As hopes fade of finding the bodies of a mother and daughter who died in a ferry accident, the Christian family has been urged to sacrifice an animal to appease bloodthirsty sea gods.
Mariam Kighenda and her four-year-old daughter, Amanda Mutheu, died when their car rolled off the Likoni ferry on September 23.
The ferry lacked restraining chains, gates or a drawbridge.
Mijikenda elder Mwinyihamisi Mwakinyasi said it will take recovery teams a long time to retrieve the bodies because the gods are holding the wreckage inside their caves.
“The gods feed on blood. If they do not get blood, they take it for themselves. Animal blood will satisfy them. But modernity has made people forget these things.
“A tragedy like this reminds us they exist and need to be recognised,” Mwakinyasi said. Only after an animal is sacrificed will the bodies be found, he predicted.
The channel once was an offering site for the Digo elders to avert tragedies caused by evil sea spirits, he said.
The family has so far resisted calls from residents and Mijikenda elders to perform rituals to appease the gods and persuade them to release the bodies.
The Star has learnt, however, that the desperate family is beginning to consider an animal sacrifice to the sea gods that demand blood.
The family was to meet Sunday and performing rituals was on the agenda, widower John Wambua confirmed.
“I am rushing to the meeting now. There are talks and it (rituals) are on the agenda,” he told the Star on Sunday.
Family spokesperson Luke Mbati has rejected the calls for ritual sacrifice.
“We don’t believe in these traditions. It is against our Christian faith. We will continue with prayers and the bodies of our loved ones will be found in Jesus’ name,” he told journalists earlier this week.
For decades, the Mijikenda elders had been conducting rituals at the ferry crossing to avert dangers posed by the sea gods.
Residents say the gods are angry after being starved of blood for a long time. Therefore, they chose Mariam and Amanda as a sacrifice.
Meantime, the government announced that South African expert divers will start searching on Tuesday.
South African divers will aid the search.
“The first batch will arrive Sunday, the second one on Monday. They will meet the Kenyan team starting the search on Tuesday,” government spokesperson Cyrus Oguna told journalists on Sunday.
The number of divers was not immediately established.
Wambua said he hopes they will help relieve the family of their pain.
Oguna said they have isolated four locations where they believe the wreckage and the bodies might be found.
“Today, we have marked two of the locations where we will concentrate our efforts. However, the areas are so deep and divers can’t stay at that depth for more than six minutes,” Oguna said. Otherwise, they develop the bends.
This means it would take the whole day to cover one of the two locations, further diminishing the hopes of recovery.
“Patience is key,” he said.
“Even though those rituals are things of the past, let everyone be given a chance to practise their expertise,” Mombasa Council of Elders chairman Mohamed Jahazi told the Star on Sunday.
Recovery seems to be failing and alternatives must be tried, the former Mvita MP said. Jahazi served as an assistant health minister in President Daniel Moi’s regime.
Kenya Muslim National Advisory Council chair Sheikh Juma Ngao said he opposed calls for rituals to be performed at the crossing channel, saying they violate Islamic teachings.
“It is haram and it is against the teachings of Islam,” he said.
“One is supposed to pray to Allah directly. He listens to everyone and does not want to be bribed to grant prayers,” he said.
He said many things are found in the sea without sacrificing any animals.
“Do those catching fish in the sea slaughter animals first? It was written that mother and daughter would die that day. The ferry accident was just a cause for it to happen,” Sheikh Ngao said.
He said the government and the KFS have failed the family and Kenyans.
“Let people pray normally without slaughtering any animal to appease any sea god,” he said.