This is the story of the persecution, lynching and killing of elders in Kilifi County, near the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya. The elders, most of them, men and women from the Mijikenda ethnic group, are being persecuted an killed by local mobs, often harangued by their own families and neighbours, on allegations that they practice witchcraft. The number of elders killed is alarming, reaching more than150 per year.
In the county, where traditional beliefs have led to superstition, elders with grey hair are accused for many reasons: Crop failure, poor milk production by cows, school drop outs, polygamy, loss of wealth, illness, etc. Other underlying causes come from poverty, diseases, ageism, misunderstanding of the causes of HIV,but most of all from fights over land inheritance, livestock or economical reasons, whereby claims are invented against the elderly to incite their murder, in order for land or other kind of inheritance to be subdivided among beneficiaries. Rarely are suspects arrested or convicted for these murders and the police only makes an appearance to certify the death and collect the corpse.
The Kaya Godoma Rehabilitation Centre, located in Vitengeni Division on Ganze District, Kilifi County, near the coastal city of Mombasa, is the protection shelter created by Mzee Mangi Kenga Charo Mangi, a former long-distance truck driver who lived in the village of Kaya
Godoma. Built in a sacred forest, it's the home of currently 19 elders accused of sorcery, that had to flee their homes for fear of being killed, after being marked for death.
Since the death of Mzee Mangi Kenga Charo Mangi, commonly known as Mitsanze, the elders, still hidden, have gone through very harsh conditions, having to walk very long distances to find water – and often killed when they go out from the shelter –, lacking any medical attention and usually facing starvation.
In many cases, these elders are forced to pay large sums of money to an official healer, to do a test that certifies that they are not witches. If the healer decides that the old person is a sorcerer, he will be sent to Kaya Godoma shelter, where a sorceress, after payment, will “clean” him and take an oath that he will never practice witchcraft again. Hopefully, the community will forgive him so he can go home again. Sometimes the family doesn't want them to come back and they leave them to their fate in the shelter, under the promise that they will pick him up soon, which never happens.
The center receives help from the local government, which brings them food and water twice a year, obviously insufficient to meet the minimum needs of the elderly.