Published: December 18, 2015 Updated 16:22 GMT By: Reuters
Ritual killings, witch trials go unpunished in Liberia
DAKAR, Dec 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Liberia must tackle a widespread culture of impunity for perpetrators of ritual killings and trials of ordeal and put its human rights obligations before such traditional practices, the United Nations rights chief said on Friday.
Authorities are reluctant to investigate or prosecute such cases, fearful of a backlash from practitioners and politicians, while some state officials are even part of the secret societies that perform the practices, said a U.N. report.
Women, children, the elderly and the disabled are the main victims of harmful cultural practices, including female genital mutilation (FGM) and initiation into secret societies, it said.
“Criminal offences perpetrated through harmful traditional practices often go unpunished due to their perceived cultural dimensions,” said the joint report from the U.N. Mission in Liberia and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“This has generated a widespread culture of impunity among traditional actors,” it said.
Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last month vowed to crack down on those responsible for a rise in ritual killings in the West African nation.
Nine cases of suspected ritualistic killing have been reported to the United Nations since 2012, but local media say there have been at least 10 related murders since this summer. (italics added by the webmaster FVDK).
They occur in some African nations due to a belief that body parts can work magic to obtain success or political power.
It is not yet clear why ritual killings are rising, but the report warned of an increase ahead of national elections in 2017, and some residents have speculated that presidential hopefuls are using black magic to boost their chances.
The report also documented the prevalence of FGM, widely performed by the women’s secret society Sande, and abductions, torture and gang-rapes carried out by the male society Poro.
Many women and children in Liberia are accused of witchcraft, and face “exorcism” rituals, trials by ordeal, expulsion or even death, according to the report.
The trials involve the accused being subjected to pain, such as poison or burning, to determine their innocence or guilt.
“Liberia’s human rights obligations must take precedence over any local practices considered to be ‘cultural’ or ‘traditional’ where such practices are incompatible with human rights,” said U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
The following article can be found in the AllAfrica archive, which requires a subscription. Unfortunately, the original article, which was published by The News, a Liberian newspaper, is no longer available on the internet. Interested readers are advised to follow the instructions below. (Webmaster FVDK).
The Recent Wave of ritual killings in Liberia have got the entire country petrified, particularly in Monrovia where the bodies of several people allegedly killed for ritual purposes are found. These killings continue to occur in spite of commitment by the Liberian government that it would deal with the situation.
Last Month, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf vowed to crack down on those responsible for ritual killings in the country. Yet, it would appear no progress has been made by the government to set a dragnet for those responsible for killing innocent men, women and children.
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Few cases of ritualistic murders have been reported recently from Namibia. This does not mean that ritual killings do not occur in this country. By definition these heinous crimes take place ‘in the dark’. Years ago, I reported some cases of ritual murders in Namibia on my website Liberia Past and Present. Unfortunately, the links then provided have expired by now. Consequently, the information related to these cases is minimal. Notwithstanding this scant information I decided to include here what I then reported. For the sake of history. (Webmaster FVDK).
WINDHOEK – A three-year-old boy from Kazauli village in the Caprivi Region was murdered in a case suspected to be associated with ritualistic muti killing. (…) There are no statistics of the number of muti murders in Namibia. November 24, 2008 (expired link)
(…) the gruesome murder of a 79-year-old woman whose head was found floating on the Kavango River (…) The elderly woman’s head was found at Shadikongoro village near Mukwe, about 180 kilometres east of Rundu, on Sunday after she disappeared on New Year’s Eve. It is suspected that she was killed for muti (traditional medicine) purposes. January 6, 2005 (expired link)
The ritual murder case referred to in the text below is a very old one: over 65 years. The reason why I include it here is two-fold.
First, because it is a case of ritual murder that reveals the ‘social’ motives of the culprits: to protect the interests of the community (village). Historically, ritual murders were human sacrifices meant to safeguard the interests of the family or community.
The second reason is that it clearly illustrates why, for the present blog, I use the method of ‘copy-paste’ of the entire, original article (with explicit mention of the source and author of the article). In the past – for my website on Liberia – I summarized the contents of articles on ritual murders in African countries and added a link to the source. Unfortunately, after a number of years I discovered that links had vanished, expired, got lost in cyberspace causing an irreparable loss. Valuable material for researchers has thus been lost. To avoid this in the future I have decided to reproduce here the original articles that are being published.
