Amid the media frenzy over all things Sarah Palin, with a seemingly new scandal or story popping up every other day, it is little wonder that not a lot of background journalism has taken place. While assorted reporters and pundits were happy to play the video of Palin being blessed by African Pentecostal leader Thomas Muthee, few have been able to dig into his claims of driving out “witches” from the town of Kiambu in Kenya.
“According to the Christian Science Monitor, six months of fervent prayer and research identified the source of the witchcraft as a local woman called Mama Jane, who ran a “divination” centre called the Emmanuel Clinic … after Pastor Muthee declared Mama Jane a witch, the townspeople became suspicious and began to turn on her, demanding that she be stoned. Public outrage eventually led the police to raid her home, where they fired gunshots, killing a pet python which they believed to be a demon. After Mama Jane was questioned by police – and released – she decided it was time to leave town, the account says.”
Since then, many have wondered, what happened to Mama Jane? Was she really driven out? Was she killed by a mob, as so many other accused “witches” have been in Kenya? Luckily Zoe Alsop, who happened to be working as a journalist in Kenya, found Mama Jane alive and well and living in Kiambu.
“…some residents of Kiambu were somewhat skeptical of Muthee’s claims. Not least among them is the herbalist Jane W. Njenga, a pastor with the African Mission of Holy Ghost Church, who is best known as Mama Jane. She says she didn’t own a pet python and she’s never left her compound, located about a half-mile from Muthee’s immense new church. Last week Women’s eNews interviewed her there, next door to the Superkid Solid Foundation Faith in Every Footstep daycare center just off Kiambu’s main street. ‘If I am bad, why haven’t people attacked me?’ Njenga says. ‘Why haven’t they burnt this building down? That is what people here do to witches.’”
In fact, just about every claim made in Muthee’s witchcraft adventure has turned out to be false. The decrease in traffic deaths? New paving and speed bumps. Police killed a demon-snake? Mama Jane never owned one. Though one thing is true, Muthee did try to label her as a witch and have her killed or driven out.
“When Muthee came, he took a loudspeaker into the street and he told people to pray for seven days that I would die,” Njenga says. “If I was not known in the town, I could not have survived even to put my children through school.”
One wonders if Muthee’s tale of victory over witchcraft was invented to impress his Western backers. No doubt his church gets plenty of fat donations from fellow “spiritual warriors” impressed by his bravado and willingness to engage in campaigns of demonization and incitement that would be illegal here in America. As one community health worker tells Alsop, the best way to get rich quick in Kenya is to build a church, and Muthee is nothing if not rich. Instead of the mighty witchcraft fighter, come to America to lay his blessings on the faithful, he has been exposed as a Christian con-man making a quick buck.