Kenyans fear satanism charges mask a witch-hunt

Kenya is in the grip of satanism hysteria, with President Daniel arap Moi leading the field. Human sacrifice, cannibalism and the satanic abuse of children are widespread in Kenya, according to a report commissioned by the President.

So sensitive are its findings, says President Moi, that it is impossible for the government to publish the document. Some opposition politicians are suggesting the only reason the government is refusing to publish the report is because members of the Kanu ruling party are themselves involved.

The Presidential Inquiry into the Cult of Devil Worship was set up a year ago. Represented on it are many of Kenya's leading church figures.

"Owing to the sensitive nature of the information contained in the report and the legal implications of some of the findings, it is not appropriate for the government to make the findings public," said President Moi. However, many opposition members fear the satanism issue will become a pretext for a witch-hunt against them in the run-up to next year's general elections.

"He is getting ready to release selected parts of the report to discredit individual politicians," Paul Muite, a Kikuyu MP, told The Independent yesterday. "I have no doubt that I'm one of the people he's out to get. Satanism is a phantom, but in such a Christian country as ours this ploy could have a devastating impact on the opposition."

Mr Muite, along with activist Richard Leakey, is a founding member of the Safina movement which the government has refused to register as a political party. Mr Muite and other opposition politicians have called on the government to make the findings of the commission public. "The only reason the government doesn't want to publish the report must be because many of its leading members are involved," said Ford-Asili MP, Philip Gitonga. "I believe this could go right up to President Moi himself".

The Kenyan press frequently reports cases of witchcraft and demonic possession. In recent weeks letters have appeared in newspapers calling on the authorities to cleanse the country of "all devilish elements".

"There is a strong chance that all this might be misinterpreted and people take justice into their own hands," said Professor GAM Ogutu, head of religious studies at the University of Nairobi.

According to Kenya's East African Standard, the presidential commission has received information on satanic practices such as the kidnapping of children, rape, sexual abuse, murder and the ritual use of body parts in black masses.

"There's no doubt that devil worship is getting worse and the ones involved are the big shots," said Fr Ndikaru wa Teresia, a Catholic priest in the town of Thika. "People who come to me for counselling say they are being offered large sums of money to attend satanic ceremonies. They have human and blood sacrifices at these rituals. I have good evidence that high-ranking politicians are involved and that they do these things to achieve their political ends".