OPINION

Lynching of witchcraft suspects subverts justice

Recent reports of lynching of usually elderly people after being accused of witchcraft can be likened to a dark, bloody code that must be acted on to prevent it from getting entrenched.   

It is an unfortunate that belief in the supernatural, the unknown and the unseen forces of darkness remain widespread and continue to dictate and format perceptions of many, especially among rural conservative societies. To those who ascribe, misfortunes, including death can only occur because of witchcraft and often their response is vigilante solution, which essentially is anarchy to explain or justify retaliatory “justice” or punishment. 

Only last week, there were  three incidents of elderly victims hacked to death in Taita Taveta over alleged sorcery. But the Taveta tragedies are not isolated, routinely and to their utter consternation, Kenyans all too frequently hear of similar despicable deeds elsewhere.   

  Murderous disposition and propensity to take life away driven by dark forces of ignorance is unacceptable. In any case, where the law allows the taking of life, it goes through due process and prescribes how. Even if we were to embrace retributive justice, the killing of usually elderly folks on mere suspicions that they have somehow mysteriously caused misfortunes through sorcery is not only wild and far-fetched but is also likely to be grossly abused to exact self-seeking and driven vengeance.    

Those who lynch apparently do not appreciate the sanctity of life and agencies, institutions  and instruments of law and order must move in resolutely to stamp out the barbaric practice usually executed through the most gruesome methods, often by people in the grip of hysteria.   

No presumed mitigating circumstances should lead to life innocently taken. The truth in law, under natural justice and as stipulated by law is that the burden of proof in the event of transgression rests with the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubts, that the alleged wrongdoer is indeed guilty. If we go by any other whimsical dictates, then the grim scenario often witnessed in parts of Kisii, Kilifi, Taita Taveta and elsewhere will be replicated many times over.

We will then continue witnessing scenarios where ill-will, petty jealousy will from time to time occasion  innocent people being wrongly executed in the pretext they are witches. 

The cornerstone of justice is premised on evidence of any wrong committed. Those with other parameters  in seeking vengeance must get a taste of the law themselves. The avalanche of morbid fear the elderly in parts of this country have to shake off daily, makes a mockery of the presumption of innocent till proven guilty. 

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