My September 12, 2019 posting – the day before yesterday – was about an old case of ritualistic murder in Ghana (then still called Gold Coast colony), ‘A chieftaincy dispute and ritual murder in Elmina, Ghana, 1945-6’. I have been following ritualistic murders and related incidents in Ghana for well over ten years now and reported on these crimes on a special page of my website Liberia’s Past and Present, called ‘ritual murders, not only in Liberia‘. The oldest case reported on the relevant Ghana page of the website dates from March 9, 2009 and although the main theme of the article concerned is quite different – it deals with the question who is to be credited for the foundation of ‘Ghana’ and the naming of the new republic which succeeded to the English colony of Gold Cost – my attention was drawn to a paragraph dealing with an old ritualistic murder case.
It reads as follows:
“Among the five causes of the deterioration in public confidence identified by the Colonial Office, was what they described as “the bitterness of the group of politicians, led by Dr. J.B. Danquah, over the hanging of the Kibi murderers”. According to a Colonial Office report on the disturbances in the Gold Coast, “[t]he Kibi affair changed the pattern of Gold Coast politics. A number of Kibi people were tried for the ritual murder at the time of the funeral, in 1944, of Nana Sir Ofori Atta, Omanhene of Akyem Abuakwa. They were defended in a notoriously long trial by many lawyers led by Dr. J.B. Danquah and employed by their relatives. The bitterness of this family over the trial and the conviction of some among their relatives as murderers resulted in their instituting an uncompromising political campaign against the Governor and the Government. This group subsequently formed the hard core of the extreme nationalists who in August 1947 founded the United Gold Coast Convention”.
The original article is presented below.
One reason why I post it here is to demonstrate that ritualistic killings are no new phenomenon in Ghana. Another reason is to show that the colonial authorities acted against these inhuman crimes. The third and last reason is to draw attention to the fact that ritualistic killings have never been eradicated in Ghana. The main question which immediately arises is : Why?
This will be the subject of another posting. (webmaster FVDK)
Published: March 9, 2009 By: Ekow Nelson – GhanaWeb
President Evans Atta Mills’ proposal to honour our first president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah has generated a lot of debate on both sides of Ghana’s historical political divide. Apart from a minority who are opposed to another public holiday, the divisions are over whether the proposed Founder’s Day should be bestowed only on Nkrumah or be made Founders’ Day, extended to include the so-called ‘Big Six’ who were arrested after the 1948 riots and disturbances following the shooting and killing of three ex-servicemen.
The argument in favour of extending the President’s proposed honour is predicated on the belief that the arrests of the then leaders of the U.G.C.C. and the establishment of the Commission of Enquiry into the 1948 riots under the chairmanship of Aiken Watson Q.C., was a watershed moment in our country’s history and marked the beginning of the final journey toward independence. But is this credible?
From the end of World War II until the appointment of the Watson Commission, there was a gradual but palpable deterioration in public confidence in the Government of the Gold Coast, among other things, because of soaring inflation and growing shortages of consumer goods. Farmers were dissatisfied with the policy of cutting-out cocoa trees ravaged by the swollen-shoot disease with no compensation. Ex-servicemen who had fought in World War II for ‘King and country’ had only been awarded meagre gratuity and were experiencing similar hardships to the general populace. Neither the chiefs in the Joint Provincial Council, nor the elite political class, championed the cause of the growing mass of disaffected people and it fell upon Nii Kwabena Bonnne II, Osu Alata Mantse, to lead the agitation against increasing economic hardship and in particular, inexorable rises in the prices of consumer goods.
Just over a month after Nkrumah’s arrival in the Gold Coast in 1947, this growing discontent found expression in the boycott of mostly foreign-owned trading firms organized by Nii Kwabena Bonnne on 26th January 1948. The boycott continued for a month while its leaders negotiated price reductions with the government and the trading firms – the Association of West African Merchants (AWAM). However, on 28th February 1948 when the boycott was due to be called off, ex-servicemen set-off on a march to the Castle to present a petition to the Governor. In the ensuing kerfuffle, the British officer in charge of Castle security Superintendent Colin Imray gave orders to open fire, killing three ex-servicemen – Sgt. Adjetey, Private Odartey Lamptey and Corporal Attipoe – and injuring many others in the process.
News of the shooting sparked days of rioting in Accra by alr eady angry crowds incensed by the high price of food, which they blamed on the greed of foreign merchants. Shops and offices owned by foreigners were attacked, looted and the violence soon spread to other towns. Faced with widespread disorder, Governor Sir Gerald Creasy declared a state of emergency. Troops were called out while police arrested the ‘trouble makers’. Leaders of the U.G.C.C. – the so-called Big Six: J. B. Danquah, Ofori Atta, Akufo Addo, Ako Adjei, Obetsebi Lamptey and Kwame Nkrumah – were arrested and flown to the Northern Territories where they were detained for six weeks.
