19 March 2003

Kenya: KWS Warns Cleric Against Burning Snake

Nairobi — A cross-section of Kenyans yesterday reacted angrily to threats by Anglican clergy to burn the Omieri, the 14-foot python being protected by Nyakach residents.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) yesterday warned the church against any move to kill the snake.

KWS information officer, Caren Ndiema, said it would be against the laws of conservation to burn the snake and that the wildlife conservation body will take stern action against anybody who does that.

She told the Archdeacon of Kisumu Central, Shadrack Owuor, that difference in opinion between Christians and traditionalists should not lead to the burning of the snake.

Owuor was yesterday quoted as saying he will lead members of his church to burn Omieri on Saturday. The burning of the snake, which is regarded by locals as a harbinger of good fortune, will be the culmination of a week-long fast which began last week, he said.

The snake, he said, was the symbol of the devil and should not be venerated.

"Omieri is a devil which should not be venerated but destroyed. It is a pity that religious leaders are keeping quiet as the devil grows in our midst," he said

Ndiema said KWS has nothing to do with the positions being espoused by the church and traditionalists but in the well-being of the serpent, being the custodian of wildlife.

Meanwhile, the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), Nairobi Diocese yesterday differed with Archdeacon Owuor on the killing of the python, adds Diana Etsabo

Nairobi Bishop Peter Njoka, instead, called on KWS to transfer the snake to the National Museum.

"Since this is a world renowned snake it should be preserved in the snake park for those who want to view it and also generate money from tourists,". he said.

Njoka, however, praised the archdeacon for advising Christians that it was wrong to venerate a snake, saying it should be treated as an enemy of man.

He urged Christians to stop revering the snake as it was contrary to biblical teachings.

"They should not engage in this at all, it is clear that the serpent misled man to rebel against God and so Christians should view it as an enemy of man,". he said.

Njoka termed his counterpart's move to address the omieri issue as a bold one as no one had taken the initiative to speak out on it.

The Managing Director of Devki Steel Mills Ltd Raval Guru also accused Owuor of trying to destroy wild animals.

"Nobody has got the right to destroy the life of any wild life or animals". he said.

He said the snake had neither harmed anybody nor brought bad luck and should be handed over to the museum or be released into the forest.

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