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For week ended January 16, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Summarized by Kent Larsen

Irish Times Explains Background for Kenyan Report Against Mormons
Dublin Ireland Irish Times 13Jan00 N1
By Paul Harris

NAIROBI, KENYA -- A 1995 report from the Kenyan Presidential Commission into the Cult of Devil Worship, leaked to the press last year, claimed that Mormons are one of many groups in Kenya promoting devil worship. This Irish Times article gives background information about why the commission was looking at devil worship and why it would have named the LDS Church as a source.

Much of East Africa is haunted by witch-killing violence as lynch mobs in Tanzania and Uganda, Kenya's neighbors, hunt down those suspected of casting spells, often burning them alive. In Tanzania 350 people have been beaten or burnt to death in the last 18 months, a figure that may actually be higher as many crimes go unreported for fear of antagonizing the mobs. Belief in Witchcraft is prevalent in many areas of Africa.

Kenya's commission was formed in response to the situation. The commission's findings were kept secret until last year, when the findings were leaked into the press. "The way that report was handled, especially with the sensationalist headlines in the press, is really dangerous. It could easily spur people into taking violent action," said one Western diplomatic observer.

The report has since come under criticism by many Kenyan observers, who are outraged at the report's findings. Critics say that the commission was staffed by conservative Christian religious leaders who used the report to attack those religions that have been successfully taking away their parishioners. Freemasons, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses were among dozens of groups that the report suspected of Satanism.

"The report is an embarrassment. What is given to be evidence are the ramblings of characters whose psychological histories we are only left to guess," said Gitau Warigi, a columnist for the Sunday Nation newspaper.

Other observers also note that the motivation for the violence against suspected witches may have more materialistic reasons. In the current climate, village rivalries and jealousies might lead some to label their rivals witches.


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