While it is true that both Kwame Nkrumah and Dr. Joseph Boakye Danquah addressed the ex-servicemen at a rally in Accra on 20th February 1948 where their petition to the Governor was drawn up, it is clear that the leaders of U.G.C.C. did not anticipate or plan the 1948 riots which was triggered by a combination of public disaffection over rising prices and shortages and the shooting of innocent ex-servicemen whose only crime appears to have been to petition the Governor.
After interrogating the accused the Watson commissioners concluded that Nkrumah was mainly to blame for the disorders. Curiously, the other leaders of the U.G.C.C also blamed Nkrumah for the riots and some, including Obestebi Lamptey and William Ofori-Atta, ransacked his house looking for evidence that he was a communist.
So, isn’t it rather breathtakingly hypocritical that while the U.G.C.C. leadership washed its hands of the 1948 riots and blamed Nkrumah for the disturbances that led to their arrests and earned them the sobriquet of the ‘Big Six’, 52 years on, their supporters wish to claim credit for triggering the process that led to the establishment of the Watson Commission and in consequence, the Coussey Constitutional Commission (from which Nkrumah and the Trades Unions were excluded) and the march toward independence? Without the 1948 riots it is unlikely the constitutional process that paved the way for our independence may have been initiated and the so-called ‘Big Six’ had no role in those events.
The other argument put forward by opponents of President Mills’s proposal is that prior to Nkrumah’s arrival, the U.G.C.C. leadership had started the agitation for self-rule. It is worth, however, examining the motivations behind the establishment of the U.G.C.C. to test this claim.
Among the five causes of the deterioration in public confidence identified by the Colonial Office, was what they described as “the bitterness of the group of politicians, led by Dr. J.B. Danquah, over the hanging of the Kibi murderers”. According to a Colonial Office report on the disturbances in the Gold Coast, “[t]he Kibi affair changed the pattern of Gold Coast politics. A number of Kibi people were tried for the ritual murder at the time of the funeral, in 1944, of Nana Sir Ofori Atta, Omanhene of Akyem Abuakwa. They were defended in a notoriously long trial by many lawyers led by Dr. J.B. Danquah and employed by their relatives. The bitterness of this family over the trial and the conviction of some among their relatives as murderers resulted in their instituting an uncompromising political campaign against the Governor and the Government. This group subsequently formed the hard core of the extreme nationalists who in August 1947 founded the United Gold Coast Convention”.
It is also far from clear that the immediate aim of the movement was to seek independence. In a letter to the Secretary of State for the Colonies Mr Creech Jones in December 1947, Sir Kenneth Bradley, officer administering the Gold Coast, argued that the motivations for the establishment of the U.G.C.C. had much to do with the personal ambitions of its leadership to supplant the Chiefs on the Joint Provincial Council in the power-sharing arrangement with the colonial government.
According Bradley, “one of the [U.G.C.C.’s] immediate aims is to wrest power from the chiefs. Those leading chiefs of the Colony with whom I have discussed the Convention agree that this is the main immediate aim of promoters of the party; and they are somewhat disturbed by the party’s activities. This assessment of the Convention’s present objective is borne out also by the reports of the meetings so far held. None of the leading chiefs of the Colony have been invited to take any part in the framing of the Constitution, nor has any approach been made to the Joint Provincial Council or the Ashanti Confederacy Council.”
While it was clearly a nationalist movement, the U.G.C.C. was not national in its reach, at least until Nkrumah’s arrival four months after its inauguration in Saltpond. As Bradley pointed out, its supporters were mainly in the large coastal towns of Accra, Saltpond, Cape Coast, Sekondi and Kibi the home of Dr Danquah, which was also the mainspring of the movement. The Watson Commission too observed that the “U.G.C.C. did not really get down to business until the arrival of Mr Nkrumah on 16 December 1947” who was singularly responsible for broadening the appeal of the movement across the country.
