Lack of education and superstition go hand in hand. Compliments for the LNP and the Gender Ministry for this timely action! In 2007 President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made primary school education compulsory and free (by the way, not for the first time in Liberia’s history…), what happened to the law? (webmaster FVDK)
Published: January 17, 2020 By: The Bush Chicken, Sualeh Ziamo
GANTA, Nimba – The Liberia National Police and authorities of the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection have rescued 29 children who were taken to a church for deliverance after being accused of practicing witchcraft.
The Gender Ministry’s supervisor assigned in Nimba, Victor Zeegban, told The Bush Chicken that the children were taken to the Fire for Fire Deliverance Church in Ganta for spiritual cleansing, on suspicion that they were involved in witchcraft activities.
Zeegban said his office had received a tip from community dwellers about the kids being mistreated at the center and abandoned by relatives who took them there.
“After receiving the tipoff, we dispatched our social workers to the church to see for themselves and they came back and reported to us that the kids were actually abandoned by their parents and guardians,” he said.
“Through our fact-finding visits, we even got to know that some of the kids were taken there at the age of one and have spent over three years in the church’s yard.”
He also confirmed that the children were being mistreated and found in appalling conditions, with no access to medication when they fell sick. According to him, one of the children died in May last year.
“I saw with my own eyes one of the children’s hands [being] tied with [a] rope on grounds that he was possessed [by] a strong spirit from the dark world,” Zeegban explained.
He also disclosed that the Gender Ministry was relocating the children to a safe home in Sanniquellie, where they will remain until they are possibly reunited with their families. Zeegban assured that the children would be supported by partners of the ministry.
Meanwhile, the commander of the police’s Women and Children Protection Section in Ganta, Jenkins Mangou, has praised members of the community for the important role they played in the children’s rescue.
The International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, is an independent, nonprofit news agency that seeks to promote transparency and accountability through robust and objective investigative reporting. The ICIR’s mission is to promote good governance and entrench democratic values by reporting, exposing, and combating corruption.
Comment webmaster FVDK under construction. Check Elozino Delta State University in earlier posts (webmaster FVDK)
Confession of Yahoo Plus Boys: “Ritual does not give us money”
Published: November 8, 2019 By: Ejiro Umukoro
IN their desperation to join the ranks of their compatriots who have been making millions of dollars out of online-scams, young Nigeria- based wannabe scammers known as ‘yahoo boys’ are resorting to the use of traditional charms and mystical powers to charm potential victims.
Yahoo Boys are young men —usually aged between 22-29 years—who specialize in various types of cybercrime. Many of them may be undergraduates or college dropouts whose distinct lifestyles of fast cars, wealth and ostentation is the envy of many of their age-mates. The Yahoo Boys are not limited by geography— the internet is their home— and their victims are as diverse as there are naive and people ready to fall for get-rich-quick scams.
There are numerous websites dedicated to providing tips for those interested in joining the growing ranks of Yahoo Boys. According to a research report, Understanding Cybercrime Perpetrators and the Strategies They Employ in Nigeria, the use of voodoo and charms for spiritual protection and to charm potential victims is very common among Yahoo Boys in Nigeria. The practice is referred to as “Yahoo Plus. According to the report, another level in the use of charms is known as Yahoo Plus Plus, which “involves the use of human parts and may need kidnapping other human beings for rituals, which is not necessary in ‘‘Yahoo Plus.’’ In Yahoo Plus Plus, the use of things such as victims finger nails, rings, carrying of corpses, making incision on their body, sleeping in the cemetery, citing of incantation, using of their fingers for rituals, and having sex with ghosts are common.”
Getting a Victim – The Kidnapping
The car drives by in a lazy fashion. Its three passengers, all male: Macaulay Desmond Oghenemaro, Emese Emudiaga Kelvin and Onoriode Enaike are good spotters. They know a victim when they see one. The signs are usually obvious: a response to a cat-call, eye contact, a smile, a wave of the hand, a thumbs up or just the mere sight of their expensive car is enough to pull a vulnerable, or even, willing participant. This is their fourth recon for their next task. The last three girls they got had been easy catch, their names unremembered, their bodies long decomposed; each one, a girl on the lookout for quick money, free food, or free drinks in return for a one night, short term, or simply a girl keen on dating only men who drive cars.
The three of them sight a potential victim. She flags them down and gets in. She looks about twenty-years-old. She’s not a student; a fashion designer she tells them. They drive to the hottest spot in town for drinks, skewered meat and food. They continue to pour alcohol into her glass, ordering more bottles of beer. She guzzles down the beer as she feasts on the meat and other goodies that they push before her.
The night was about to be ushered in. Their day job as ‘Yahoo boys’(online fraudsters) has taken a new twist. They are now Yahoo Plus Plus, a code name for ‘ritualists’ – or those who are in the business of getting human body parts for use in rituals and occult practices which are supposed to guarantee success of their internet scams. They signaled each other: it was time to take her out. They get her into the car in a drunken stupor then drive several kilometres to the outskirts of Oghara into a bush where they first plucked out one of her eyes while she was still alive. The young lady was crying, begging them to forgive her and let her go, but they went ahead and pluck the other eye, remove her breasts and heart before she died.
Three hours later they are done with her. They abandon her body out in the open, her hands and feet bound with marine ropes. Within three hours they cut off her organs: breasts, heart and eyes. Once they were done, they head for their next stop at the ‘Jazz Man’s’ shrine in Alegbo, Warri.
His name is Ojokojo Robinson Obajero, a 63-years-old man, who though an expert in herbal medicines, mixes his craft with occult practices. They call him the ‘Jazz Man’ in pidgin patois. When the three men meet him and presented the human organs, Obajero tells them when to return. They leave. Four days later, Obajero summons the three men and hands over the burnt ashes of the deceased’s body parts he claims he used in preparing a “money ritual concoction”, which he tells them will guarantee that their online victims fall prey for their tricks to obtain money through fraud.
Several weeks later they returned to Obajero, disappointed and angry. Their business of internet fraud has not been booming as they expected. Instead, it seems that the online victims they have been targeting have become smarter and are no longer falling for their scams. It’s also been several months since they made any money from female victims looking for love on the internet.
They demand to know from Obajero why his ritual did not work. He tells them that he has been testing them – the first three victims whose body parts they brought to him for conjuring was a test to confirm they would not divulge his identity as the person making the charms. He tells them he is confident they will keep their mouths shut and demands that they must get a fifth victim whose body parts he will use to make a new charm.
The three scammers are not happy with this new request. Desmond tells Obajero that they had put in a lot of effort to get the body parts from their four previous victims, and yet they had not got any results. Desmond is angry that even though they had invoked the occult, they were not as successful in luring victims as they had been before they started engaging with Obajero. But this time, Obajero makes a firm promise: “This time you will make money through the death of the girl and the ritual I will do for you.”
The three men left wondering where to get their next victim. Less than 24 hours later, Onoriode calls Desmond and Emese. He tells them there is a possible victim — a student in Abraka University where he works as a security guard. The girl, Elozino Ogege is a 300 level Mass Communication student of the Delta State University who had a few days earlier, asked him if he could help her with information regarding available rooms for rent within the school’s staff quarters, and he had now has asked the girl to return the next day. He told his two accomplices this would be an opportunity for them to kidnap her and take her out of the school premises with the help of the head of security, Nwosisi Benedict Uche, who will be paid N30,000 for allowing them to pass through the gate without the boot of the car being subjected to a search.
Inside the Lecturers Staff Quarters, the three of them waylay Elozino, incapacitate her with a toxic fume, and dump her in the boot of the jeep they brought. While Onoriode waited behind at his guard post, the other two drove to Emese’s house in Umeghe and waited for Onoriode to join them after work hours. Once Onoriode arrived, they drive towards Abraka just before Obiaruku by the right when coming from Warri axis into a large expansive land thick with vegetation. They drive through the bush track of lined palm trees. The bush track leads to Ugunu Community but they do not drive inwards, parking the Corolla car a few metres from the expressway. It was already dark. They get their tools and torchlight.
Desmond had drank half a bottle of strong expensive alcohol but his two friends had no need to dull their senses before they mutilated the girl they had successfully kidnapped. Elozino was crying, begging them to let her go but they ignored her pleas while they plucked her eyes out, removed her heart and cut off her nipples. Two and a half hours later, they are done with the deed. They drive off and deliver the dismembered parts to the occultist who once again instructs them to return after two days when he would have completed preparing the charms.
This was their 5thvictim. In their desperation to make money through ritual killings and sacrifices, they covered an estimated distance of at least 78KM, a journey of about 1hour 27mins between Abraka to Otefe, Oghara in at least 10 instances (780KM) (870 minutes); including traveling back and forth from Abraka to Warri on at least 10 occasions to meet with the occultist who prepared charms, estimated distance of 490KM both ways, a total of 660 minutes; in addition to navigating their way from their home base in Abraka to Delta State University, DELSU, towards the expressway some distance from Obiaruka where they committed their last crime, a journey of at least 41KMboth ways and roughly 50mins at the least. On average, it took them about 3 hours on each victim to extract the organs, an average total of 15 hours spent.
While they were at home awaiting the call from the jazz man, in less than 48 hours later, in the early hours of Saturday 10thNovember 2018, all three men including the occultist were rounded up by the police. A tipoff from the victim’s family led to an investigation that helped the police trace the girl’s cell phone, a Tecno K7 Mobile, to the murderers. Elozino Ogege was their fifth victim.
ON MISSING GIRLS
A follow-up investigation into the other 4 missing girls was made. Reports from Police Missing Person data does not have any record of reported missing girls during this period when the acts were carried out. According to the Police IPO in charge of Elozino’s case, who followed up on the perpetrators confession, no bodies of the missing girls were found when they went to inspect the areas where their bodies were dumped in the bushes in Oghara.
