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Calls to protect elderly persons as world marks International Peace Day

Elderly Bimkala Chitibwa would have been in the grave for about four months now had his then pregnant daughter not risked her life and that of her unborn child to protect her octogenarian father from murderers.

One evening in April this year, Chitibwa and his wife had just taken supper and were about to go to bed, when uninvited guests stormed Mzee Chitibwa’s home armed with crude weapons and baying for Chitibwa’s blood and that of his wife.

He said he locked himself and his wife inside the house as a great number of people shouted and attempted to destroy his house, so they could reach him and murder him, accusing him of being a witch.

“Luckily, I had some airtime in my phone that enabled me to call the police, but the officers told me they did not have a vehicle. The area chief arrived at about midnight and stopped the assailants before rescuing me,” Chitibwa said.

“I called my daughter, who arrived before they managed to break the door and stopped them. They said they were on a mission to eliminate me and my wife, accusing us of practicing witchcraft, but my daughter blocked them for about five hours, telling the assailants to first kill her,” a visibly shaking Chitibwa said.

Chitibwa is among 28 elderly persons being sheltered at a rescue home in Moi village of Sabaki sublocation, Malindi Sub County after being rescued from the wrath of murderers hired to kill old persons suspected to be practicing necromancy.

Chitibwa narrated his ordeal at the Malindi Deputy County Commissioner’s office during the commencement of a peace walk to mark this year’s International Peace Day, where he called upon authorities to protect older persons as they had become vulnerable to security threats owing to the fact that they have grey hair.

He said although he had been rescued, he was still living in fear since the place he and the other elders are being kept is not safe. The Giriama traditional houses they are occupying have no doors and there is no fence to secure the centre, while the surrounding area is bushy.

“I am forced to stay alert at night as my wife sleeps because I fear that those people who wanted to kill us will one day come and finish us,” says Chitibwa.

“The incident traumatized me so much that I am afraid of even the slightest movement outside the house at night,” he said.

Elderly persons in Kilifi County have been the target of attack by assailants, who claim the senior citizens are witches. Many have been killed while others are living in rescue centres in Magarini and Ganze constituencies.

Due to the plight of the senior citizens, a number of humanitarian non-governmental organizations dedicated yesterday’s International Peace Day to the elders under siege, holding a peace walk to sensitize the public on the need to protect elders.

They walked from the Malindi DCC’s office next to the County Assembly of Kilifi through Malindi town to Moi area of Sabaki Sub-Location, where 28 elders rescued from murderers are being housed by the Malindi District Cultural Association (MADCA).

Merab Shibyanga, the chairperson of the Malindi Peace Committee, said at least three cases of murder of older persons per day, translating to more than 1,000 persons annually, and called on leaders to be at the forefront in fighting the vice.

She called for the protection of the elders living in the rescue centres by improving security through the construction of better houses and perimeter walls.

He called on political leaders to be at the forefront in condemning the murders of suspected witchdoctors, saying the vice had become a profession for some youths who are hired to carry out the atrocities.

Similar sentiments were made by the chairman of the Malindi District Cultural Association, Mr. Stan Kiraga, and the association’s advisor, Edward Kazungu wa Hawerisa, who called on communities to respect and protect elderly persons as they had a wealth of knowledge that needed to be passed from generation to generation.

They wondered why no convictions had been made against perpetrators of the heinous acts against the elders and called on government institutions charged with providing security to ensure elders are properly protected.

Ms Warda Zege from Haki Yetu organization urged communities not to regard grey hair as a sign of witchcraft but instead do everything to protect elders, noting that elders were an important resource in society.

Malindi Assistant County Commissioner 1 Angela Wanyama, lamented that the vice of killing elderly persons was on the rise in Kilifi County, but noted that the government was doing everything possible to protect the elders and bring the assailants to book.

By Emmanuel Masha

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