The role and contribution of U.G.C.C. in the struggle for independence is not in doubt but to hoist it, almost exclusively, as the harbinger organisation for Ghana’s independence is to overstate its case. It was neither the first nationalist movement in neither the Gold Coast nor the last; indeed it supplanted the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society which until then championed the interests of natives of the colony. Like the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society, it too, was supplanted – by the Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party – when it [the U.G.C.C.] became a “spent political force” (as the some founding members of the U.G.C.C. said of the Society in 1947). Ghana’s struggle for independence began long before the U.G.C.C. and the Big Six and there is a case for honouring all of those like Joseph Casley-Hayford, John Mensah Sarbah Nii Kwabena Bonnne II and William Essuman Gwira (Kobina) Sekyi, who have contributed immensely to our nationhood. But are we to believe that the likes of Obetsebi Lamptey, Ako Adjei, Edward Akuffo-Addo and William Ofori-Atta, their contributions notwithstanding, are more deserving than these stalwarts of 19th and 20th century Gold Coast only because they were part of the ‘Big Six’ arrested after the 1948 riots? No!
The final leg of the argument against declaring 21st September Founder’s Day is that Nkrumah was not the founder of Ghana. If anything, in addition to his other immense intellectual and political achievements, Dr. J.B. Danquah was founder by virtue of proposing we adopt the name Ghana, his supporters argue. It is true that Dr. J.B. Danquah demonstrated in his paper “The Ghana Hypothesis” that the inhabitants of the then the Gold Coast were descended from the first of the three major empires of Western Sudan. In a Colonial Office despatch in 1949, the officer administering the government then observed that “Nkrumah’s axial fantasy – Ghanaland – [had] been cribbed from Dr. Danquah. With some malversation of history and considerable recourse to mystical interpretation, Dr. Danquah demonstrated some time ago that the Gold Coast is the ancient state of Ghana. The romantic notion was enthusiastically received and much elaborated by local bards but it was Mr. Nkrumah who transformed it into a political conception”. In other words, Nkrumah could have chosen not to take inspiration from Dr. Danquah’s hypothesis but he complimented him by making what was a vague and ropey conception the reality that became the motion of independence tabled on August 3rd 1956. However, when the time came for Dr. Danquah and Nkrumah’s opponents to make the former’s hypothesis a reality, they spurned the opportunity. In a memorandum on 29th August 1956 to the United Kingdom cabinet, the then Secretary of State for Colonies described the events leading up to the motion: “The new Legislative Assembly was opened on 31st July, and on 3rd August the Government introduced its expected motion calling for independence within the Commonwealth. All the Opposition members boycotted the debate …and the motion was passed nem con. If there had been a vote, the Opposition could not have mustered more than 32 votes against the Governments 72. I must regard the motion therefore as having been passed by a “reasonable majority.” . The full text of the motion reads as follows: “that this Assembly do authorise the Government of the Gold Coast to request Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, as soon as practicable this year, to procure the enactment by the United Kingdom Parliament of an Act to provide for independence of the Gold Coast as a sovereign and independent State within the Commonwealth under the name of Ghana.|”” That motion was not drafted by Dr. Danquah; indeed as noted Dr. Danquah’s party boycotted the debate to request independence and to change our name from the Gold Coast to Ghana. He may have borrowed the idea from Dr. Danquah but it was Nkrumah who ‘christened’ the Gold Coast, Ghana.”
The arguments against President Mills’ proposition from the UP/NPP side is not credible, especially when one comes to think of the fact that they presided over the golden jubilee celebrations and had eight years in which they could have honoured the ‘Big Six’ beyond having their portraits put in the new currency notes. Now they are attempting opportunistically to gate-crash President Mills’s bash for Nkrumah with rather weak and hollow arguments.
The current geographic borders of Ghana which integrates parts of what was Trans-Volta Togoland for example was negotiated by Nkrumah. It was Nkrumah who stopped separatists for dismembering and balkanizing the country as we know it. If the so-called Big Six had their way in 1956 Ghana would not look anything like what we know today. In its administrative structure, organisation and physical boundaries, the idea of Ghana as we know it today is by and large Nkrumah’s ‘creation’.
Pastor receives funding boost for iconic rehab centre for child sacrifice survivors
Together, we will end child sacrifice, Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga says.
Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga who runs Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, a Christian charity seeking to stamp out child sacrifice in Uganda, has received a cash donation of $134,225 (approximately Ush491 million) for a rehabilitation centre expected to be a safe place for children who have been victims of child sacrifice and trafficking.
Pastor Peter received the funds from the Bruce Campbell Entrepreneurial Business School whose founder and Principal Business Coach, Mr Bruce Campbell, has been extensively awarded for his work through various international bodies.
This happened in Australia over the weekend.
“We are humbled by the incredible continuous support of the Bruce Campbell Entrepreneurial Business School,” Kyampisi Childcare Ministries said in an update on Sunday.
“Thank you for this generosity, partnering with us in our efforts to build a new Trauma Rehabilitation Centre for kids abused through Child sacrifice and trafficking. What a community full of love and compassion. Together we will End Child Sacrifice,” they added.