When the police was asked why there was no missing persons’ report, one theory postulated was that since the bodies of the girls according the yahoo boys were left abandoned in the open, decomposition was fast and the decayed bodies and bones likely eaten up by animals.
The other reason he explained was that, as a rule, because police don’t trust anyone, many people prefer not to report such cases of dead or mutilated bodies found so they are not mistaken or held for being responsible for such deaths or incidences. To remedy this, he suggests that citizens in general can report such cases to NGOs whose focus covers such issues who will then bring the case to the police. That way, the person who made the report is at first protected until investigations into the matter are completed.
But most importantly, citizens should begin to take it upon themselves to report suspicious activities and suspicious persons to the police early on as a preemptive call-to-action. Neighbourhood Watch is a must in combating crimes, illicit and illegal activities in all communities, especially more so in the ‘ember’ months ahead, where end of year activities are highest.
Efforts were also made to reach the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) to give us data on activities surrounding violent killings of females within the context of Yahoo Plus Plus using the FOI Request but no response, over two months before this report was filed, was gotten from EFCC regarding this. Violence of any kind against women: yahoo plus plus, other occult related killings, rape, assault, etc., are human rights abuses that must not be condoned by society. Cases must be reported and speedy justice administered to stop the scourge and prevent future incidents.
More needs to be done to collect data on missing women in Nigeria, to better understand the scope of the problem and work towards making university campuses a safe space for female students.
As foreign law enforcement crackdown on online scams in a bid to protect their citizens from online fraud, it will become harder and harder for the Yahoo Boys to keep operating as they have in the past. Ritual killings and the belief that their victims’ body parts will create charms that will enable them to earn a living from scams are just one of the results from a population of young people who are turning to crime to make a living.
Nigeria’s youth unemployment rate averaged 36.5% iin the third quarter of 2018, while the national average rose to 23.1%. With graduates entering the workplace in greater numbers, there needs to be a concerted effort by national and state governments to provide an environment that will enable job creation to give young people better choices.
Yahoo Boys as also adept at cyber-enabled financial fraud. A six month operation wire wire conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service resulted in 74 arrests in the United States and overseas, including 29 in Nigeria, and three in Canada, Mauritius and Poland. The operation also resulted in the seizure of nearly $2.4 million, and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers. Many of these scammers who were in Nigeria have since fled to other countries eg Ghana, Dubai ,South Africa, Gambia as the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes commission closed in on them.
I set out to interview Desmond and Onoriode who admitted to practicing Yahoo Plus Plus rituals. Together as a gang they spent an estimated 1,311KM, equaling a total of 1,580 minutes on the prowl looking for vulnerable women they can lure. Their lead-man, Emese, was alleged to have slumped and died when the police were close to catching him. Desmond and Onoriode were both in police custody while awaiting trial when this interview was conducted. During the interview, they were unemotional as they narrated how they kidnapped their victims and mutilated their bodies.
Sitting down on a short bench close to a hedge of plants, the sun shining overhead with a white plastic table separating us, this is an excerpt from the interview I conducted in the presence of the police:
Q: What’s your name and how old are you?
Macaulay Desmond. I’m 32 years. I Finished secondary school in 2008 (Urhuoka Secondary School, Abraka) but I was born in Lagos. I did my primary school in Benin and secondary school in Abraka.
Q: Were you in business before?
Desmond: I was into photography work and sand dredging from high sea. My job was to pile it up. I dredged in Bayelsa and with Delta Glass for two years and six months. Photography was from 2006 to 2013. I was learning photography as an apprentice at the same time I was schooling in secondary school. After school I go to do my apprenticeship. I was good with snapping photos, creating handbills, all types of photo enlargements, making complimentary cards, CD plate transfers and so on. But after I finished secondary school I stop my apprenticeship and left the job. Because I didn’t have the money to open my own shop I decided to work for my boss. After a while I left the job because it wasn’t paying that well. So I went to Lagos to work for another construction company. But that too wasn’t paying me well.
So I approach my Uncle to help me with money to further my studies. So my Uncle put me in the line of dredging sand from 2013 up till 2016 when I now leave for Ghana. I left because the dredging contractors who supplied the sands to Beta Glass was not paying, they owed us for long periods. Life was difficult. When I complain to my uncle he no show concern; im own be say e don put you for line. His own is to build the barge, rent it out or sell it out. The weather in the place too was a problem especially when I was hungry. So I got fed up.
Q: Why didn’t you learn how to make barges yourself from your Uncle? Or you didn’t want to learn how to make barges?
That’s not what I discussed with him actually. I told him I have finished my photography work and I just need money to finish my studies. My Uncle told me he does not have that kind of money. But the best he can do for me is put me in the line of working in the barge.
Q: So how did you get into this other line of business?
When things got rough with the dredging business, I called my friend and told him things are rough with me here (Nigeria) that’s when my friend now ask me to come in 2016.
Q: So what happened in Ghana? What were you now doing in Ghana?
We are doing the yahoo yahoo.
Q: Where exactly in Ghana?
Q: How long were you there for?
I was there like 8 months.
Q: So you were living with your friend there? How were you paying or compensating him for living in his house?
There was no compensation because he’s my childhood friend. We went to the same secondary school. The agreement we have is that if I collect money, then the percentage we’ll share it. If I collect N300,000 we can share it 40/60 because he’s the one providing for the network and feeding. That’s how they do it everywhere. Everybody that travels to Ghana that’s how they do it. It’s 40/60. Or some chairman the one that’s not greedy 50/50.
Q: Describe this your yahoo business for me.
Yahoo is kind of internet relationship. When you meet a woman.
Q: So you target women?
Yea its women. Some people do male one or female, depends on the one you want. You tell the woman that you love her and you want her to be your wife for the starting when you propose to her if she agree. For the first week you push love to her then may be for the second week you still push love to her. From there she will give you her number so you can be communicating with her so both of you can be talking. Then may be she can tell you that you cannot be talking on phone-phone that she want you to come over. That’s when she’s in love. She’ll tell you to come over. Because them they believe in love. Once they tell you that they’re in love they’re really in love.
Q: Which kind of women are you targeting? African women or …?
Any woman. Let me say in Africa, only South African women because it is the currency we’re looking at. We target women in Germany, U.S, Italy, London,
Q: So do you target this women? You look at their profile or you randomly choose anyone you want?
We bond them through Facebook. Facebook show your location, your name. So you can use your name and put your phone number and everything about you will show. And if you like to accept you accept, and if you don’t like to accept…
Q: So once I accept your friendship, the next thing you’ll be sending me messages?
We’ll be chatting.
Q: How long does it take before a woman gives in?
It depends on how long it takes for the woman to fall in love. In the past it used to take two weeks for her to ‘fall in love’. But these days it can take up to three years because many are now aware that there are scammers. So most of them are very careful. So if you tell her you love her, she will say no, because most of them have been played before. Those ones that have been played before will tell us so and so person did this to me. Those types of women, we leave them. No need wasting time with them. Once they tell you they’ve been played before its best to leave them because nothing you’ll tell that person will change them. You dump her and look for another one. Those who have money will give you.
Q: What language do you speak to these women?
For English women, you speak English. For Spanish women, you download an App to translate English to Spanish or English to German or English to Portuguese.
Q: When did you start Yahoo business?
January 2016. But my friend has been in it since 2013.
Q: How much do you make on a weekly or monthly basis?
Money doesn’t come in like that. But within a month, if you meet a woman who fall for you, you can get as much as $3,000 – $4,000. Once she pays you that money, you leave her for some time so you can build trust. Else if you demand too quick after the first one, she will not believe you.
Q: What do you tell her that moves her to give you such money?
The type of work I’m doing is what I used to get her. I tell her I’m an engineer. I pose as an engineer working at sea into rig drilling. That’s the only way to get a vacation from my boss. Then I’ll tell her to write to him because he’s the only one who can grant me my vacation since I’m not due for leave yet. And the only way to get out of the sea is through a helipad. If she can pay for that, plus other expenses like ground transportation, accommodation and feeding, then I can be with her fast fast. So the cost will be like $3,000 to hire the helipad plus another $1,000.
Q: But how does she know which company you work for?
I design a website that looks exactly like a popular offshore drilling website company but my pictures will not be on it because once she sees who I really am, she won’t fall for it. So I will send the company email to her which I have already created. She now writes to by ‘boss’ using that email. But the email is coming back to me. I will now reply to the email as the ‘boss’ telling her that “the message she sent has been received. And will get back to her in a few days.” After she has received this first email she’ll now copy it and send it to me to say this was the response she got from my boss.
Two days later, the ‘boss’ will now write back to me saying: “We have granted the vacation. Since this is not his normal vacation time, it will require a helipad to take him out from the sea.”
She will now copy this and send to me. That is when I will now tell her it would cost $3,000-$4,000 to pay for the helipad that will take him out of the sea to land including expenses for hotel, feeding and accommodation.
Q: How does she send the money to you?
We keep a collection of women on the internet for different reasons. Some we propose marriage to and keep promising them that to keep the relationship going but tell them we’re struggling in Nigeria with a business we want to grow so that when need for her arises like in transferring money from one European country to another, she provides the bank account needed for the transaction. By this time I would have told her I only trust her and I have a big contract in Nigeria worth $300,000 that is going to run for a year and six months (or whatever time I like to give her), but because I don’t have all the money yet to execute it, I will tell her I’m asking money from friends and families within and outside Nigeria to help me with some money so I can succeed in the business. Then the monies would be sent to her account and after the contract is done, the entire money will be paid into her account then we can be together. I will now ask her to assist too since the other monies will be dropping into her account. Because the woman sees herself as wife to be married to me, her future husband she believes me. So when I get a new client ready to pay money, I will reach out to my ‘wife’ who now provides me with the bank account and the money is wired in it. Already I’m posing as a non-Nigerian. And although I am in Nigeria, I’m working as a contractor but don’t have an account yet. I will now tell her to send the money to my supervisor who is a black man. Then I will provide her with my own account details. Or any other account needed for the purpose.
