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Cursed forest of Nyeri

A nature trail in Chaka town has become the perfect spot for people intent on committing suicide. Residents claim the place is jinxed

A forest is usually a place where people love to go to reconnect with nature. The gentle breeze and the chirping of birds have a calming effect on raw nerves.

The green scenery and the narrow paths meandering through the forest provide an open invitation to just walk your troubles away. But for residents of Chaka village along Nyeri-Nanyuki highway, a forest measuring about three acres has become the forest of death as more than 20 people have committed suicide.

What is puzzling is that people commit suicide under a particular cedar tree that has now been labelled as the tree of death. According to Ali Maina who operates a quarry in the neighbourhood, it’s common to find a suicide victim dangling from the tree. “This forest is indeed cursed.

We do not know what happens. I remember I was passing through a pathway three months ago when I developed a need to relieve myself and to my utter shock I discovered the body of a middle-aged man dangling from a tree,’’ said Maina.

True to his word, when People Daily visited the forest, ropes and a fresh piece of lesso lay at the base of the cedar tree, a clear indicator that the last victim killed himself not long ago.

A rosary was hanging on the branches, showing that the person had tried to make peace with God before ending his life. Maina says that the most interesting aspect is that only men commit suicide here.

No case of a woman has been documented. “For all the years I have lived here, I have never heard of a case of a woman killing herself in the forest. This is really disturbing,’’ said Maina.

The 60-year-old quarry worker says a while back, they embarked on morning prayers to exorcise the demons in the tree. The suicides stopped for a while, but resumed soon after. “In that year, only one case was reported, but the same jinx returned.

We do not know what we can do to prevent these deaths,’’ said Maina. He claims that the forest is cursed, given the number of suicide cases reported there. On average, about 20 suicide cases are reported in a year.

The most recent case was that of a young stranger who arrived in Chaka town carrying a sack. A few days later his body was found dangling on the cedar tree. Maina’s co-worker, Joseph Mwangi says that the major challenge is the fact that the forest is along the highway and, therefore, it’s an attractive site for those who want to end their lives.

“For me, I believe that this forest is cursed since many people, especially the youth kill themselves here. However, we suspect that some of the people are killed elsewhere and their bodies brought here,’’ said Mwangi.

Mwangi, confesses to have discovered some of the bodies. “Church leaders came here five years ago and conducted prayers inside the forest and sprinkled holy oil on this tree. The suicide cases ceased for a while before resuming after a year.

We feel that there are supernatural powers here, although we firmly believe in God,’’ says Mwangi. A pastor in Chaka town, Peter Wanjohi dismissed allegations that the forest is cursed, saying most of the victims decide to end their lives out of frustrations.

“As Christians we do not believe in such things as cursed forests or trees, but we know that cases of suicide are as result of frustrations due to decayed morals. We will continue praying until this thing is over,” says Wanjohi.

But as we moved out of the forest, the question that still lingered in our minds is: Is this a cursed forest or its proximity to the highway provides a safe haven for those who want to end their lives or those who want to dump bodies of people killed elsewhere?

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