Pastor Peter takes care of several child survivors of trafficking and human sacrifice and has built an extensive network linking communities and security to track suspected cases.
In his remarks earlier in March, Mr Bruce Campbell said, “This will be the largest rehab centre of its kind in Uganda (& maybe Africa). So honored to be a board member and help guiding this life changing organisation.”
The organisation, Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM) condemns witch doctors’ brutal ritual of child sacrifice, and has brought to books several culprits this year in the capital of Kampala alone.
In his recent interview with local media, Pastor Peter explained that victims of child sacrifice in Uganda carry with them serious and disturbing life scars and injuries which include complete genital mutilations, castration, deep stab wounds, missing tongues, ears, as well as emotional and psychological scars that need life time healing.
Working each day to bring Christ’s hope and healing to these children, Sewakiryanga’s devotion to the cause in 2017 attracted The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) who during an interview with the preacher, joined undercover detectives and armed police in a hunt for witch doctors accused of kidnapping and killing children.
“When they get the child, most times they cut the neck, they take the blood out, they take the tissue, they cut the genitals or any other body organs that they wish that the spirits want.” Pr Sewakiryanga said.
Child body parts are especially prized in rituals because people believe mixing their blood with herbs makes a strong concoction that can cure diseases and appease local spirits. Genitalia are especially prized.
“The problem is increasing and many children are killed, and there are very few actually that survive, most of them die.” Pr Sewakiryanga added.
According to CBN News, Kyampisi Childcare Ministries is the only organization in the country providing long-term financial and medical care to survivors of child sacrifice.
“We want to see that the life of a child who has survived is supported, that they are socially able to stand and heal from the injuries, and that they can have a life after that,” said Pastor Sewakiryanga.
He also works with Ugandan lawmakers to help draft specific laws targeting perpetrators of child sacrifice.
In 2018, Pastor Peter was one of two Ugandan activists recognised by The European Union (EU) for their tireless campaign to stop child trafficking.
He was credited for championing research and spearheading an awareness campaign in communities to stop the crime.
KAKUMA, Kenya, June 18 (Xinhua) — Suspected Ethiopian warriors killed two Kenyans and wounded 14 others on Wednesday night in a ritual killing barely a fortnight when deadly clashes between Merrile and Turkana tribesmen killed dozens others along the common frontier.
Survivors and officials said on Thursday that hundreds of Merrile youths aged between 13 and 18 are queued for a circumcision ritual between this month and August and cultural dictates that they exhibit braveness by killing an enemy before being circumcised.
Once they kill, they chop off private parts and other organs oftheir victims, including ears, noses and toes, which they carry away and present as a sign of bravery.
And on Wednesday night, Merrile initiates from Namurupus area, Southern Zone travelled over 40 km inside Kenya and indiscriminately fired at a dancing crowd during Wednesday night attack at Kokuro village.
“The Turkana villagers were dancing ‘Edunga’ (a respected and popular traditional dance) when the intruders attacked at 23:00 (2000 GMT) and opened fire killing two and injured several others,” said JacK Obuo, the Turkana North District Commissioner.
The villagers were caught off guard as they were busy jumped up and danced before they could retire to bed.
The Edunga dance purposely is used as an occasion for men to lobby and hunt for women to marry and usually is conducted at night due to high heat during the day.
“We were about 200 people busy dancing and everybody was happy with the occasion when the gun shots were heard from all directions. But I thank God I’m that I’m alive,” narrated a survivor Ekiru Lokale recuperating from bullet wounds at Lodwar District Hospital.
Lokale said the assailants were repulsed when local Police reservists (home guards) were alerted and challenged them in a gunbattle.
The assailants were unable to chop off their victim’s organs which they must present no casualty was reported from the attackers’ side during the attack that last few minutes.
“They Merrile treked over 40 km inside Kenya and ambushed the villagers intentionally to kill and many could have died were not the immediate response from the police reserve,” added the DC.
Government official and rescue workers evacuated the injured people to Lodwar hospital nearly 400 km away from the attacked remote village.
Obuo could not confirm the number of the attackers but villagers put at 50 youthful boys who were armed with assault rifles.
The official said home guards have been supplied with enough ammunition to protect the villagers from ritual attacks.
Nearly 35 people were killed a fortnight ago in revenge fighting between the two communities over cattle raids and fishing row.
The clashes were elicited with theft claims of fishing nets by the Turkana fishermen at River Omo and Lake Turkana delta.