Q: Is the pickup woman part of the yahoo team?
No she’s not. She’s just like the other women looking for love too who I have already proposed to.
Q: Why send the money through her? Are you not worried she will keep it for herself?
There’s a lot of problems that will come up if I give her my account. Money transfer from inter country takes 6-7 days. And if you use your own account, your face as a black man will show and that will terminate the transactions.
Q: At what point does the woman know that she’s been deceived?
She cannot know. She does not know. The only time she begins to think so is when her daughter, friends or even husband tells her that the person she’s dealing with is scamming her.
Q: From the point she sends in the first money, how long does it take from that time for her to know she’s been scammed?
It takes a while. Even after the first payment, some of them will send more money again as long as she doesn’t realise. But once she realises, she would stop. In the past it used to take four years of continuously sending money before she realises she’s being scammed. But these days it may not take up to two years.
Q: How many women have you gotten money from like this?
Since 2016 till December 2018 I only succeeded in getting two women to give me money. But I have spoken to many women who think I’m in love with them. Many of them are genuinely in love but don’t have money. The reason being that once you mention money even after you have proposed to them and keep promising love, some will tell you they don’t have or will just stop talking to you.
Q: How much have you made since 2016-2018?
We split the money into 60/40. So the money that has come to me is up to N3.5 million naira.
Q: What do you do with this money?
I use it for myself and give my sisters too. I also have cousins I share it with.
Q: Do they know that this is how you got the money between 2016 and 2018? They didn’t ask you?
I told them I was travelling. And even after I came back to Nigeria and continued, they don’t know what I do. I don’t stay with them. I stay with my friend and we live very far from them even though we’re all in Abraka. They call me whenever they need money and I send it to them.
Q: Why did you leave Ghana?
My friend asked us to come back to Nigeria with the promise that we will return to Ghana. But to my surprise, he said we were no longer going back. He deceived me. I was very angry at him because his attitude towards me changed. It wasn’t about money. I quarreled with him. Another friend of his, a guy in the same line of business came between us. I was very angry with my friend so I left him. Later he came to beg me and I went back to stay with him.
Q: Why didn’t you just go back to Ghana on your own?
There was no money.
Q: At what point did you now add ‘ritual killings’ to your business?
It was after we got to Nigeria when the money was no longer coming in again like before. That was one of the reasons I quarreled with my friend. Nigeria wasn’t favourable. I even went back to loading tipper and dredging sand to see if I can raise money but I wasn’t even making enough money to save so that we can use it to go back to Ghana.
Q: So who introduced you to ‘ritual killings’?
My friend, Emese, who was here with us in the prison. But he’s dead now.
Q: Are you convinced ‘ritual’ gave you the money?
To me what I see there is that it’s just being manipulator. Let me say so. Or is just when things will just happen. Now I don’t believe that anybody on earth, nobody can tell me this kind of thing.
Q: Desmond you took the lives of 5 girls. Elozino was not drunk, nor drugged but awake while you guys cut her up … How did you feel when you were doing that? How were you able to do that Desmond?
It was not easy to do. But that was why I drink.
Q: But that was not your first time, Desmond. You did it 5 times. Each of the times you did it to the girls, they begged you to stop? Were they not crying?
Q: So when you saw the tears and heard their begging, how come that didn’t move you to stop? Why didn’t you feel sorry enough to let them go, to free the girls?
It’s because of what the herbalist told us. That was why we were afraid. He said we would go mad or die.
Since Desmond made his confession, he is still very much alive in 2019, several months since he committed the act in 2018.
Q: How Old are you?
Q: How long have you been a security man in Abraka?
6 months. Sometime in May. Before June.
Q: Before this time, what were you doing?
I was studying nursing at a private hospital in Eku. Life Care Hospital.
Q: What kind of nurse were you? Auxiliary or Regular?
Q: What was your job in the hospital?
I learn how to stitch people. I can stitch. After that, we learn pharmacy, to know more about drugs. I go chemist go learn drugs. You can discuss with the person to do apprentice for 6 months or 1 year.
Q: Why did you want to learn about drugs?
Because nurses just treat and do stitches and put drugs into drips using injection but don’t know drugs. That’s all they know. But when you go into pharmacy, you know more drugs. That is the reason why I go to pharmacy, to know more drugs.
Q: How long did you practice as an auxiliary nurse?
Q: How many hospitals did you go to learn this auxiliary nursing?
Nursing was in Eku, Life Care Hospital. I Learn how to treat, how to pass drip. But I do pharmacy in Obiarukwu.
Q: What year did you learn all these?
2015 to 2018.
Q: So before 2015 what were you doing?
I wasn’t doing anything then. I finished my secondary school in 2007.
Q: So between 2007 and 2013, what were you doing these 6 years?
I was farming in Abraka.
Q: What kind of farming were you into?
Q: Was it your land or you rented it?
Q: How was the business back then?
It was okay.
Q: So why did you leave it to enter nursing?
I cannot just rely on farming every time. I must look for something to do.
Q: Was the farming not a good business? If it was paying, why leave it?
I always love nursing. That’s why I go for the nursing.
Q: Why didn’t you study for JAMB (Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board conducted exam for every student seeking entrance to university), pass your exams and go to university to learn it instead?
I no get helper.
Q: Are you the first child? How many are you?
My father has three wives. Out of the three wives children, I am the last. My mother has 5 children and my stepmother has 6 children. And the third wife has 2. But my father is late. He died in 1995.
Q: But you do everyday business? And you make some money too?
Q: So why didn’t you use the funds to help you further your education if you made money from farming?
What I plan before as I finish the nursing, na to open chemist so better income will help me further my education.
Q: So what now happened that you didn’t open the chemist or go to school, but instead became a security man? What happened between this time?
I go to the chemist union. Dem tell me that before I fit open a chemist shop, I must be a union member as they cannot allow me run chemist shop without joining association first. That was when they tell me I have to register with N300,000, plus I will buy drinks and kill goat as part of the registration process before they will allow me stock my store with medicines, apart from the money to rent the store, employ a store keeper, and so on, so I gave up and tell myself to focus on other things or business until I can meet up with the requirements.
Q: So how did you get into this business of using human parts?
It was Desmond’s friend who introduced me to it. We all live in the same community in Abraka.
Q: What is the friend’s name?
Emudiaga Emese. He is from Umeghe. I am from Ovuso/Abraka. Mudiagha who is boss to Desmond came to meet one day like that asking if I remember him. I said yes. That was when he told he will teach me about his business so I can join him. He asked me if I didn’t admire him for how he has money? I said yes, I’ll like to. He now said he will put me in line so I can learn how to make money like him.
Q: Police record shows that before you got your job as a security guard in Abraka University you were put in jail. How did you get to be in prison?
I was arrested sometime in January/February of 2014 and released in December 2015. What happened was that there was a party in my compound. Someone brought a car into the compound with another person but by morning that person died. So what happened was that police raid the area and pack all of us into cell. They charged us to court then sent to prison. This happened when courts go on strike. So when I was supposed to get bail, court did not sit. So that was how I was kept in jail for one year. The court was waiting for DPP advice, so they kept me there in jail in Sapele Prison.
Q: Are you a cult member?
Q: Who bailed you out from prison?
My mother and older brothers get lawyer for me. I am the youngest of my mother’s children.
Q: When you came out of prison, what happened before you became security guard in Delta State University (DELSU)?
It was after I came out of prison I went to learn nursing work.
Q: So when exactly did they recruit you?
But they only approach me to join them for ritual killings after I started work as a security guard in DELSU.
Q: During this time you were ‘moving about’ with them, what were you guys doing?
Because Mudiagha had money, he will come to and take us in his car and then we all stroll together.
Q: What do you mean by stroll together?
We go to beer parlours to drink, carry girls, tour the town then go back home.
Q; When you carry girls. What do you do to them?
If it is a girl Mudiagha wanted to use, we carry the girl, get her drunk, take her to the bush and thereafter take the parts we want.
Q: Do you drug the drinks the girls take?
No we don’t drug their drinks. Is just a simple thing we do. We get in the car, girls see us in this beautiful car and they agree to join us then we go to a beer parlour and just get her drunk.
Q: Which kinds of girls do you target? How you know if you speak to a particular girl she will do your bidding?
We don’t target the girls! Girls dem too like cars! They like to flex, have fun, party. So when they see a young boy with a car they like to hang out with you. We don’t even spin them before they just jump into the car because they assume that before you can own a car, it means you’re loaded. You have money. So they just follow you.
Q: So how many girls have you gone and targeted like that with Desmond and Mudiagha that you were a part of?
Q: How much have you made from this online money since you started 2 years ago?
Sometimes I get N50,000 or N100,000
The next question is directed to Desmond
Q: Is that how much you give him, Desmond?
DESMOND: It depends on how the money comes. Sometimes Onos gets N200,000.
ONORIODE: You have never given me up to N200,000 at once.
DESMOND: Yes we have. 200,000 up to N300,000 sef. Will I lie against you (he turns to look at Onoriode).
ONORIODE: But I don’t have a say on how they share the money. They are the bosses that does the sharing. So whatever they give me as my share I simply take it.
Q: So how many times did you collect N50,000 and N100,000 separately?
ONORIODE: I was given money 5 times. I collected N100,000 on three different occasions. Then N50,000 on 3 different occasions too.
Q: So between 2016-2018 you made at least N550,000?
Q: What did you do with the money?
I used it to buy shoes and clothes.
Q: Did you give any of the money out as gifts to anyone? Family? Friends?
I flex with the money: beer parlours, nights in hotels, buy suya, spend money on restaurant food, and so on.
