Electoral black magic: How politicians are enriching witch doctors
Politicians hell-bent on victory are paying witch doctors huge sums, maybe even their souls, to capture voters’ hearts, repel adversaries’ magic, vanquish rivals and grasp power.
Welcome to election season in deeply religious, church- and mosque-going Kenya where witchcraft is illegal and punishable by 10 years in prison. No one is punished, however, except by lynch mobs. Certainly not moneyed politicians.
With little more than a month to go, competition is cut-throat and the mood is fevered. Don’t be left behind. Cut a Faustian bargain. There’s magic for every pocketbook and political seat. There are elixirs for election, potions for power (or perdition) and concoctions for campaigns.
“Medicine men are happy during elections. This is their harvest season,” said Professor Jack Ogembo, researcher in witchcraft and folk customs at Kabianga University, Kericho.
Magic trumps merit. Power and lucre are too important to be left entirely to manifestos, records, strategists, foot soldiers, barazas and bribes.
Despite two weeks’ of inquiries from the Star, Jubilee, NASA and other party officials declined to comment about this dark but open secret.
Well-known politicians, some seeking lofty office, are seeking out necromancers — they call themselves doctors — in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Cong, and West Africa.
In April, South Africa’s Sowetan newspaper reported a presidential aspirant flew to Johannesburg to meet a sangoma or witch doctor, Chief Hassan Mando, whose clientele reads like a who’s who of African leaders. The politician reportedly stayed for six hours of rituals.
And in Mwanza, Tanzania, witch doctors are renowned for electoral black magic, often using albino body parts. Tanzanian waganga are also said to be camping at the Coast, waiting for the money to pour in.
Haki Africa sounded the alarm after six albino children in Tana River went missing. The worst is feared. Their parents are afraid to talk.
“If you are albino, the election period is the most dreaded. Many go into hiding for fear of becoming victims,” coordinator Francis Auma said.
Witchcraft has been around forever, but demand by ambitious politicians has never been greater.
Mzee Jomo Kenyatta himself was the grandson of a witch doctor and his apprentice. He believed firmly in magic black and white. In 1938 he described how a failing businessman would turn to a witch doctor to save his trade, attract customers and defeat his rivals.
Today, Kenya’s founding father would be writing about politicians and witchcraft.
The Star interviewed eight witch doctors countrywide. A number were willing to be quoted and boasted of their successes and gold-plated client list. Some say they ensured the election of big names in African politics.
“You’d be surprised at my national client list. Many senior politicians and government officials always visit me and I use black magic for those seeking fame and power,” says famous witch-healer Annette Mutheu from Kitui, based in Kisii.
She’s much written-about and her picture is online because she catches adulterers by ensuring that cheating couples get ‘stuck’ in copulation,
Despite numerous inquiries by the Star, JP, NASA and other party officials won’t discuss this open secret.
Only a few admit to resorting to the dark arts, though talk is rife. But one successful Kwale politician, speaking anonymously, said, “With witch doctors’ medicine, especially if our tongues are incised with symbols, we are eloquent and get huge crowds at rallies and votes. We pay to the last coin.” Silver-tongued devils.
Nor is magic beyond the reach of a young Bamburi schoolteacher with a modest salary who became an MCA, or so his Mombasa sorcerer says. Just Sh1,000 per consultation.
Details are scant — “Hii ni mambo ya kiroho” — “These are spiritual matters,” the medicinemen say. But there are mysterious charms, powders, pythons, lion’s oil, sacred rings, speaking in tongues, sacrifice, rituals in smokey Coastal caves. One aspirant rode a crocodile in Zanzibar, as his witch doctor ordered, but he lost.
Clerics fulminate against witchcraft, which they call devil worship, but few rubbish the dark arts. After all, Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness and offered him all the splendours of the world if he would only kneel. Many politicians are quick to kneel. Afterlife be damned.
“Those seeking services from witch doctors are devil worshipers. They invite death and curses,” Bishop Francis Abiero, ACK Maseno Diocese, Kisumu, said. Sometimes they are proved wrong. Throughout the country, witch doctors advertise their services on walls and phone poles, as do politicians. A church is usually not far off.
Pastor George Weda, theologian and politician in Kisumu, speaks of Faustian bargains and the temptation of Christ. The national chairman of the Farmers’ Party said witch doctors bestow satanic powers, but recipients pay dearly. “You can be forced to sacrifice your son, daughter, father and mother or close relatives in exchange for power,” he told the Star.
After he lost 2013 Kisumu Central Senate seat, a prominent, highly educated friend extolled magic.
“Do you know why you lost? It’s because you did not seek witch doctors’ help. When you are ready, I will take you,” Weda was told. He didn’t go. Political analyst Tom Mboya at Maseno University in Kisumu said, “Elections are ruthlessly competitive for MCAs, senators, MPs and governors.This forces some to seek mystical powers.”
In October 1994 President Daniel Moi formed an inquiry commission on devil worship. The report was suppressed but leaked. The conclusion: Satanism was rampant.
“This shows the government acknowledged witchcraft,”Mboya said.
Professor Ogembo of Kabianga University calls witchcraft a belief system of dramatic activities and sacrifices by people seeking success and wanting to know their future.
“Some people are forced to drink concoctions made of urine and waste from slaughtered animals and other materials. Others must bathe in a concoction, depending on divination instruments, such as galukoji,” he said.
This is an extendible accordion-like device made of sticks, beads, feathers, with a crude head at one end. The spirits make it move.