Human rights campaigners reveal that scores of widows branded as witches in Kenya are being chased out of their homes sometimes by their children and most of them are even poor or uneducated to seek legal redress.
Juma Kalume Musunye’s six grandchildren beat her until she fell to the ground crying, and then doused her in petrol, claiming she had used witchcraft to paralyse their mother’s hands.
“They wanted to kill me,” said the 65-year-old widow who lives on Kenya’s coast, where the Mijikenda people traditionally blame witches for illness and misfortune.
“My son told them I had bewitched his wife.”
Hearing her screams, Musunye’s neighbours rushed out and rescued her.
“I am really bitter,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation ahead of International Widows’ Day on Thursday.
“I am old, my health is not good and my children do not care about me.”
Musunye was speaking by phone from Kaya Godoma, a centre set up in 2008 to care for elderly people ousted by their relatives.
“You will see people making up stories that someone is a witch,” said Josephine Mongare, chairwoman of the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA).
“They will go out there and do mob justice on her … because her right to that property extinguishes upon her death.”
Traditionally, women in Kenya could not own land, which was passed down from father to son, leaving widows without a male heir vulnerable to eviction.
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