Saturday 24 May 2008

They shall not grow old

Picturing the gruesome

Kenya Burning is the name of a photo exhibition that documents the happy days of the election through to the lynching and mob violence that claimed the lives of over 1,200 people and displaced 300,000.

This tragedy came about because the political class failed their people by conducting a flawed election rigged to produce results that completely dissatisfied the opposition and was evidently corrupt.

As the rulers shuttled between 5* hotels and news conferences trying to win influence for their apparatchiks, the people descended into inter-tribal violence taking Kenya to the brink.

Interestingly, the report notes that no politician has visited this exhibition to see the results of their handiwork such that some have suggested the exhibition be moved into their dining room, if only to show that when the people speak and they refuse to hear, the consequences are dire.

Burning witches

The burning however has not stopped because something more gruesome has happened, 11 people between the ages of 80 and 96, eight of whom were women were burnt in a village in the western Kisli district for allegedly being witches.

They were dragged out of their houses and individually burnt, then their houses razed to the ground – apparently that is a valid exorcism.

Apparently, someone had found an exercise book containing the minutes of a “witches” meeting with indications of who would next be bewitched.Let me try a positive spin on this - a meeting of elderly concerned citizen about the state of affairs in their village where certain members of the community have been singled out for either honour or reprimand.

Our old people

Beyond the problems we have in Africa and especially in Kenya which was sadly showcased in Living with Corruption and the situation where live expectancy at birth is now 55.31, one would think reaching these amazing ages would be a sign of survival against all militating odds that fill our screens about Africa.

I was fortunate to have a great grandmother into my early 20s and she was the repository of information that allowed us to trace back our genealogy up to 7 generations considering bad record-keeping in Nigeria.

The hold of superstition

We are losing something special in our African culture if we are so held in bondage to irrational superstitious beliefs to which people react with mob hysteria and end up committing criminal acts in the name of preserving their communal welfare.

I am not discounting the supposed notion of witchcraft or witches; there is probably one under every table, if you care, but what really is the empirical test for determining if a person is a witch or an innocent person who just happens to have grown old?

I really worry that no commonsense prevails when anyone is branded a witch, you are guilty at the declaration and in many societies including before the West became as barely civilised as we are now, and the witch was strapped to a ducking stool and made to admit practising witchcraft.

Who would not confess if your lungs were forced to take in water instead of air, a confession or denial still had the same penalty – death.

The people who had the power to execute judgement wielded undue influence in the community and could abuse this power to rid the community of possible rivals whilst holding the community in terror, fear and obeisance to their whims.

Believing other things

It is dastardly to the extreme that one should read this kind of news in this day and age – one would suppose the mob was also religious possibly Christian and church-going where their belief systems are supposed to give them the confidence not to be bothered with witches having any influence over their lives.

One can only say that church-going does not necessarily confer faith on the person; I have seen in Nigeria where many really think there is an enemy everywhere working against them such that not a positive prayer escapes their lips, they are so bound to their enemies that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

They are usually their worst enemies; dishonesty, corrupt behaviour, a lack of ethical principles, a lack of integrity, shirking responsibility, bad decisions, poor judgement, illicit deals, deceit and the propensity to tell white lies could well transmogrify into some hated close relation messing up your life.

The common parlance is “someone is doing you” directly translated from Yoruba, Wake Up!!! You are doing yourself in and stitching yourself up praying the wrong prayers and offering the wrong sacrifices.

I would broaden this scope to include any other organised religious belief system and the way it gets preached in Africa it sometimes seems to replace rampant superstition with virulent fundamentalism, both of which are almost as evil as witchcraft.

For the fallen

By which time another poor hapless innocent person has accused of practising witchcraft as we rid our communities of our old and aged when we should be learning the secrets of life from them.

What shall be said for the fallen? Not the words of Laurence Binyon – They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old – rather it is sounding like – You must not grow old as the young around you might kill you – it is a sad indictment of our humanity and we are all the poorer for it.

The law in Kenya should treat these cases without sentiment as mob violence leading to murder and the leaders of these mobs must be held to account, we cannot allow our superstitious suspicions to run riot and lead to lawlessness, not in this day.

Developing News

Meanwhile in Nigeria a cat was knocked down by a car and this said cat transmogrified into a woman, apparently the woman has confessed to having changed forms but is now in protective custody in a clinic being treated for injuries inflicted on her by a mob about to lynch her having suspected the cat became the woman because she had blood on her.

The police are at a loss as to what charges to place, I would suppose such tall tales are very difficult to align to the law of evidence, it would be like letting the cat out of the bag.

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