Q: Out of the N550,000 you made, who did you share part of the money with?
Q: Not even your mother?
Q: Why didn’t you give anybody out of the money?
You know, when money is in your hands, all you think of is have your bath, think of the next place to go and spend money and just flex around. You hear there’s a birthday party, and other such things and you’re there. Just like that that’s how I spent the money.
Q: So this period you didn’t extend any money gift to your mother or sister like a way of showing care or supporting them?
Q: So why did you take the security work in Abraka since you’re already making money through this?
I use it to patch up.
Q: Who recommended you to the management of Abraka to hire you?
Abraka na my area. I know it well and I am part of the community so they know me. I already know the man in charge of security too. So I approached him for the job and got it.
Q: What other reason did you have for applying for this security job?
To gather myself up to raise enough to start my chemist shop.
Q: Why did you go after Elozino, the last girl?
It was just a coincidence. We already get a plan to get a girl for the next ritual as the jazz man tell us to do. So our mind is set to look out for a girl that will provide the parts for us. So when the opportunity just show the day after we had discuss, and this girl approached me two days before na then I make up my mind that she go be the one. So I tell my guys. So when she show up the next day we kidnap her.
Q: In what condition were you guys when you carry out this act? Do you take any drink?
DESMOND: Yes. I take a lot of alcohol and spirits before we go out to do it. I take up to half bottle.
ONORIODE: Me I no dey take anything. No drink. No drugs. No smoking of any kind.
Q: So you do it with clear eyes, Onos?
Nods his head in the affirmative.
Q: Why do you take drink before you start, Desmond?
I take it so that when I feel the pain, because na human being like me too, na that alcohol go give strong mind to finish the work.
Q: So Onos, you said you do it with your eyes wide open, no weed, no alcohol or drugs to douse your senses. And you have done it 5 times like that?
Wetin we just talk be say e tell me say if we do this one finish before, we go get money. So na the stuff, money wey be say I no get naim make me fit do am.
Q: So you don’t feel sorry for the girls you’re doing this to as long as it’s money you’re after?
It’s not as if I don’t feel sorry for them. I feel sorry. But based on the fact that I have struggled to get money and haven’t succeeded, I just focus on the work so I can get the money.
Q: But you already have a job as a security guard. Why did you have to take this girl’s life?
ONORIODE: Wetin be N20,000? That one na money?
Q: Onos, since you started this ritual business, have you made money?
ONORIODE: No. no. no. I have not made money.
Q: So if after all this time, you didn’t make money, why did you continue?
ONORIODE: It is because the Baba, the Jazz Man, promise that this last one will bring us money. He said we will go mad or die if we talk.
Q: But the man promised you this, 1sttime, 2nd, 3rd, and 4thtime, yet did not fulfil this promise and the money you’re looking for you didn’t get it, why go for the 5thone?
ONOS: The Baba promise that this 5thone is what will give us the money.
Q: So why didn’t the others give you money?
ONORIODE: The Baba said he was testing us to see whether we will reveal the secret and now that he’s sure we will not do so, he then promise us that this 5thone will bring us the money. He said if we follow through on this one we will get money from it.
Q: The baba who is promising you all these riches, how rich is he?
ONOS: No he’s not as rich.
Q: Where does the herbalist live?
ONOS: In Warri. Alegbo Axis. He lives in the last street before Alegbo Primary School.
Q: Do people in the area know him for his ritual activity?
DESMOND: No. I’m not sure. But we hear people address him Doctor. They call the Baba Doctor. The man na herbalist.
Q: What is the role of your fellow security man who is in custody? Many feel you just named him to rope in.
ONORIODE: See the matter. He did not join us in any ritual cutting. But the thing is that anybody who drives into the school with a car must have the car searched and because he is head of security at the post he has veto power to search and approve any car passing at the main gate. So there was no way my guys can leave the school without being searched after we have capture the girl in the car. So I tell him about the deal and told him one of my big bros is a Ghana Burger and he has money. I discuss this with him two days before we get the girl.
Q: So you told this senior security man that this your boss is a Ghana Burger and he has money?
Yes. So I told him we cannot do this without his permission, and he’ll get his cut after we succeed. He asked me what I mean. So I explain to him that the person we wanted to carry is within the school premises and since he’s the one always at the gate, we need his help as the supervisor to allow our vehicle pass out of the gate without check. That we need him to pass the order so that the junior security men at the post will allow the car pass through without being held up. Once he give the order to raise the bar at the gate, nobody will challenge it because he’s the supervisor. Any order he gives they must obey him. After I explain all this to him he accept the offer and promise to do his part. The other part of the arrangement was for him to post me on my next shift to the lecturer’s lodge area the next day since I had already made arrangement with my guys to call the girl to meet me where she met me the day before. If I no reach arrangement with him, he will post me elsewhere. Because the lecturers lodge is very far we can carry our plan and nobody will see us. Any other security post by the roundabout or near the school gates is not a good hiding place. So the supervisor agree.
Q: How much did you promise to give the supervisor, the head of security?
ONORIODE: I did not mention bulk amount to him. But I told him he will get some huge cash. I tell am say better money go enter eim hand. And I know too that once we made the money the supervisor could get up to N30,000 to N40,000.
Q: What’s the supervisor’s name?
ONORIODE: Supervisor’s name is Uche Benedict Nwosisi
Q: From your experience now, does ritual killing actually bring in money?
DESMOND: NO. Na circumstances they make everything correct, just rhyme. Let me say, is just being manipulator or is just the way things will just happen.
ONORIODE: I be follow follow first. I never sabi.
DESMOND: Onos know everything already. Na the yahoo dey give us money.
Q: But since you do the ritual e bring money for you?
ONOS: e no bring money for me.
Q: So, if e no bring money for you why you kon dey do am dey go till you kill 5 girls? Sense dey the thing?
ONOS: No sense
Q: So why did you continue doing it when you realised there was no sense in continuing killing more girls?
Q: So what will happen to you now? Do you know what will happen to you going forward?
DESMOND and ONORIODE: I don’t know.
Q: What do you think you deserve to be done to you for what you both did to those 5 girls?
Q: Is that the only thing you deserve?
Q: what about you Onos? What do you deserve for all the atrocities you committed?
Q: So if you’re to give advice to people who think ritual brings money, what would you say to them?
DESMOND: That it is not how to make money. You make money with your hands, and make money from the right source, not quick money. If you have opportunity fine. But if you don’t have, you wait until God blesses you.
Q: What if you get hungry, is it enough to do this kain thing?
DESMOND: If you’re get hungry then you die. But I know that hunger does not kill somebody.
ONORIODE: it is better to build with your hand than to do this.
Q: how many were you in this yahoo ring in Ghana?
Me, my friend and two other guys from Nigeria.
Q: Where in Ghana were you living?
Kasoa. Many Nigerians are into yahoo in Ghana. We are many. They are still there. We all stayed in a popular estate, Obo(lu) Estate in Kasoa. Kasoa is big. Take a bike and tell them you want to get to Obolu estate. They’ll take you there. They will ask which of the estate. So you tell them but I can’t remember the exact name of ours. But when you say Obolu estate, they will take you there. The man Obolu has many estate. So you’ll have to tell them the specific estate because the Obolu estate is very big and there are different estates there too.
Q: The police thinks ritual killings with yahoo boys started from Ghana. Except you don’t know it?
DESMOND: People do it here in Nigeria before them go Ghana. They are the ones who introduced it in Ghana. A week, two weeks they have made money then they now come back to Nigeria. But when I was there in Ghana for eight months (2016-2017), there was nothing like ritual killing.
Desmond and Onoriode are currently under trial in Delta State, and the status of their conviction is yet to be determined.
This story is supported by WanaData a project of Code For Africa
Reference is made to a recent court decision to sentence three individuals to death for killing and dismembering a person with albinism in August 2015. See my August 20, 2019 posting for more details (‘Malawi judge sentences three to death for albinism murder.‘) According to research carried out by the Cornell Law School, Malawi operates a moratorium on the death penalty and last carried out an execution in 1992 (webmaster FVDK).
Published: August 23, 2019 By: Our reporter (The Maravi Post)
The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) is deeply concerned about the recent decision in Malawi to sentence three individuals to death for killing and dismembering a person with albinism in August 2015. The IBAHRI fully supports the enjoyment of all rights by persons with albinism and recognises the challenges Malawi is facing in curbing the heinous attacks against persons with albinism. Despite this, the IBAHRI maintains that the death penalty is not the solution to preventing such odious crimes and goes against the international trend towards its abolition.
IBAHRI Co-Chair, the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, commented: ‘To stop the commission of crimes against human rights, penalties that violate the same fundamental rights cannot be imposed. Attacks against persons with albinism must end, but the punishment that the perpetrators should face must respect international human rights law. We exhort the Malawi government to revise this judgement.’
On Tuesday 14 August 2019, at the High Court in the Mchinji district, Central Malawi, Judge Esmey Chombo passed death sentences on three individuals: Douglas Mwale, Sophie Jere and Fontino Folosani – who were found guilty of murdering and mutilating Priscott Pepuzani, who had albinism, in August 2015. In her ruling, Judge Chombo said the death sentences would send a strong message to other would-be offenders and put an end to such malpractices.
Since 1992, Malawi has had a moratorium on the death penalty, and the mandatory death penalty for murder was eliminated in 2007. African regional standards established by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, including General Comment No.3 on the right to life, Resolutions 42 and 136, as well as the Cotonou Declaration on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Africa , call on State Parties to move towards the abolition of the death penalty. Nevertheless, this is not the first time in recent years that the death penalty has been imposed for this kind of crime. In May 2019, Willard Mikaele was sentenced to death for the murder of Mphatso Pensulo, another person with albinism.
