the mayhem.

Residents of this coastal city strongly believe in the power of witchcraft and say witch doctors are endowed with supernatural power to invoke or revoke evil spirits.

"Some of the looters are suffering. We have got reports that some of them cannot urinate or pass stool. And another one is rotting in one eye: All these is because they stole other people's property," Mariam Kukukali, a resident, told the Kenya Television Network.

One victim, Sebastian Wainaina, sounded a warning: "Whoever stole my bed must return it because we did not work together to get the money that I used to make this bed."

"If they don't, they will see ghosts," Wainaina added, referring to witchcraft.

A looting frenzy accompanied nationwide riots that erupted after the country's electoral board declared Kibaki winner of the disputed December 27 polls, of which Odinga rejected the outcome.

Police cracked down on looters who vandalised supermarkets and stalls mainly in Mombasa and the western town of Eldoret, which are largely regarded as opposition strongholds.

Like elsewhere in Africa, many communities in Kenya still believe in the powers of witch doctors and black magic in influencing the course of social events.

"Whether ghosts exist or not, our work has been made easy ... I wish there were ghosts all over the country," said a police commander.

Religious leaders have urged the looters to voluntarily return the stolen items.