For this reason I can only include here the text as published on my Liberia website. However, the text is clear and hopefully it may ever happen that it contributes to more information on this particular murder case. (Webmaster FVDK)
An African headman, Pheelo Smith, desperately needed a human sacrifice to save his villagers’ crops. He chose his father-in-law as the victim, and the whole of the village of Maseru in Basutoland (now Lesotho) turned out to watch the ritual murder. Forty-two people were charged with being implicated in the crime, although 11 were finally charged with murder. Eight of them made a break-out from custody and fought a pitched battle with the police before they were recaptured. All 11 – nine men, who included headman Pheelo Smith, and two women – were hanged on Thursday, August 20th, 1953, at Maseru Prison.
Founder of the Albino Foundation in Nigeria, Mr Jake Epelle has condemned the alleged killing of albinos in some parts of the country for ritual purposes.
Speaking in Abuja ahead of the national albinism day, Mr Epelle says Nigerians living with albinism suffer discrimination from their families, schoolmates and peers in addition to a deliberate failure to educate children living with albinism.
Mr Epelle therefore appealed to the various arms of government to come to the aid of persons living with albinism.
Dressed in yellow T-shirts and face caps, albinos converged on the national press centre in Abuja to listen to talks on albinism ahead of the national albinism day.
Some promoters of the albinism cause also appealed to privileged members of the society to assist persons living with albinism and stop all forms of discrimination against them.
Members of the albino foundation appealed to the federal government to assist them particularly in the area of acquiring education.
Albinism is an health condition that occurs in people of all race and gender and Nigeria is estimated to have one of the highest albinism prevalence rate in the world with children constituting about 40 per cent of the albinism population.
With the campaign for a national albinism day, the challenges of albinos may reduce stereotypes against persons living with albinism.
Published: March 9, 2019 By: Ebele Boniface – The Nation
The operatives of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu’s Intelligence Response Team (IRT) in Ogun State, have arrested a 37-year-old herbalist, Libaq Alabade, for allegedly using human parts to do money rituals.
Some of the human parts recovered from the suspect include a severed human leg, which the IRT detectives preserved in kerosene in a plastic container, to prevent decay.
Following a tip off by an undisclosed source, that a certain herbalist in Ajuwon community in Ifo, Ogun State, was allegedly using human parts for herbal medicine, including money rituals, the leader of the IRT team in Abuja, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Abba Kyari, ordered the Ogun State IRT coordinator, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Babalola Adekunle, to fish him out.
Adekunle subsequently led a team of detectives to arrest the herbalist in the house he built for his late wife in Ajunwon, Ifo, on February 15.
During the mission, the team recovered human parts, including the severed leg of a female and male said to have been used for money rituals.
Further findings revealed that Alabade owns many houses in the community, some of which are littered with shallow graves, from where he allegedly exhumes corpses to extract preferred human parts for ritual purposes.
Reacting to his arrest, the suspect, however, maintained that he was innocent. He said: “This is a total set up by my known enemy, a fellow herbalist, named Segun. He had once told me that he would deal with me for exposing him to the police.
“I was doing security work as an OPC member. I used to help police to identify some of these dangerous elements in our society. Even in our association meetings, I used to emphasise these problems.
“Segun told me that he would show me for helping the police to arrest him. Yes, I used to inform the police of their atrocities because I cherish a decent society and I have value for human lives. He just set me up.
“I was arrested for killing people for rituals. I have not killed anybody. We have two graves in my compound. I have seven wives. Three died. I have five children.
“My work is simple; I have medicine for ‘manpower’, that can make a man ‘strong’ for 30 minutes of sex. One goes for N2,000 – N2,500.
“Let me advise the police. To reduce using human parts for rituals in Ogun State, they(police) should kill any suspect found with human parts after investigation had proved that the suspect really committed the offence or has the intention to commit.
“It is true that people are wickedly murdered for money rituals but I do not do it. I was set up by my follow herbalist because I reported him to the police.”