In the denunciation of this recent judgement, the IBAHRI reiterates its recognition of the difficult situation for people with albinism, which is particularly worrying in Malawi and other countries of the region due to frequent ritual killings and trading of body parts. In its 2018 report ‘Waiting to disappear’ International and Regional Standards for the Protection of the Human Rights of Persons with Albinism , the IBAHRI suggests that the legal protection of the rights of persons with albinism needs to be dramatically improved.
The IBAHRI condemns all attacks against persons with albinism and the violation of their rights, but believes that the imposition of the death penalty infringes the universally guaranteed right to life and amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, contrary to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
IBAHRI Co-Chair, Anne Ramberg Dr jur hc, stated: ‘The death penalty is amongst the worst of human rights violations, where the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment are completely ignored. The decision to resort to the death penalty is incompatible with a country that supports the rule of law and good governance.’
In 2008, the IBAHRI Council passed a resolution stating: ‘the Human Rights Institute shall in the future actively promote the abolition of the death penalty’.
A teenage albino boy has reportedly been killed and dismembered in Burundi. An albino rights group said the 15-year-old’s body was found late on Saturday, according to the AFP news agency. “The young albino was killed atrociously … his murderers cut his right leg off at the knee, his right arm and his tongue,” said Kassim Kazungu, the head of Albinos Without Borders.
Previous albino killings in the African country have been linked to people practising witchcraft. More than 20 albino people have been killed in Burundi since 2008. (iitalics added by the webmaster FVDK)
In 2016 a five-year-old albino girl was kidnapped from her home by gunmen. The child’s dismembered body was discovered shortly afterwards. (Also see my October 4, 2018 posting).
Burundi’s government has banned witch doctors who claim to perform spells and charms using albino body parts to bring good luck and wealth. But in some areas a complete albino skeleton is worth as much as $75,000 (£62,000), according to the Red Cross.
Around 500 albino people live in Burundi.
Officials believe killings are carried out by local residents who work with witch doctors in neighbouring Tanzania, where 53 albino people have been killed since 2007 for their body parts. (italics added by the webmaster FVDK).
There are around 170,000 albino people living in Tanzania.
Related article: Albino teen found dismembered in Burundi
Published: August 19, 2019 By: Agence France-Presse
NAIROBI, Kenya – A 15-year-old albino boy has been found dismembered in Burundi a week after going missing, the first such killing in the country in three years, a local albino group said Sunday.
Albinos, who have white skin and yellow hair as a result of a genetic disorder that causes the absence of pigmentation, are killed regularly in some African countries for their body parts, which are used in witchcraft rituals.
The teenager was found dead late Saturday in the northwest of the country along the Rusizi river separating Burundi from the DR Congo, not far from his home village.
“The young albino was killed atrociously… His murderers cut his right leg off at the knee, his right arm and his tongue,” said Kassim Kazungu, the head of the local association Albinos Without Borders.
More than 20 albinos have been killed in Burundi since 2008, with the last case in 2016 when a five-year-old girl was found dismembered after being taken from her home.
Kazungu said a four-year-old albino boy had been missing since October 2018 from the village of Cendajuri near the Tanzanian border, but that he had “no hope” of finding him alive.
Some experts believe the demand for albino body parts in Tanzania — where such attacks are the most prevalent — has fueled such killings in border areas.
Published: September 21, 2007 By: John Zodzi – Reuters
LOME (Reuters) – Six grisly murders in Togo in which the victims were decapitated and drained of their blood have raised fears of a resurgence of ritual killings ahead of parliamentary elections in the West African state next month.
The serial killings occurred last weekend in the southern Vo and Lacs prefectures, east of the capital Lome. The victims included a 12-year-old boy and a 63-year-old woman and their severed heads were carried off by the killers.
The discovery of the headless corpses has shocked Togolese and triggered a wave of speculation that the killings were ritual murders. This is a practice still found in parts of Africa in which people kill to obtain body parts and blood in the belief they will bring social success and political power.
Police announced the arrest of four suspects, including one from neighboring Benin, the West African home of the ancient Voodoo religion, who confessed to killing the 12-year-old boy.
Togo holds legislative elections on October 14, and international observers hope they will strengthen the weak grip of democracy in the small former French colony, which like Benin is wedged between Nigeria and Ghana on the Gulf of Guinea.
In a society where traditional beliefs still have influence, some Togolese saw a link between the killings and the ambitions of aspiring candidates for next month’s polls.
“Some of these deputies are ready to do anything to keep their seats and you hear that they’re carrying out sacrifices,” said Joel Attigan, a geography student.
Others saw the murders as linked to a desire for social advancement.
“There are too many young rich people in Togo these days. These crimes are linked to these kind of people, who sometimes use human sacrifices to obtain their goals,” said Da Mensa, the manager of a bar and restaurant in Lome.
Togo’s media have joined the feverish debate, blaming shadowy religious sects in Togo and Benin.
“We are in Africa, and spilled human blood can reveal many things,” the newspaper Le Magnan Libere said, referring to the witchcraft practice of using blood or body parts for divining or influencing the future.
The police have been cautious about confirming the ritual killing hypothesis.
But they said the arrested Benin citizen, Roger Kodjo Hounguiya, had confessed that he was working for a fellow countryman, Jean Goudjo, wanted in Benin for grisly murders involving mutilation.
The European Union, which froze most of its aid to Togo in 1993 citing the poor democratic record of then President Gnassingbe Eyadema, is sending electoral observers to the polls next month. Eyadema died in 2005 and his son is now president.
The case reproduced below refers to the trial of Sepeni Popo who in 2006 was found guilty of killing a Molepolole woman, Binki Balotlegi, in what was believed to be a ritual murder. Sepeni Popo was sentenced to death.
I first reported this case – many, many years ago – on my website ‘Liberia: Past & Present of Africa’s oldest Republic‘, notably on the page ‘Ritual killings in other Sub-Saharan countries: Lesotho‘. The case of Sepeni Popo is one of the rare cases still available online. Unfortunately, most links referring to cases of ritual murders reported on these country pages have gone missing over the years, reason why I decided to adopt another approach on the present web site: reproducing literally the articles concerned, but with extensive reference to its origin, giving the original author and publishing house or web site all credits they are entitled to. (Webmaster FVDK).
Published: July 26, 2007 By: Lekopanye Mooketsi
Death row inmate fails to get Court of Appeal reprieve
The fate of death row inmate, Sepeni Popo lies with President Festus Mogae, after he failed to get a reprieve at the Court of Appeal this week. The condemned prisoner can only escape the hangman’s noose if the President exercises his prerogative of mercy to save him. But Mogae, a confessed retributionist, has never pardoned a death row convict.
Popo was sentenced to death last year, by the Lobatse High Court for killing a Molepolole woman, Binki Balotlegi in what was believed to be a ritual murder. He confessed that he was promised P1,000 for the murder. Three other men who were charged with him were later acquitted and discharged of murder.
In his appeal, Popo’s lawyer, Themba Joina argued that the trial judge, Ian Kirby was wrong in failing to recuse himself and that the confession statement by his client was wrongly admitted in court.
He submitted that the judge should have found extenuating circumstances and refrained from passing a death sentence. The defence wanted Kirby to recuse himself from the case because at the time it was registered, he was the Attorney General and as result he might have been an interested party. However, the Court of Appeal ruled that there was no need for Kirby to recuse himself since he did not directly deal with the case when he was Attorney General.
Joina argued that there was no evidence that Popo had been advised of his right to legal representation before the confession statement was taken. He added that the court erred in not ordering a trial within a trial before admitting the confession statement.
Joina submitted that the hand written statement was not produced in court and there was no evidence as to what happened to it. He said the original statement was the only document which could prove to the court what actually transpired when the confession was made.
The Court of Appeal ruled that that it was clear from the evidence that Popo freely and voluntarily made the statement to a judicial officer. The court was of the view that this was a particularly brutal murder and the injuries were horrible.
The court ruled that the murder was deliberately planned for a reward. In dismissing the appeal, the judges said there was no evidence to diminish Popo’s moral culpability.
In his confession statement, Popo said a man asked him and his colleagues to get a baboon without fur. He said when they asked him what he meant, the man said he wanted them to find a woman’s private parts for him. Popo said each of them was promised P1,000 after delivering the goods. He said he later arranged with his accomplices to find out what the man was looking for. He went into detail about how they found their prey.
After a drinking session, they later led a woman to an isolated spot where they brutally attacked her. Popo said after they killed the woman, one of his partners cut off a piece of her private parts.
He said they parted after the job was finished and he went to sleep. Panic struck him the following morning when he realised that his cap was missing. “When I recalled carefully I came to the conclusion that it was left at the crime scene,” he said.
The confession statement narrates what Popo did up to the time when police spoke to him, including washing his clothes to remove blood stains. He told the judicial officer about his unsuccessful attempts to get the promised payment after the mission was accomplished.
A must read. Though a very lengthy report that I reproduce here, it contains such a wealth of information on albinism, people living with albinism, their fears, their dangers, the measures taken by the Government of Tanzania, that I thought I must conserve it and present to you. I will not even try to summarize it or give some sketchy details, judge for yourself. (Webmaster FVDK)
Published: February 9, 2019 3:01AM EST By: Human Rights Watch
Many children with albinism in Tanzania share similar stories of hardship. The “temporary holding shelters” strategy introduced by the Tanzanian government in the late 2000s may have contributed to a decline in the number of physical attacks, but Human Rights Watch observed that it led to the emergence of additional challenges.
In July 2017, Human Rights Watch interviewed 13 children and young people with albinism, aged 7 to 18 years old, and 26 other people, including family members, education professionals and nongovernmental organizations in the Mwanza, Shinyanga and Simiyu regions of Tanzania. There, we found that Tanzanian government policies designed to protect children with albinism incidentally had a negative impact on their rights to family life, an adequate standard of living and inclusive education. In order to protect their privacy and shield them from potential repercussions, the names of most interviewees referred to hereafter have been changed.