Cattle raids and row over fishing territories are common at Todonyang and hostilities have continued to hamper fishing activity, a major source for living for the two tribes.
Time for some good news! This site is devoted to the problem of ritualistic murders in Africa, superstition, the absence of justice, impunity, but it also focuses on the promotion of the rule of law, the defense of human rights, and related good news. Below follows such a ‘good news article’. There are too few of such good reports, but I will continue to bring you these as they are being published. (Webmaster FVDK)
Liberia: Albino society announces decrease in stigmatization
Published: April 3, 2019 By: FrontPage Africa
Monrovia – The Executive Director of the Liberia Albino Society (LAS), Ms. Patricia Logan, has announced a massive reduction on the stigmatization of its members.
According to Ms. Logan, many Liberians now see people living with albinism as partners, family and friends.
She attributed the improvement of their aged-old nightmare to consistent outreach activities being carried out by her members.
“I am somehow relief as we have now crossed this big challenge,” she added.
She blamed the high stigmatization in time past to lack of information and high illiteracy harbored by most Liberians. She, however, states that it is now a different story with her constituents.
The LAS boss still calls for more awareness and sensitization in all parts of the country.
Ms. Logan also termed as untrue and misleading media reports that she has transferred employees’ salaries into her personal account.
“I don’t have authority to do that because every employee has his or her own bank account at UBA. They often go there to do transactions once they receive an alarm from the bank through text message. Moreover, I am not the financial person; so I am not involved with financial matters. This is very far from the truth,” she stressed.
Explaining further, she emphasized that if that were her practice, the government will not support her initiative because it is fighting against corruption, abuse of public funds and is promoting transparency and accountability.
She also spoke of the financial challenges LAS faces, indicating clearly that it is a national issue which is gradually been addressed by the government.
“We have some issues, but we are dialoging with the government to see the need to help us.
According to her, since 2009, when LAS was founded, it has been rendering free health care services to its members, disadvantage women, children and the elderly. Ms. Logan promised that her leadership will continue to provide this support those groups in buttressing government’s pro poor agenda in the health sector.
She also took time to plead with international partners to also include their Liberia Albino Society in their development agenda as the society’s members have special needs for their hairs, skins, eyes and other medical conditions.
Whereas the criminal practice of ritualistic murders is a revolting and sad one, another phenomenon also draws our attention. Both phenomena relate to superstition. Of course I know that fearing witches or, rather, fearing persons who people believe are possessed by an evil spirit or are thought to be witches is a universal superstition that can be found on all continents of the globe. Moreover, I certainly do not want to stigmatize a particular group of people or race. However, the focus of this website being on ritualistic practices notably ritual murders in Africa, I cannot ignore the occurrence of ritualistic murders committed by Africans that take place outside the continent. For this reason I drew attention to the high profile case of the torso of a small black boy (‘Adam’) that was found floating in the river Thames in 2001. It proved to be a case of ritualistic murder, very likely committed by persons originating from West Africa. Unfortunately, also reports exist of ritual practices – even killings – of persons of African descent in other European countries (more later on this site).
The inclusion of the cases reported below is justified by the same reason – though these cases do not represent ritual murders. The ’cause-in-common’ of these distinct but related crimes is: superstition. Whereas the battle against superstition should be fought with all strength and conviction that we have, the rule of law should be strictly applied to those who commit these heinous crimes, be it murdering or torturing innocent people, notably children. Their suffering in the hands of the perpetrators of these crimes should end as soon as possible. Each new case is a case too much. (Webmaster FVDK).
Children accused of witchcraft: abuse cases on the rise in UK (2014)
Published: October 16, 2014 By: RELIGION NEWS BLOG
London’s Metropolitan Police reports that cases of abuse where the child is accused of being a witch or possessed by an evil spirit are on the rise.
Thus far this year 27 allegations have been received — up from 24 in 2013.
There were 19 such cases reported in 2012, and 9 in 2011. Some 148 cases have been referred to the Metropolitan Police since 2004.
The rise in the number of reports is likely due to greater awareness among social workers, healthcare staff, teachers, pastors and others.
However, police believe many more cases are kept hidden in families and communities.
Parents, other guardians, and in several cases pastors and church members who believe a child is possessed often resort to physical abuse in order to try and get the spirits to leave.
New guidance has now been issued on how to spot children at risk of abuse linked to witchcraft.
On October 8, the Metropolitan Police Service and CCPAS, the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service, hosted a multi-agency event at London’s City Hall to raise awareness of child abuse linked to faith or belief.
Speaking ahead of the conference, Det Supt Terry Sharpe explained:
“Abuse linked to belief is a horrific crime which is condemned by people of all cultures, communities and faiths.