Sources within the police revealed that the suspect will be charged to court as soon as investigations are completed.
Related article: Herbalist in soup …. Over human parts found in his house – Explains why they demand women’s pants
Herbalist Libaq Alabede is battling to convince the police he knew nothing about the fresh human body parts found in his house at 14, Glover Lane, Ajowa Estate, Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State.
The incriminating piece of evidence––discovered by operatives of Inspector General of Police, Intelligence Response Team (IRT) who stormed his houses with a search warrant––was a nylon bag containing among other things fresh human parts. The exhibit was found in one of the shops attached to his building.
Alabede, 37, is currently facing the damning allegation that he plundered fresh graves, exhuming buried bodies and removing their parts for ritual purposes. He is also accused of having sold parts of his late wife’s body to his customers.
I was framed up
Alabede had no better defence other than to claim that his enemy framed him. “Police should go and arrest the likes of Segun, that man is a confirmed ritualist,” he said. “Go to my family house in Oyo, you will confirm that I am a good herbalist that will never get involved in anything evil.”
The native of Shepete in Oyo State was born and bred in Ogun State, where he attended an Arabic school in Ifo and learnt to become a herbal doctor.
He explained his area of specialization: “I learnt how to use herbs to heal all kinds of disease, especially sexually transmitted disease. I also learnt how to invoke good luck on the lives of people especially businessmen and women. I have helped a lot of women who cannot conceive to become mothers and men who were once sterile to be able to impregnate women with ease. It is a gift and that is how I made my money.”
On his allegation of a setup, Alabede attributed it to revenge by his enemies for his cooperation with the police. “I am one of the best herbalists in this Ifo area and also a member of OPC. It is part of our responsibility to make sure that the area is safe. I normally assist the police to arrest miscreants in our area especially our members who are into ritual killing.”
He alleged that a certain Segun was one of those arrested severally by the police, and upon his recent release from prison, had “threatened to deal with me for telling the police of his activities.”
As far as he was concerned, he could see the hand of his nemesis in his current plight. “I had gone to one of my houses where I buried my late wife and police came there and arrested me. They searched the house and discovered human parts in nylon in one of the shops and they concluded that it belongs to me. I am 100 per cent sure that he (Segun) was the one who planted the fresh body parts there for the police to find. I was framed because I do not participate in such an act. I cannot tell police about people who commit such crime and still turn around to commit the same crime,” he said.
When asked why the grave of his late wife was tampered with, Alabade responded thus: “It is a taboo for a herbalist to see the body of his late wife. When she died, my people decided to bury her in that property because I specifically constructed it for her. She was living in that house before she became very sick. The part of the land where they buried her is soft, that is why whenever you come here, it will seem as if someone tampered with her grave, but I assure you that if you dig up her corpse and discover that it was tampered with then be rest assure that one of the evil men visited her grave.”
As for his presence on the property, he claimed he was planning to rent out the shops “since it’s almost a year after her death.”
Why missing pants
When confronted with the prevalence of women pants use for ritual purposes, Alabade avowing that “I am not one of them” insisted that women underwear is normally used to produce love medicine and not for money ritual.
“When the issue became very common, we discussed it in our general meeting and members were warned to desist from such. Normally underwear is used by some herbalists to prepare love medicine.”
He attributed the upsurge in stolen panties to desperate Yahoo Yahoo boys. “It is because of the so much money that they are making from that business that is why our colleagues (herbalists) request for more money and abnormal things. Have you seen any woman run mad or die mysteriously after she lost her pant? We only use pants to produce love medicine, not money ritual.
“I do not need to kill someone to become rich as a herbalist. If you accuse me of selling potent manpower medicine, I will say that I am guilty as charged. I am an expert in that field and that is why I am so popular in these areas.”
He claimed he made his money by concentrating on herbs that make women pregnant. “A lot of them will come and pay heavily. This was how I managed to build so many houses and marry seven wives.”
He further reiterated his innocence by pointing out the odd angle to his ordeal. “If I am a ritualist, I cannot keep such sensitive material in my house or land. I will restrict it to the shrine area, which should be located in the bush where security men cannot come and suddenly search without informing me ahead of the search. I am innocent, police should go and arrest Segun, he is a ritualist and should explain to the police where he got those fresh body parts.”