While the Tanzanian government appears sensitive to these concerns, it should now intensify efforts to reinsert children with albinism into their communities and provide them with inclusive education, while continuing to investigate and prosecute those responsible for attacking children with albinism. By doing so, Tanzania has an opportunity to emerge as a strong African leader in ensuring the safety, inclusion and dignity of people with albinism, as outlined in the Regional Action Plan on Albinism in Africa, the first-ever continental strategy to address violations against people with albinism, adopted in 2017.
What Is The Best Interests of the Child Principle?
The Best Interest of the Child principle derives from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It requires state parties to prioritize the interests of the child in any action that may impact them. This includes taking into consideration the child’s own views and desires, his identity, his need for care and development and his right to a safe family and community environment. These factors should be considered altogether and balanced against one another if in contradiction. State intervention should be based on individual assessments of the particular child whose situation requires it.
Recommendations To the Government of Tanzania
Increase public sensitization efforts aimed at dispelling deadly and discriminatory myths about albinism, notably through workshops and public service announcements on radio and television, particularly in rural and isolated communities.
Ensure that all teachers in the public education system are trained to adequately provide for the specific needs of children with albinism.
Ensure that resources are at the disposal of schools to meet the specifications needed of children with albinism, notably by providing for textbooks and exams with larger fonts and assistive devices to read the blackboard.
Pursue efforts to promote the safety of people with albinism by investigating threats and crimes against people with albinism and holding those responsible to account.
Work with parents and communities to ensure the safe and orderly reunification of children with albinism with their families, with the goal of progressively dismantling the temporary holding shelters.
Recommendations to International Donors
Support projects dedicated to sensitizing the Tanzanian public to albinism and training teachers to provide for the specific needs of children with albinism in public schools.
Support the Tanzanian government in reuniting children with albinism with their families and ensuring their return to a safe, inclusive community.
Albinism in Tanzania
Albinism is a genetic condition that causes a deficit in the biosynthesis of melanin, a pigment that colours the skin, hair and eyes. While albinism is a rare condition in Europe and North America, affecting one out of about every 17,000 to 20,000 people, it is slightly more widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa, with prevalence rates of 1 in every 5,000 to 15,000 births. Tanzania’s 2012 national census identified 16,477 people with albinism. Today, it is estimated that there are over 18,000 people with albinism in the country.
People with albinism usually have a paler, whiter appearance than their relatives. The deficit of melanin can also result in low vision and an increased vulnerability to sun’s ultra-violet radiation. Consequently, people with albinism living in Sub-Saharan African are about 1,000 times more likely to develop skin cancer than the general population.
As noted by the United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, “The complexity and uniqueness of the condition means that their experiences significantly and simultaneously touch on several human rights issues including, but not limited to, discrimination based on color, discrimination based on disability, special needs in terms of access to education and enjoyment of the highest standards of health, harmful traditional practices, violence including killings and ritual attacks, trade and trafficking of body parts for witchcraft purposes, infanticide and abandonment of children.”
In many parts of East Africa, people with albinism are targeted for their body parts, which some believe hold magical powers and bring good fortune. Traditional healers and “sorcerers” have over the years claimed that people with albinism are “ghosts” who never die but merely disappear. In 2009, the International Federation of the Red Cross reported that a senior police officer in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s economic capital said that the body of a person with albinism could fetch up to US$75,000.
Over the last decade, Under the Same Sun, a Canadian non-governmental organization working to empower people with albinism, estimates that over 200 people with albinism, many of them children, have been killed in Africa or had their body parts amputated. In Tanzania alone, the group reported that at least 76 people with albinism were killed since 2006.NGOs and local groups reported that criminals have stolen bones from the exhumed remains of people with albinism.
The last reported killing, in February 2015, took place in the region of Geita, in Northwest Tanzania, when men abducted a one-year-old baby with albinism from his mother and “hacked [him] to death.” The men were said to have hit the mother with a machete when she refused to hand over her child, an activist who was with her when she woke up at the hospital told Human Rights Watch.
Faced with increased international scrutiny at the end of the 2000s, Tanzania began to mobilize resources to fight off traffickers and protect people with albinism. Local organizations told us that since 2007, hundreds of children were removed from their families, sometimes with no consultation or consent, and placed in shelters where they were effectively isolated from society.
According to activists who spoke to Human Rights Watch, orders from the government to protect people with albinism were enforced by district commissioners, who oversee security in their respective districts.
“There is an order from the district that says that if anything happens to [a] child with albinism, local leaders would be responsible. It something happens, the whole community will be suspected,” the manager of a local organization working with people with albinism told Human Rights Watch. “Because no one wants trouble in their backyard, there was a big push from the communities to send the children to the shelters.”
The Tanzanian government also moved to combat impunity for ritual crimes, notably by investigating, arresting and prosecuting those who attack or sponsor attacks against people with albinism. In 2015, the Tanzanian government announced a ban on witchdoctors, which came out of a special joint task force between the police and the Tanzanian Albinism Society. As reported by the BBC at the time, then Home Affairs Minister Mathias Chikawe declared there would be a nationwide effort to “arrest them and take them to court” if witch doctors continued their practices. Over 200 suspects, including some allegedly involved in killings of people with albinism, were reportedly arrested by the authorities.
Ten years after the wave of killings and attacks began, these appear to have decreased because of Tanzania’s protective measures and stronger response to ritual crimes and attacks against people with albinism. The temporary holding shelters, however, remain. “The shelters were emergency, temporary solutions. But 10 years is not temporary anymore,” an activist for the rights of people with albinism told Human Rights Watch.
Under international human rights law, children with albinism have the right to live in a family environment. Local NGOs are now making efforts to reunite children and families. The Tanzanian government should do more to reunite families, to combat stigma within communities and ensure that family caregivers have the financial and social support they need to care for these children.
The government’s response should be guided by the best interests of the children involved, and balance the child’s protection and safety with the preservation of the family environment and the enjoyment of other rights. This is particularly important as the government has begun to send some children from the shelters back to their communities.
Separation from the family and movement restrictions
Most of the 13 children and young adults with albinism Human Rights Watch interviewed described how the killings and the ensuing protection measures implemented by the Tanzanian government separated them from their families.
While in many cases, separation was a decision of the parents, five children said they were ordered to go to a shelter or boarding school by government officials (police or district education officers), with no regard for their parents’ consent. Human Rights Watch was not able to confirm this assertion from their parents. Once in the shelters or special boarding schools, the children’s freedom of movement was severely curtailed on security grounds.
Marco, an 18-year-old man with albinism, described to Human Rights Watch how his father had been obliged to let him go to the shelter: “When the killings and attacks happened, the government moved me to the Buhangija temporary shelter (Shinyanga region). Police officers came home and spoke to my dad but he refused to take me to Buhangija immediately because he wanted to find out more about it first. The first time, the police left without problems. The second time, they left with me.”
Augustin, a 14-year-old teenager from Shinyanga who was attacked by criminals who cut his left forearms and fingers on his right hand when he was four-year-old, said the district education officer took him to the shelter when he was seven or eight. “He picked me up at a bus stand. At first, no one explained to me why I was being taken there. I was sad at the beginning because I missed my parents. It felt like a punishment. Now, I understand it was to protect me from bad people,” he told Human Rights Watch.
The mother of Victoria, a young woman with albinism from Shinyanga region who stayed for three years in Buhangija, confirmed that parents did not have any choice but to let their children go: “The government wrote a letter to the school Victoria was attending giving notification that children with albinism should be sent to Buhangija [shelter]. We were given a specific date and time by which she had to be there, which was two days later.”
Victoria’s father added: “When the government said we had to bring Victoria to Buhangija, I didn’t know why. There was security here…. But I had to accept the order. I don’t know what would have happened if I had refused.” 
NGOs that promote the rights of people with albinism also reported pressure by the government on local schools and the community to send children away to the shelters, by threatening to hold community leaders and members accountable if a child who remained at home was attacked. “For communities, having a child with albinism among them felt like a burden – because you have to provide protection – so the shelters were a good solution to get rid of that burden. You don’t have to respond to police enquiries if something happens,” a national advocate for the rights of people with albinism told Human Rights Watch.
In addition, parents of children with albinism and organizations working with people with albinism told Human Rights Watch that regardless of whether children had been voluntarily or involuntarily placed in shelters, once they were under the protection of the state, they were no longer allowed to go home – even for vacations – without a letter from the village chairperson, approved by the district commissioner, guaranteeing the area’s safety. An NGO worker explained the process to Human Rights Watch:
The parents [must] first get a letter from the chairperson of the village and then send it to the district commissioner. The chairperson’s letter should say that the area is safe, that we know the child with albinism is visiting the parents. Without the chairperson’s letter, the district commissioner cannot issue his own letter. Some parents complain and say that they have the right to take the children home. But they generally understand.
Severin, a 14-year-old boy with albinism, said he never went home on vacation while he lived in the shelter. “Once in Buhangija [shelter], we were told we needed a letter to be allowed to go home. My parents didn’t try to get the letter. I felt bad not to be with my family during the vacations because I missed them,” he said.
The parents of Victoria, a young woman with albinism who stayed for three years in Buhangija, who have university degrees, said it was easy to obtain such a letter from the authorities. “When the parents are bringing the letter, it assures the school that there is full security in the family and in the village [for children with albinism],” the mother said. “We wouldn’t have been allowed if we had tried to bring [our daughter] home for good. It was impossible to come out of Buhangija [shelter] without permission. There was full security.”
A representative of an international NGO sponsoring the education of children with albinism told Human Rights Watch that these restrictions also apply to children who have been moved out of shelters and into private schools under their sponsorship program.