“A number of high-profile investigations brought the issue of ritual abuse and witchcraft into the headlines but it is important that professionals are clear about the signs to look for.
“Families or carers genuinely believe that the victim has been completely taken over by the devil or an evil spirit, which is often supported by someone who within the community has portrayed themselves as an authority on faith and belief.
“Regardless of the beliefs of the abusers, child abuse is child abuse. Our role is to safeguard children, not challenge beliefs. We investigate crimes against children, but our main aim is to prevent abuse in the first place. This is a hidden crime and we can only prevent it by working in partnership with the community. Project Violet aims to build trust with communities and emphasise that child protection is everyone’s responsibility.”
A training film aimed at all front-line professionals who work with children was launched at the event. The DVD, commissioned by our Project Violet team in conjunction with CCPAS, advises how to recognise the signs that a child may be suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm from abuse linked to witchcraft and spirit possession.
According to CCPAS the training DVD will be made provided to Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) so they may make it available to social workers and other front line staff.
High-profile cases include Victoria Climbié (link added by the webmaster FVDK) whose great-aunt and her boyfriend — along with their pastor — believed the girl was demon-possessed.
Beaten, burned with cigarettes and forced to sleep in a bathtub, the 8-year-old girl died in February, 2000 — with 128 injuries on her body.
In 2001 the headless, limbless body of a boy aged between five and six was found floating in the river Thames. Evidence strongly suggests the boy was sacrificed in a Muti ritual. (See elsewhere on this site, ‘The unsolved case of the torso in the Thames’. The murder boy was ‘named ‘Adam’ by the investigators. Information added by the webmaster FVDK).
In 2010, 15-year-old Kristy Bamu was tortured for three days by his sister and his boyfriend after being accused of witchcraft, and was subsequently drowned in a bathtub during an exorcism ritual.
In 2005 a leaked police report revealed that children are being trafficked into the country in order to be killed as human sacrifices:
A confidential report into the sacrifice and abuse of children at African churches describes how pastors are profiting from the trafficking of black boys into Britain.
Uncircumcised boys are being smuggled into the country for human sacrifice by fundamentalist sects whose members believe that their ritual killing will enhance spells.
TYPES OF WITCHCRAFT
Most reported cases involve what is known as “traditional witchcraft” as opposed to “contemporary witchcraft.”
Traditional Witchcraft, such as performed by shamans or witch doctors, is a magical practice — not a religion. However, it can have religious elements.
Contemporary Witchcraft is one of many types of neo-Paganism. It is religion within the broader context of occultism.
The problem of children who are accused of witchcraft is not limited to England. But after several high-profile cases there is a greater awareness — and official response — that highlights such cases.
Immigration also plays a role in the rise of reports — as many immigrants bring along various beliefs and superstitions.
Many Christian churches in Africa are part of the problem as well — as traditional beliefs are mingled with Christian theology regarding demons and exorcism.
An increasing number of children in Africa accused of witchcraft by pastors and then tortured or killed, often by family members. Pastors were involved in half of 200 cases of “witch children” reviewed by the AP, and 13 churches were named in the case files.
Some of the churches involved are renegade local branches of international franchises. Their parishioners take literally the Biblical exhortation, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”
In 2010 UNICEF, the United Nations’ children’s charity, said that accusing children of sorcery was a fairly new and growing trend in Africa, despite long-held traditional and mystic beliefs on the continent.
Where previously elderly women were accused, today the focus more often falls on young children, often some of the most vulnerable, such as orphans, disabled or poor.
Child abuse linked to witchcraft on the increase “Met reveals it has investigated allegations of children having chilli rubbed into their eyes and being forced to drink noxious liquids in order to rid them of evil spirits.” Published: October 8, 2014 By: Martin Evans, Crime correspondent, The Telegraph
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.
Burundi has an ugly past with respect to the safety of people living with albinism – like other countries in the region, e.g. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Swaziland. I have counted more than 20 registered (!) attacks on albinos in Burundi since 2008, often deadly, but very likely the real number is much higher. Arrest of culprits and prosecution of accused are rare, possibly because of – according to rumors – the involvement of politically powerful people and rich businessmen and because some murderers commit their heinous crimes on command of principals in neighboring countries, notably Tanzania.
I have reproduced a number of these murders and other incidents. Burundi is a francophone country and many articles are in French. Therefore I have provided a summary in English of the French reports and articles. Unfortunately, a number of articles have disappeared from the web since 2008.
I have omitted ritualistic murders committed before 2008 in the overview presented below.(webmaster FVDK)
Ritual murder of albinos back again!
