Wizard Sought As 23 Aides Arrested

The Government has ordered the arrest of a witch doctor at the centre of bizarre "exorcism" activities.

By last evening, 23 members of the exorcist group had been arrested.

However, the ring leader, identified as Mr Akiba Kazungu Bakari, was still at large.

Mombasa police boss, Mr John Aloo, said Kazungu's three assistants were among those arrested.

Three alleged witch doctors "exposed" by Kazungu's team were locked up at Changamwe Police Station. They will appear in court today.

Saying the law forbids exorcism, Coast Provincial Commissioner Cyrus Maina also ordered the arrest of police officers said to have issued a permit to the witch doctor.

Villagers in Mwamlai in Miritini, Mombasa, have in the past several days witnessed bizarre scenes as the witch doctor grilled alleged wizards and witches.

The PC said: "I want the Provincial Police Officer, Administration Police and all security arms to swing into action and arrest all perpetrators of this heinous practice."

He said the group's actions had spread fear among residents.

In a bizarre incident on Monday, the man - purporting to exorcise ghosts - made three people engage in strange antics.

He mixed urine with a concoction of herbs and made his subjects drink it. His wife and daughter were in the crowd that watched the man's performance which was accompanied by the rattles of the kayamba dance.

His male and female aides were dressed in black, red and white stripped outfits.

The group, adorned with beads of various colours, moved through Miritini village in search of alleged witches and wizards. They flushed three old men in their late 60s out of their shanties and went on to "exorcise" the ghosts.

The old men were later paraded before a large crowd as their purported offences were read out to them.

Witchcraft is a serious issue in the village and has been blamed for the slow pace of development.

On Sunday, a woman was arrested by villagers who accused her husband of practising witchcraft.

The village headman, Mr Ali Simba, told the East African Standard that witchcraft was responsible for the area's underdevelopment.

Yesterday, the PC said many lives had been lost particularly in Kilifi, Malindi and Kwale districts where witchcraft was widespread.

"Once one has been branded a witch, the community throws a blanket judgment and persecutes them. This is unlawful," he said.

He asked politicians and community leaders to support the Government's efforts to eradicate the practice.

He said neither Christianity nor Islam condoned witchcraft.

The Anglican Church in Mombasa also condemned the practice, saying it was outdated and retrogressive.

Mombasa ACK Bishop Julius Kalu urged the Miji Kenda community to abandon the practice and seek God's healing.

"The Bible is very clear on this and says witches and cowards will not enter the kingdom of God," said Kalu.

"Exorcism is in futility. It's a cheating exercise where poor people are robbed of their money for nothing," he said.

He said it is impossible for traditional medicine men to remove the power and evil spirits out of witch doctors "for both of them are using the power of the evil one".