Where witches roam the night with hippos

It is said Mfang’ano Island in Mbita, Suba District, is a no-go zone after 6 pm.

This is the time witches take control of the island. Some of the witches, villagers say, walk with pythons, leopards, crocodiles and even hippos.

In 1999, a witch, nicknamed “Sumu Dawa” was found transporting a live hippo in a public vehicle.

The luggage, which was thought to be a sack of sweet potatoes, sprung to life, leaving passengers shocked with a few others excited.

It is claimed game rangers could not kill the animal despite shooting at it severally. The hippo, it is alleged, strolled into a bush, showing no signs of injury.

Its owner took advantage of the commotion to disappear. Although the culprit was known and the matter reported to the Provincial Administration, the man was never arrested. Villagers claim he “blinded” the authorities to avoid arrest.

To date the incident remains etched in the villagers’ minds. Stories abound in Mbita of witches unleashing terror on anyone who crosses their path.

Pupils disappeared without trace

Philemon Matete of Koguna village in Central Mbita says the witches have evil powers and can harm anyone.

“I know of one in my village who is alleged to have caused the death of two children after a quarrel with their parents,” he says.

The retired teacher says the siblings died in unexplained circumstances days after their parents quarreled with the witch.

In Koguna village, a pupil is said to have disappeared without trace after an encounter with a witch known as “Memba”.


Witchcraft, or Wicca, is a form of neo-Paganism. It is officially recognized as a religion by the U.S. government.

This is a diverse movement that knows no central authority. Practitioners do not all have the same views, beliefs and practices.

While all witches are pagans, not all pagans are witches. Likewise, while all Wiccans are witches, not all witches are Wiccans.

Note: The Witchcraft news tracker includes news items about a wide variety of diverse movements reported in the media as ‘witchcraft.’

“The pupil was seen talking to the witch a few days before he disappeared. To date everyone believes the witch had something to do with his disappearance,” recounts Jared Ambasa, a local fisherman.

It is a common belief that the witches offer human sacrifices to enhance their powers.

The villagers claim the witches compete among themselves as to who is the most powerful. They kill people and make others disappear mysteriously to enhance their power.

Ambasa says the witches display their might by causing epidemics or droughts. People abhor seeing the witches just before the planting season because their presence could cause the rain not to fall.

“The witches know this and avoid certain villages because they fear being lynched,” he says.

Witches compete in capturing the fiercest of wild animals

The witches compete in capturing the fiercest of wild animals. Ambasa says some witches have leopards while others have crocodiles and some are courageous enough to have hippos and pythons.

“How these people capture the ferocious wild animals baffles many. Perhaps it is because of the powers they possess,” he says.

Matete says incidences where witches have been linked to deaths, epidemics and drought, are not many.

“There is no doubt that they instill fear in people but I doubt if they are capable of causing things of such magnitude,” he says.

The witches sometimes visit girls’ schools and cause mayhem. Sometimes they waylay people late in the evening or early morning and unleash the dangerous animals upon them. But the animals do not harm their victim unless told to do so by the owner.

“Most people would not want to encounter such dangerous animals and retire home before dusk,” he says.

Susan Amollo, a born-again Christian, who hails from Gingo village in Mbita, echoes her sentiments. She says witches are feared for nothing.

“Only those who do not believe in God and Jesus Christ are troubled by these people. They do not scare me at all,” she says.

Actions not captured in laws

But Amollo admits that witchcraft is rampant in the area.

“These evil people are everywhere. My child, who is in a boarding school nearby, always complains of witches disturbing them at night,” she says

“They also visit my home at night and do all sorts of things. Gladly, they don’t affect me,” she says.

Mbita residents are at pains of containing the witches. Even the local Provincial Administration appears helpless.

It is difficult to prove that a witch is responsible for someone’s disappearance or death. Some of their actions are not captured in the laws of the land and it would be an uphill task to arraign them in court.

A local chief, who sought anonymity, says people come to them with numerous complaints against the witches, with evidence that can hardly sustain prosecution.

In 2000, an old woman reported to him that a witch had killed her grandson.

“The dilemma is how do you prove that before a court of law?” he poses.

He says the situation sometimes gets out of hand, leading to villagers taking the law into their own hands and lynching suspected witches.

“Catching these witches with some of the animals they are said to own would be proof enough but that has also proved difficult,” he says.

Even then, he adds, the only charge against them would be illegal possession of the animals. But why is witchcraft rampant in Mbita?

Some people have linked it to illiteracy, poverty or backwardness.

“Those who practice witchcraft did not go to school and are stuck with traditional beliefs and practices,” says Amollo.

She says those who are affected by the witches and their acts are uneducated.

However, the incidences at Mbita point to the fact that witches affect the lives of people from both divides.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday February 26, 2007.
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