Summary in English: After one year of no murders, a 15-year old albino girl named Chantal has been found murdered in the Kabezi community, south of the capital Bujumbura, on May 6. Her death and mutilation brings the total number of reported cases since 2008 to over 20.
According to the president of the organization ‘Albinos without borders’ (‘Albinos sans Frontières’) the killers slit the girl’s throat and dismembered her. A neighbor, Kassim Kazungu, affirms that Chantal is the 18th person murdered for ritual purposes in the community since 2008. The government of Burundi is blamed for doing nothing to protect its citizens and for being too passive after the escape from prison of a number of convicted ritual killers. (….)
The original article, in French:
Le retour du meurtre d’albinos
Published: May 7, 2012
Au Burundi, après une année d’accalmie, un albinos a été tué dans la nuit de samedi à dimanche 6 mai dans la commune de Kabezi, au sud de Bujumbura. Chantal, une jeune fille albinos de 15 ans a été tuée par un groupe de criminels, puis affreusement mutilée. L‘association Albinos sans frontière, qui a déjà dénombré une vingtaine de crimes rituels d’albinos depuis 2008, condamne et met le gouvernement en face de « ses responsabilités ».
Ces tueurs, armés d’un fusil, de machettes et de lances, sont d’abord passés au domicile des parents de la jeune fille albinos, une dizaine de kilomètres au sud de Bujumbura. Ils ont obligé sa mère à les accompagner chez un de ses fils, où la jeune Chantal avait trouvé refuge.
Sous la menace, la mère a demandé à son fils de lui ouvrir, qui tout naturellement s’est exécuté. La suite est racontée par le président de l’association Albinos sans frontière, sur place hier matin. « Ils ont pris la fillette. Deux kilomètres après, ils ont égorgé la fillette, et ils ont décapité ses jambes et ses bras, on a trouvé la fillette jetée dans un fossé par ces malfaiteurs ».
Frustration, colère, désarroi. « Le choc est rude », explique Kassim Kazungu après ce meurtre, le dix-huitième qui touche sa communauté en moins de quatre ans au Burundi, d’autant explique-t-il, que tous les assassins d’albinos, condamnés et regroupés dans la prison de Ruyigi dans l’est du Burundi, se sont évadés en 2011.
« Depuis 2008 au mois d’août jusqu’aujourd’hui, nous comptons dix-huit enfants albinos déjà massacrés. Nous pensons que l’Etat est impuissant, parce que s’il était puissant, à Ruyigi comme vous le savez, il y avait dix-huit personnes qui étaient condamnées, mais aujourd’hui il n’y a plus personne. Tous se sont évadés de la prison et nous, nous pensons que c’est eux-mêmes qui continuent ces massacres d’albinos. Nous demandons à l’Etat – où sont ces gens là qui avaient été condamnés à cause des massacres d’albinos ? »
Très gênées, plusieurs autorités burundaises contactées par RFI ont refusé de s’exprimer, en se réfugiant derrière le secret de l’instruction.
Another ritual murder of an albino child in Burundi: Nouveau meurtre rituel d’un albinos au Burundi
Albino children in parts of Africa are targeted by groups who believe their body parts bring luck (stock image)
Published: October 4, 2010
By: RFI Afrique / RFI
A 8-year old boy has been found dead and mutilated in the province of Ruyigi, near Tanzania. This brings the
total to eight murdered albinos and one still missing in the past four months.
Last May a 28-year old mother together with her 4-year oldd son were killed and mutilated for ritual purposes in the community of Cendajuru, also near the Tanzanian border.
SInce September 2008 14 albinos have been murdered in Burundi.
The original article:
Les albinos du Burundi sont sous le choc. Il y a un peu plus de 48 heures, un garçon albinos de 8 ans a été tué puis démembré, alors que les autorités pensaient avoir mis fin à ces crimes rituels qui avaient frappé jusqu’ici la province de Ruyigi, frontalière de la Tanzanie. Le président de l’association Albinos sans frontière du Burundi, Kassim Kazungu, exprime la terreur qui anime désormais les albinos et entend agir pour ne plus voir ce genre de crime.
Au Burundi, six albinos ont été tués et un septième porté disparu au cours des quatre derniers mois. Chacun des membres de cette communauté vit désormais dans la terreur d’être le prochain sur la liste. Aujourd’hui, des dizaines d’albinos ont fui leurs collines pour les villes où la sécurité est mieux assurée.
Selon Kassim Kazungu président de l’association Albinos sans frontière du Burundi « il y a au moins 80 albinos qui sont déplacés de chez eux. Ils sont regroupés dans les chefs-lieux de communes et chefs-lieux de provinces».
