By Eastern Newspaper Correspondent
Being labeled a witch in the Meru community can cause anguish from being ostracized besides violence and bad blood with neighbors.
To save life and reputation, residents are now turning to the Njuri Ncheke, the Ameru Supreme Governing Council of Elders that also acts as a traditional court to resolve witchcraft-related disputes.
Njuri Ncheke judges Julius Mbogori, Andrew Mathiu says cases of witchcraft abound, with witches using horns, body parts, and other paraphernalia to execute evil.
“When one is bewitched they can die in accidents, turn crazy, and commit suicide and other evil. Witches get their tools of the trade from Mbeere, Kitui, Mombasa, and other parts. Some come to buy from Meru,” he said.
Flora Muthuri and Charity Muthoni, residents of Kianjai content witchcraft have often been used to make victims sick, mad or die. “Some witches, mostly elderly women in the village cast spells on their victims mainly at night,” said Flora.
The two elders from Tigania West concur and single out being shunned and hated by the community as the consequences.
The ‘wronged’ woman in Kianjai pleaded innocence and sought the intervention of the Njuri Ncheke which summoned both parties to a hearing.
The accused said her reputation was at stake after she was labeled a witch,” Mbogori said, adding that “it was tricky and we had to solve the case before violence broke out.”
Mbogori explained the case was solved through ‘traditional oathing’ without divulging more details just that “the boy, a teenager, is fine now. We settled the case and the neighbors are at peace.”
“Many families have been destroyed by witchcraft because the bewitched are affected and are not productive anymore. So if there is a witch before us and she or he denies it and undergoes the oath, they die. Many have died, together with members of their families,” he said.
He added: “When deaths visit families of the witches they come to us to be released from the punishment. They offer to compensate families of their victims.”
Land disputes take ages in conventional courts but the elders have historical knowledge of ancestral land ownership are able to arbitrate such conflicts with one day or two months.
Mbogori said the guilty fear the oathing to tell the truth as it can affect future generations in a family. The guilty slaughter a goat for the elders and “upon settling disputes, we all celebrate the outcome.”
In addition to land and witchcraft, the court also hears cases of thefts, divorces, and disagreements between family and community members.
“We have heard cases of people who borrowed money from others but refused to pay. Sometimes it is difficult taking such cases to normal court because of lack of evidence, the reason the lenders come to us,” Mbogori said.
He said they had handled many such cases, and the borrowers were forced to pay for fear of repercussions.