Coast Regional Commissioner John Elungata has ordered chiefs in Kilifi County to take stock of all persons aged 50 years and above and ensure they are protected from attacks.
Irked by the wanton killing of elderly persons in the county, Mr. Elungata said chiefs and their assistants would be held individually responsible for the murder of any elderly persons in their areas of jurisdiction on suspicion of witchcraft practice.
Speaking during a public rally at Kasikini village of Marafa Ward, Magarini Sub County, Mr. Elungata lamented that more than 60 old persons were murdered in Kilifi County last year after being accused of practicing witchcraft.
“I would like to warn whoever is killing elders because of land that their days are numbered. From today, all chiefs must know the number of all persons aged 50 years and below and ensure that they are protected from harm,” Mr. Elungata said.
He told assistant chiefs not to sit pretty as elders in their areas are annihilated and asked them to liaise with kaya elders in the county, who have set up two rescues centres for witchcraft suspects, in order to end the killings that have been termed as the curse of the county.
“All chiefs and their assistants must have a record of all persons aged 50 years and above, who have now become easy targets for attacks, and ensure that they are protected. If amy of them is murdered, that will be the chiefs’ burdens,” he said.
Responding to concerns raised by Marafa Ward Representative Renson Kambi to the effect that the vice had continued unabated due to lack of a witness protection programme, Mr. Elungata assured residents that a witness protection programme would be initiated to enable them to give evidence without fear.
“We would like to see even those who killed many years ago and they were acquitted after witnesses withdrew due to threat to be rearrested immediately,” he said and ordered criminal investigation officers to start receiving statements of such cases.
“Do not think that you are off the hook because you killed several years ago. It is still murder today. It is wrong for you to harass and kill your parent who bore and nurtured you and then pretend to mourn them by holding grand funeral services including disco matanga,” he said.
Mr. Kambi had said that many people feared to record statements on the alleged perpetrators of the heinous crimes because they feared retribution from the suspects when they (suspects) are released on bond after being charged for the murders.
“It is not that residents do not know the murderers, but those who report the killers are usually threatened by the suspects due to lack of a witness protection programme,” Mr. Kambi said.
He said many people who had volunteered to be witnesses in cases involving murders of old persons had declined to continue giving evidence in court after being threatened with dire consequences by the suspected perpetrators.
“Strengthen the witness protection programme and the murders of elderly persons will be a thing of the past,” said the county legislator.
Kilifi County Commissioner Kutswa Olaka said that any person who has started having grey hear had become a target for brutal murders, adding that the number of such murders had become alarming in the county and particularly Magarini Sub County.
He called on political leaders to cooperate with the national government to stump put the vice by holding joint public meetings to sensitize educate residents on the dangers of eliminating elderly persons among them.
The county commissioner attributed most of the murders to self-proclaimed prophets/intercessors, who he said had formed the habit of naming suspected witchdoctors, who in turn become easy targets for murders.
“I am glad that one such intercessor was brought to us and a case has been opened against him. We pray that he is sentenced to 35 years or more,” he said.
Kaya elder Tsuma Nzai Kombe said two rescue centres had been opened to secured the lives of witchcraft suspects and called on the national and county governments to provide security for those in the centres.