The Benue State Police Command on Tuesday, paraded suspects arrested for various crimes in the state.
Briefing newsmen at the Command Headquarters in Makurdi, the Commissioner of Police, CP Omololu Bishi, said two of the suspects confessed to killing a young man for a ritual purpose.
According to the CP, the father of the victim, Mr. Iorumbur Amanger of Tombo-Mbaya Buruku Local Government Area wrote a petition to the Command stating that Hyginus Lubem Mbachi of the same address defrauded him of the sum of Two Hundred and Nine Thousand; One Hundred and Fifty Naira (₦209, 150) only being fee for the admission of his son Afa Amanger into a University in Cameroon. The said suspect left his house with his son to Cameroon and since then he could not communicate with his son.
“During investigation Hyginus Lubem Mbachii and one Gambo Bulus alias Murphy of Akwanga, Nasarawa State was arrested at Lafia, Nasarawa State on 22/02/2019 in connection with the case. The suspects confessed to have killed Afa Amanger since 05/01/2019 for ritual purpose and has been collecting money from the complainant for his own personal use”
The corpse of the deceased has been recovered from the Hospital where the suspects earlier abandoned the victim and ran away. The suspect will soon be arraigned in Court.
The Command also arrested (….) (omitted since not relevant for the present site – webmaster VDK).
Nemesis has caught up with two young men, Hyginus Mbachi and Gambo Bulus who killed a young man for ritual after one of them took him from his father on the pretext that he was going to help him gain admission in the Republic of Cameroon.
Parading the suspects on Thursday, Benue State Police Commissioner, Omololu Bishi, said the police acted on a petition written by the deceased father, Iorumbur Amanger, stating that Mbachi defrauded him the sum of N208,150 being fee for the admission of his son, Afa, into a university in Cameroon.
“He (Amanger), said the suspect left his house with his son to Cameroon and since then, he could not communicate with his son,” adding that during investigation, Mbachi (22) and Bulus (23) were arrested in Nasarawa State on February 22, 2019, in connection with the case.
Bishi who disclosed that the suspects had already confessed to the crime, said the suspects confessed to have killed Afa since January 5, this year for ritual purposes adding that the herbalist was still on the run with the blood-stained knife.
The CP who said the suspects had also been collecting money from the complainants for their own personal use, revealed that after stabbing Afa, they took him to a hospital on the claims that he was their friend who was involved in an accident.
“As soon as the hospital took the patient into the emergency ward, the two suspected criminals disappeared and never returned to the hospital.”
Bishi who posited that the suspect would soon be arraigned in court said the corpse of the deceased has been recovered from the hospital where the suspects earlier abandoned him and ran away.
Speaking with newsmen while being paraded, the suspects, Mbachi and Bulus who confessed to the crime said the victim whom they alleged was a member of the Young Vikings confraternity was actually not the target for their ritual purpose but was stabbed in error.
Bishi warned parents against giving out their wards to people they don’t really know, stressing that ritual killings, kidnapping and other social vices are now happening at an alarming rate in the country.
Published: March 4, 2019 By: Penelope Paliani-Kamanga – Southern Times
Blantyre – Continued killings of people with albinism in Malawi has made the country unsure of to what to do with the population blaming each other and concerned persons calling on government and the police to seriously do something about it.
The confusion, which has left the country living in fear and on bended knees, comes at a time when 10 people with albinism were recently reported missing amid reports that they may have been abducted. They have been reports of the abduction of a child in Karonga and recently of a teenager in Dedza.
Since November 2014, the number of reported crimes against people with albinism in Malawi has risen to 152 cases, including 25 murders and more than 10 people missing, according to Association of People with Albinism in Malawi. (Italics added by the webmaster FVDK).
Discrimination against people with albinism has been a problem in the past in Malawi and experts had expressed concerned earlier this year that the violence could get worse with the coming May 21 election. Experts called on the government to redouble its efforts and implement all necessary measures to protect people with albinism.
The expected spike around election time is due to the false belief that ritual use of the body parts of people with albinism can bring good luck and political power. This might lead to torture, murder, discrimination and exclusion, including banishment from communities.