As a result of the government’s restrictions, some children had not been home for several years, and some were no longer in contact with their family. In one case, Lucy, a 12-year-old girl with albinism, told Human Rights Watch at the time of the interview that she had not seen her mother in two years and did not know where her family was:
I was 6 years old when I got to Mitindo [shelter in Mwanza]. My mother brought me there because she saw the thieves [people attacking children with albinism] and so she took me to the [shelter]. I was left there alone by my mother and I felt sad because she said she’d come back but did not. She came back only once I went [to a private school, where I am being sponsored by an international NGO] in 2015. She came only for one day to ask who was paying my school fees and asked whether they could pay for my brothers too. I don’t know why she hasn’t come back. We don’t get to speak on the phone. I don’t have her number. So I don’t know about my mother and brothers right now.
According to representatives of local organizations working with people with albinism, another reason why some children placed in shelters no longer see their family is because their parents left no records of where they came from, and tracing the family after several years is difficult.“When some parents brought their children to the shelters, some didn’t leave any contacts and in other cases they did but the phone numbers don’t work,” a local NGO worker told Human Rights Watch. A staff member of another NGO said the temporary holding shelters had become akin to orphanages: “Parents took advantage to drop their kids there. Some children with albinism have been there for four or five years now without seeing their parents.”
The separation from family exerts a heavy emotional toll on young children with albinism. Peter, an 18-year-old man who stayed at the Buhangija for eight years, said his brother was the only one visiting him. “I didn’t want to come [to the shelter]. I was too young. I used to cry all the time. I was a child, I missed my mother, my grandmother and my sister,” he told researchers. “Only my brother would come to visit. I did speak with my mother however, maybe once a month by phone. I felt good talking to her but I missed her.”
Despite the difficulties children with albinism face in the shelters, some, including Severin, said they saw advantages in living among other people with albinism: “My parents did not come to visit at Buhangija. But it was good to be with other children with albinism because we felt we had a right to stay in the world.”
To protect children with albinism from physical attacks, a number of shelters and boarding schools have enforced drastic security measures that deprive children of their freedom of movement.
In July 2017, Human Rights Watch visited Buhangija, a former boarding school for students with disabilities transformed into a temporary holding shelter for children with albinism in 2009. At the time of the visit, 226 children were living in the shelter, out of whom 142 were children with albinism (the others were deaf or blind children attending the inclusive school located next to the shelter). At the shelter, Human Rights Watch researchers observed a barren compound made up of five dormitories surrounded by tall walls topped with barbwire. Children with albinism who attend class walk about 100 meters to the school. The rest of their free time is spent within the compound, which has no recreation space or trees to provide for shade, useful in helping people with albinism shield themselves from the sun.
“My first impression of Buhangija was that it was so difficult because we were staying in [the shelter] for the whole day and I’m a very mobile person. So I first felt very bad but as days went by, I got used to it,” Marco, an 18-year-old who left the shelter in 2017 told Human Rights Watch.
The principal of a secondary boarding school that caters to children with and without albinism in Mwanza region told Human Rights Watch that the movement of children with albinism is restricted even beyond the temporary holding shelter, and in the case of his school, because it lacks resources to adequately protect them outside the compound: “The main challenge with people with albinism is protection and safety,” he explained. “I’ve been asking since last year for one district policemen to be on site at night but there isn’t enough [district]money to do that. So, we talk to those students and discourage them from walking around alone, especially at night.”
A 15-year-old girl with albinism attending that secondary boarding school said they are not allowed to leave the dormitories: “The environment here is not good. We are not allowed to stay outside because the school doesn’t have enough security. Classes usually finish at 2:15 p.m. and we have to be in our dormitories by 2:40 p.m.”
NGOs have reported that children with albinism living in these shelters are progressively being sent back to their communities. While this is important progress, it is essential that the process of reinserting children in their communities complies with the best interests of the child principle. Authorities should ensure that the views of children and their families are taken into account, that children have access to education in their community, and that the community has protection systems in place.
Such consultations did not take place in the case of Mariam, a seven-year-old girl from Simiyu region, who was reunited with her 85-year-old grandmother. “After she was removed from Buhangija, the government forced me to take care of Mariam because her mother and father are not providing for her, “recalled the grandmother.” This happened without the government consulting me beforehand…. They just dumped the child on me.” Mariam does not attend the local school because, her grandmother said, she could not afford to buy textbooks.
Stigma and bias in the community
Eight children with albinism interviewed by Human Rights Watch recounted how they experienced stigma and bias in their communities, including name-calling.
Josefina, a seven-year-old living with her grandparents in the Shinyanga region, for example, said other children call her “Mbuliwmelu,” which means “white goat” in the local Sukuma language. “When that happens, it makes me feel sad and very angry, but I stay silent,” she said.
In the Simiyu region, the grandmother of Mariam, a seven-year-old young girl with albinism, said Mariam frequently faced similar experiences:
Most people have a negative perception of Mariam because of her color. They don’t even want to welcome Mariam in their home. If they see her, they’ll see her colour and will see that if she spends too much time in the sun she has sores. If she plays, they fear blood will come out of her. They call her “Mbulimwelu”. Mariam is always sad when they call her like that, and sometimes she locks herself in the house and starts crying. In those cases, I just leave her alone.
In some cases, parents have rejected or attacked their own children. Twelve-year-old Lucy, for instance, now lives at a private boarding school after receiving a scholarship from an international NGO. Choking on her tears, she said her mother told her that her father abandoned her prior to sending criminals to try and kill her: “My mother told me that my father refused me. I don’t want to go back [to my hometown] because it is my father who sent the thieves to get me.”
Despite efforts by the government of Tanzania and NGOs to sensitize the general public in recent years, progress remains fragile, especially in rural areas, where people with albinism continue to face stigma and the rejection of their community and, at times, their own families. This can lead to poor self-esteem among young people with albinism, and difficulties in finding work opportunities later in life. An 18-year-old man with albinism told Human Rights Watch in Shinyanga region that he thought people like him have a harder time at finding work: “My life would definitely be different if I was not a person with albinism. If you have a black skin, you have many more opportunities. You can do the physical work, whereas person with albinism have to be careful because of their skin.”
But, as the parents of four children with albinism pointed out, not all communities and families reject children with albinism. “When I had my first child with albinism, I was happy and thought this was normal. My family was happy too and if they weren’t, they didn’t let it show,” their mother said. “It is the choice of God. God is giving. We should agree with them, be close with them,” their father added.
Barriers to education
“People with albinism don’t get education,” a community organizer with albinism told Human Rights Watch. “Firstly because of their low vision. Teachers don’t know how to deal with that. Secondly because [of lack of] interaction [with others]. There is teasing in school. People with albinism face a lack of interaction with local community. People see us as bad people. They see us as people who can’t contribute because of our bad education or lack of education,” he added.
Ensuring a free, safe and dignified access to education is key to upholding the fundamental human rights of people with albinism and to combatting the stereotypes and stigma that continue to expose them to mistreatments and fatal risks.
Children with albinism face a range of barriers impeding their access to education.
Many families of children with albinism for instance are unable to enroll them in school because they lack sufficient income, or fear that having them walk to school may expose them to dangers. The grandmother of Mariam, the seven-year-old girl with albinism, said she is ready to go school but that she doesn’t have the resources to send her. “I wish for Mariam to become a doctor or a teacher. I don’t want her to be a wife. But it costs money to buy books and everything.”
Children with albinism may also face health risks at school due to their sensitivity to the sun. Laura, a 15-year-old student at a public secondary school, told Human Rights Watch that despite efforts to train teachers on the needs of children with albinism, the school still put the health of children with albinism at risk: “This school is not good. They force us to do activities in the sun. Teachers can also punish you if you say you can’t do activities in the sun. They caned me three times and it was very painful.”
In addition, children with albinism do not always get the inclusive education they should be entitled to. In that respect, the existence of the temporary holding shelters and other special boarding schools, while providing safety and an opportunity to attend classes, promotes segregation and denies children the opportunity to learn with their peers without albinism and to feel included in their communities. As 12-year-old Lucy explained to Human Rights Watch, “It was not nice to only be with children with albinism because we stayed without difference – we must mix.”
Children interviewed by Human Rights Watch also said that schools sometimes fail to provide children with albinism with appropriate accommodations for their low vision. This would include assistive devices, such as magnifiers, enlarged printed material, writing in large letters on the blackboard, and seating children with albinism in the front of the classroom.
Gloria, a 14-year-old student with albinism who wants to become an engineer and build airplanes said she had different experiences in public and private schools: “Before, I was going to a public school. I didn’t like it there because there was no good care. In class, the teachers would be writing with small letters on the blackboard. I’d ask them to make the letters bigger, but they’d say that they can’t,” she told Human Rights Watch. “[The private school] was better. They wrote with big letters on the board – it was easier for me to follow the classes and get good grades.” 
Some public schools are taking positive steps. The principal of a Mwanza region public secondary boarding school that caters to the general public as well as to several children with disabilities and children with albinism told Human Rights Watch: “There is no segregation. All students are taught together. We have many special education teachers and they are all trained by the government. I insist that children with albinism sit at the front row and that the teachers write with big letters on the blackboards and that exams and other exercises are printed with big font for them,” he said. Yet, the resources are scarce: “We get some equipment from the ministry, but not enough. We have no monoculars [to help children with albinism see the blackboard], for instance.” 
Lawrence is a shy nine-year-old boy who attends public school and his father is very proud of him. “When we took him to school for the first time, teachers were very aware of albinism, maybe they had been trained,” Charles said. “The only challenge Lawrence faces is his vision. Sometimes he has difficulties reading the blackboard [but] he gets support from the teachers and sometimes they explain or move him to the front. Lawrence does very well at school and sometimes is at the first position.”
