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Chief’s baraza fines church leader Sh17,000 and cow for defiling six-year-old grandchild

Elders in Vihiga County have fined a 78-year-old deacon Sh17,000 and a cow for allegedly defiling his six-year-old granddaughter.

According to the elders, the fine was to serve as a cleansing fee for the act he allegedly committed mid last week.

Chief Zachary Mwangale said they imposed the fine at a chief’s baraza held at Ihiru Village, Munoywa Sub-Location in Sabatia Sub-County on Monday.

The decision has however sparked murmurs of disapproval from shocked residents, who believe justice has not been done for the minor, who is in nursery school.

The man, who is a deacon at a local church, meanwhile told the Nation at his home that he was forced to agree to pay the fine to avoid going to prison.

FOUND GUILTY

“I was told I would be jailed if I don’t comply,” said the man. “I did not want to go to jail. My children helped to pay the fine.”

He however denied committing the offence and blamed the accusations on family rivalry. Such an offence involving a minor attracts life imprisonment if the accused is found guilty in a court of law.

Reacting to the matter, Dr Karanja Kibicho, the Interior Permanent Secretary, said the decision by the elders was wrong.

“There is a big conflict in execution of the law,” said Dr Kibicho. “Defilement cases cannot be negotiated at a chief’s baraza.”

The victim is the daughter to the suspect’s son, who has since deserted their home.

Contacted, the chief said: “I had opted for a legal process but the elders were for the cleansing. Family rivalry also played some role in the whole matter.”

CLEANSING FEE

But the visibly shaken father of 13 claimed he was not at home at the time the alleged crime was committed.

“I am a church leader,” said the elderly man when interviewed by the Nation. “The accusations have left me disturbed.”

Chief Mwangale told the Nation he had written a letter to commence a court case against the suspect but the elders prevailed upon him to allow the matter to be addressed locally.

“The elders said many such cases happen in the village,” said Mr Mwangale said. “They said it would be wrong to harshly punish the old man.”

He then allowed the elders to agree on the punishment to be meted out on the old man. The elders asked for compensation, locally known as kushola, to cleanse the family, he added.