Main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, in a recent demand for action, has challenged President Peter Mutharika to put an end to killings and abductions of persons with albinism in the country.
He was speaking at a press conference last week in Lilongwe, following the abduction of a boy with albinism, Goodson Makanjira, 14, of Mphanyama village, traditional authority Chilikumwendo in Dedza.
Chakwera said Mutharika has executive powers to end this barbaric practice but was “sleeping on the job and being a coward”.
“I only have three words for the President; do your job! Stop being a coward and do your job. If you do not end these murders and abductions, you will leave a legacy that will haunt you for the rest of your life.”
Chakwera promised that once voted into power, he will end the abductions and killings within a month.
Chakwera said it was sad that the killings were continuing despite government launching the National Action Plan (NAP) last year to protect those living with albinism.
“I will keep fighting for the rights of our friends. My advice to the President is to act now, use his powers and don’t be afraid of the ‘buyers’, because I know they are there,” he said.
But State House press secretary Mgeme Kalilani, in an interview, described Chakwera’s remarks as a threat to the rule of law and warned him against using the plight of people with albinism for political mileage.
In another demand for action, president of Umodzi Party (UP) one of the parties in the race for the elections, Professor John Chisi, expressed dissatisfaction with the way police were handling albino abductions and killings.
Chisi, who said the situation was pathetic, demanded the resignation of the country’s Inspector General of Police Rodney Jose on the grounds that he had failed to protect people with albinism.
“This issue of albino killings is unacceptable. These are avoidable deaths. The police have failed us, as they have the National Intelligence Bureau but are doing nothing. The Inspector General of Police must conduct a press conference to let us know why they are failing to end the malpractice, if not, he and his people must resign,” said Chisi.
National Coordinator of the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM), Boniface Massah, said in a statement that the refusal to push forward with prosecuting suspects accused of attacking and killing people with albinism has left a persecuted minority on the edge.
Massah said in an interview the government’s failure to conclude cases demonstrated that “security has not improved”, leaving the estimated 10,000-strong community vulnerable and anxious.
“We face a high risk of attack and we have seen government commitment in words, but not in action,” he said.
In a desperate move to tackle this issue, two groups and some concerned citizens have petitioned Malawi’s Ombudsman, Martha Chizuma, to thoroughly investigate the country’s failure to protect persons with albinism.
Specifically APAM, in its petition, wants the Ombudsman to direct President Mutharika to appoint a commission of inquiry and conduct a comprehensive research to trace and identify the alleged source of demand and supply for body parts of PWAs.
Further, APAM also wants Mutharika to seek, as a matter of urgency, international support to conduct investigations, including specialist support for forensic testing and combating human trafficking, to bring perpetrators of these gross human rights abuses to justice.
The petition, signed by APAM president Overstone Kondowe, shows that there are currently 165 cases against PWAs, including 36 concluded cases, 39 cases pending in courts, 79 under investigation and 12 cases closed due to lack of proper evidence.
On the other hand, Federation of Disability Organisations in Malawi (Fedoma) executive director Action Amos said his organisation was concerned that there was no breakthrough in tracing the root cause of the atrocities or markets.
Reads the Fedoma petition: “We are demanding that your office assists with pushing for an establishment of a commission of inquiry. The current technical committee is toothless and won’t bring us any results. We have development partners willing to support the commission of inquiry.
The European Union (EU) has also been one of the organistions that has asked government to do something about the abductions. EU Ambassador Sandra Paesen this week called for serious criminal investigations and coordination among countries to fight abductions and killings of people with albinism.
Paesen said finger pointing will not solve the vice which has left a dent on Malawi.
Albinism is a genetically inherited condition. It often results in the lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes.
The attacks stem from a belief that body parts belonging to people with albinism contain magical powers.
Mutharika, who has of late been talking tough on atrocities against PWAs, has been blamed for simply making podium rants, with little being done on the ground to stop the vice.
The Malawi government launched a four-year National Action Plan on Persons with Albinism aimed at ending atrocities against persons with albinism, and improving their social welfare. Since 2014, at least 23 PWAs have been killed.