It is important that all teachers be familiarized with the specific needs of students with albinism and that the schools be provided with adequate resources to ensure they can achieve their full educational potential. More efforts are also needed to sensitize family-members and communities about albinism, to ensure that children with albinism in Tanzania can thrive both inside and outside the classroom.
 Lekalakala, P., Khammissa, R., Kramer, B., Ayo-Yusuf, O., Lemmer, J. and Feller, L., “Oculocutaneous Albinism and Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Skin of the Head and Neck in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Journal of Skin Cancer, August 12, 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4549604/ (accessed January 25, 2019).
 Human Rights Watch interview with Augustin (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with A.Y. and Z.M. (pseudonym), the parents of Victoria (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with representatives of three NGOs working in this field, names withheld, Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with community activist (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch separate interviews with representatives of three NGOs working in this field, names withheld, Tanzania, July 2017; Severin (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017; and A.Y. and Z.M. (names withheld), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with NGO representative (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Severin (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with A.Y. and Z.M. (names withheld), parents of Victoria, Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with NGO representative (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Lucy (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with representatives of three NGOs working in this field, names withheld, Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with a representative of one NGO working in this field (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with a representative of one NGO working in this field (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Peter Mwanzi (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Marco Ndimo (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with A.M. (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with J.P.M. (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
The article reproduced below reminded me of previous reports on ritualistic murders in Gabon. It is a saddening reality that this Equatorial African country has a very bad reputation in this respect. I have been monitoring reports on ritual murders in African countries since the end of the 1990s and Gabon ranks high on the list of counties with ritual killings. (webmaster FVDK)
Gabon senator arrested in ritual killing case
Published: June 8, 2013 / 2:01 PM By: Reuters Staff
Reporting by Jean-Rovys Dabany; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Louise Ireland
A sorcerer performs a dance in front of a sacred fire in Bitouga, some 600 km from the Gabon capital Libreville, in this September 2007 photo. REUTERS/Antoine
LIBREVILLE (Reuters) – A member of Gabon’s senate has been arrested in an investigation into the ritual killing of a 12-year-old girl in the central African nation four years ago, the first time a senior politician has been detained in such a case.
Rising public anger at a spate of ritual killings in Gabon, an oil-rich former French colony on the Gulf of Guinea, sparked a march by thousands of people in the capital Libreville last month after mutilated bodies washed up on beaches.
President Ali Bongo promised the protesters that anyone convicted of such killings would be jailed for life.
Senator Gabriel Eyeghe Ekomie, who was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in December, was arrested on Friday after failing to appear before a court on May 31, his lawyer said.
Eyeghe Ekomie was summoned for questioning by the court after a man convicted of the girl’s killing said at his trial in May 2012 that he did it on the senator’s orders. Eyeghe Ekomie has denied the accusation.
“This is an unjust decision because my client was not correctly summoned,” said lawyer Gisele Eyue Bekale. “We asked the judge to re-issue the summons but he did not. We will continue to appeal this decision.”
Human and animal body parts are prized by some in the region, who believe they confer magical powers. Gabon’s Association for the Prevention of Ritual Crimes estimates that at least 20 people have been killed so far this year and their lips, tongues, genitals and other organs removed.(Bold and Italics mine – FVDK, webmaster).
Earlier this week, a sack containing human genitalia was found in a building in Libreville. An investigation is underway.
Gabon is not the only African country with a black market trade in human organs.
Grave robbers dug up more than 100 bodies in Benin’s capital Cotonou in November. Cameroonian authorities in September arrested five people for trafficking when they were stopped at a checkpoint with a severed human head.
I was confronted with the phenomenon of ritualistic murders in Liberia when living in Monrovia – where I taught at the University of Liberia – and, later, in Harper, capital of Maryland County, in the second half of the 1970s. In Harper I witnessed the public execution of the Harper Seven, in 1979. They were convicted of the ritual murder of a fisherman and popular singer, Moses Tweh, and sentenced to death by hanging. The trial of the Harper Seven turned out to be Liberia’s most notorious ritual killing case.
‘Big shots’ were involved, such as Maryland County’s Superintendent, Daniel Anderson – son of the Chairman of Liberia’s only political party, the True Whig Party – and Allen Yancy, member of the House of Representatives for Maryland County and cousin of former Liberian president William Tubman (1944 – 1971). Reportedly, Allen Yancy had been involved in previous ritual murder cases but he was never convicted, allegedly because of Tubman’s protection.
Ritualistic killings in Liberia have been rampant, and I fear the gruesome practice has far from disappeared – as is demonstrated by the article reproduced below.
The article reproduced below summarizes well Liberia’s recent history of ritualistic murders. What used to be a cultural phenomenon – human sacrifices for the well-being of the clan or tribe – has become a political instrument, used by unscrupulous politicians and businessmen to further their interests.
I will not dwell too long here on these atrocities and outdated but persistent beliefs in supernatural powers. Readers are invited to visit my website for more details.
Last but not least, my publications on ritual murders in Liberia became the prelude to the present website on ritual killings in Africa in general. See the site’s menu, notably the section ‘Why publish this site?‘
Public execution by hanging of the ‘Harper Seven’, including Maryland Superintendent Daniel Anderson and Representative Allen Yancy, at dawn in Harper, Liberia on February 16, 1979. Picture taken by Fred van der Kraaij (copyrights).
Liberia’s elections, ritual killings and cannibalism
Published: August 01, 2011 · 10:52 AM UTC By: Emily Schmall and Wade Williams
MONROVIA, Liberia — The pregnant woman was found dead in the shallows of Lake Shepherd. The fetus had been removed.
A candidate for Liberia’s Senate and a former county attorney are among those standing trial for the 2009 murder, the latest in a long history of ritual sacrifices performed for political power in Liberia.
In this case in southeastern Maryland County, prosecutors were tipped off by a witch doctor who provided a list of 18 people allegedly connected to the killing, including Fulton Yancy, the former county attorney, and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Special Envoy and Ambassador-at-Large Dan Morias.
Vials of blood were discovered in Yancy’s home. Nine were charged with murder but were released earlier this month following a Supreme Court ruling.
Liberia will have general elections later this year and the ritual killings tend to flare up during election season, according to Jerome Verdier, former chairman of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
”Unfortunately it happens during elections time because people are competing for political power, they don’t know God and they believe that these supernatural powers will come to them once human blood is shed,” Verdier said.
During Liberia’s two-decades-long civil war hundreds were killed for ritual purposes, the TRC discovered during its hearings.
”During our research at the TRC we found out that bloodshedding was very, very common during the conflict. People killed indiscriminately women and children believing that it would give them some power to continue fighting and that they would be protected,” said Verdier.
Liberia’s Maryland County has traditionally been the hub for the country’s ritual murders. The killings have haunted the southeastern county for decades. In recent years, however, ritual killing cases have cropped up across the country.
Verdier said some of those who confessed at the TRC hearing gave graphic accounts of ritual killings they carried out.
“People went as far as eating their opponent’s body — when such person is killed in battle they cook their body to eat, believing that the spirit, the powerful spirit of that person, will come to them and by eating them, the person’s power is completely destroyed, so there can be no reemergence in that person’s family line or their ethnic line.”
‘General Butt Naked’, a notorious warlord in Liberia’s First Civil war (1989 – 1997) testified and confessed before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he committed numerous ritualistic murders and ate body parts of his victims.
A former warlord who calls himself General Butt Naked and who fought against former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, confessed in 2008 to taking part in human sacrifices that included the killing of a child and “plucking out the heart, which was divided into pieces for us to eat.”
In 2005, the leader of Liberia’s transitional government, Gyude Bryant, pledged to hang anyone found guilt of ritual killing.
Dispatched to Maryland County by President Johnson Sirleaf to calm residents’ fears earlier this year, Justice Minister Christiana Tah acknowledged that “there are still lots of unresolved cases of this nature,” according to a report in the daily New Democrat.
In a case from the 1970s known as the Maryland Murders, seven people, including Fulton Yancy’s older brother Allen Yancy, a member of the House of Representatives, were hanged for killing a fisherman (see picture above). The following year Defense Minister Gray D. Allison was convicted of killing a police officer whose body was discovered on the Bong Mines railroad, apparently used in a ritual sacrifice. The government at the time displayed blood drained in gallons believed to be that of the dead man.
Dan Morias, one of those accused of the 2009 killing of a pregnant woman, is planning to run for senator in the upcoming legislative elections in October. He has maintained that the charges against him are politically motivated. He must be cleared of the charges to be eligible to run for office.
Morias is listed in the TRC report for alleged abuses committed while he served as Minister of Internal Affairs for the Charles Taylor regime. When reached by GlobalPost, Morias said he could not comment on the case as it would be “prejudicial,” but insisted that the evidence against him — namely the testimony of a witch doctor — was “weak.”
Earlier this year, President Johnson Sirleaf warned Maryland County citizens against seeking retribution for the killings with a traditional practice called “sassywood” or “trial by ordeal.”
The government insists that trial by ordeal is illegal and Johnson Sirleaf banned the practice in April 2007. Since then traditional leaders have been pleading with the government to allow them to practice the act which they believe is the only way justice can be served in cases like these.
“Sassywood” is the insertion of an accused person’s extremity into hot oil or the placing of a heated metal on a suspect’s body. If the suspect is burned then it is concluded that he or she is guilty but if there is no burn then the suspect is deemed innocent and set free. Those found guilty are killed.
The police are working to stamp out both the ritual killings and the “sassywood” practices, said George Bardue, spokesman for the Liberia National Police: “The police are doing everything possible to make sure that these things do not happen.”
Emily Schmall is a multimedia journalist now based in Monrovia, Liberia, where she serves as country director for New Narratives, a journalism mentorship project for women. Wade Williams is a New Narratives fellow and an editor at FrontPage Africa, Liberia’s most widely circulated newspaper.