MOMBASA, June 23 – A Mombasa civic leader was arrested by police on Monday after charms were found stashed in the Mayor’s parlour.
Business came to a standstill at the Mombasa Municipal Council as the tough-talking civic leader Hamisi Gugu was nabbed by police officers for alleged possession of witchcraft paraphernalia.
The Shika Adabu ward leader strongly protested his arrest, saying that as an African it was normal for him to carry paraphernalia wherever he goes.
Prior to his arrest, there was panic at the parlour after a female worker at the Town hall became hysterical and started wailing.
Mombasa Deputy Mayor, John Mcharo said they had converged for a weekly planning meeting when the female worker started shouting that evil had been planted in the offices.
"We had to cut the meeting short when the worker became hysterical. A search was conducted and a small parcel containing paraphernalia was found in one of the drawers at the mayor’s reception desk," Mcharo said.
When confronted by journalists and council workers, Councillor Gugu said he was deeply disturbed by the sudden turn of events and wondered why he was being arrested.
"It is beyond reasonable doubt that this parcel belongs to me. I am an African and this hullabaloo is nonsense," protested the civic leader as police led him to a waiting vehicle.
"Is there any complainant? Have my personal effects injured anyone?" he countered.
Gugu said his ‘parcel’ had slipped from his possession while he was riding in a Council vehicle, and that the lost property had been taken to the mayor’s office for safe custody.
The paraphernalia was found in the Mayor’s parlour on Monday afternoon, stashed inside a small black wallet.
Practicing witchcraft is a criminal offence under colonial-era laws in Kenya, but persons are generally prosecuted for this offence only in conjunction with some other charge, such as murder.
The practice of witchcraft is understood widely to encompass attempts to harm others not only by magic but also by covert means such as poisons.
Just last month, more than 15 people were burnt to death in their homes in Kisii District after they were accused of practicing witchcraft.
Police arrested several people over the killings, mainly residents of the area, but none of them were prosecuted.
In April 2004, a mob killed a man in Mt Elgon whom they accused of practicing witchcraft, after villagers claimed they had found paraphernalia in his house and blamed him for the deaths of about 810 people.
In June 2005, a couple was arrested in Western Kenya under the Witchcraft Act for allegedly possessing charms. No further action was reported in either of these cases.