Mais jusqu’ici, assure le président de l’association des Albinos sans frontière du Burundi, seules quelques associations leur viennent en aide alors que certains responsables administratifs menacent de chasser ces albinos. Kassim Kazungu affirme que « le gouvernement burundais ne fait rien, seulement des promesses et qu’il ne tient pas ».
Après ce nouvel assassinat d’un jeune albinos, un garçon de 8 ans tué à coups de machette puis amputé de ses bras et jambes, Kassim Kazungu ne décolère pas. Il appelle le pouvoir burundais à prendre exemple sur le voisin tanzanien où l’on est parvenu à mettre fin à ces assassinats rituels.
« En Tanzanie, le président lui-même a pris la situation en main. Les albinos de Tanzanie sont mieux traités, dit-il. Alors pourquoi pas chez nous ? Je demande alors au chef de l’Etat d’aider ces albinos. Si nous ne sommes pas les enfants de cette nation qu’on nous renvoie là d’où nous sommes venus ».
Huit personnes accusées au Burundi d’assassinats et tentatives d’assassinats d’albinos ont été condamnées à des peines allant de un an de prison à la perpétuité en juillet 2009.
L’ONG canadienne « Under the same sun » (Sous le même soleil) a dénoncé en mai dernier l’assassinat et la mutilation le 2 mai d’une mère de 28 ans et de son fils de 4 ans, tous deux albinos, dans la commune de Cendajuru, près de la frontière tanzanienne, portant à 14 le nombre d’albinos tués au Burundi depuis septembre 2008. Ces albinos auraient été victimes d’un trafic d’organes vers la Tanzanie voisine où certaines parties de leurs corps serviraient à confectionner des charmes qui apportent la richesse à leurs possesseurs.
Les albinos souffrent d’une maladie génétique caractérisée par une absence de pigmentation de la peau, des poils, des cheveux et des yeux. Ils sont victimes de discriminations dans de nombreuses régions d’Afrique.
Published: May 30, 2009
By: The Citizen, Tanzanian online newspaper
The East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) has decried the killing of albinos in the region and urged “tougher measures” to stop the ritual murders and protect albinos. (…) At the ongoing meeting of the regional parliament in Bujumbura, Burundi, MPs from the five EAC member states called for regional cooperation to protect albinos victimised by superstitious fortune seekers.
The killings are rampant in some parts of Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania.
The legislators said while “considerable progress” had been made on human rights issues in the EA region, the current killings and hostility portrayed towards the albino community showed there was still a long way to go in achieving the full respect for human rights.
Burundi: Des progrès dans les “affaires d’albinos”
Published: March 15, 2009
By: ? (see: ‘Source’)
Huit personnes trouvées à leurs domiciles en possession d’ossements humains censés provenir d’albinos assassinés ont été arrêtés dans la province de Ruyigi, dans l’est du Burundi. Selon le parquet local, les personnes interpellées ont été dénoncées par deux autres suspects arrêtés ayant avoué avoir assassiné deux albinos.
Deux pays d’Afrique des Grands Lacs notamment – le Burundi et la Tanzanie voisine – connaissent ces derniers mois une vague de meurtres rituels d’albinos alimentée par un commerce macabre. Les organes d’individus souffrant d’albinisme – absence de pigments colorants de la peau – sont très recherchés des sorciers et autres fétichistes parce qu’ils sont censés porter chance en amour et en affaires notamment.
Published: March 15, 2009
Reporting by Patrick Nduwimana, editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura / Reuters
BUJUMBURA, March 15 (Reuters) – Burundi has arrested eight people found with human bones suspected of belonging to albinos, a government official said on Sunday.
The tiny east African nation and neighbouring Tanzania have been convulsed by a spate of ritual albino murders fuelled by a body parts trade. Witchdoctors tell clients that albino parts will bring them luck in love, life and business.
“Before arresting them, we did a search and found human bones in their houses,” said Nicodeme Gahimbare, a public prosecutor in the eastern Ruyigi province.
“The eight were denounced by two other detained people who have already confessed to killing two albinos,” Gahimbare said.
Albinism is a condition that causes a lack of pigment in the eyes, skin or hair, which makes patients especially vulnerable to skin cancer and burns, and makes life particularly difficult in sun-drenched Africa.
Since last year, 11 albinos have been killed in Burundi. Forty others have been murdered in Tanzania since mid-2007.
Kazungu Kassim, the head of a Burundi albino association, said: “Authorities have now realised that the killing of albinos is a serious matter which needs concrete action.
“We urge the government to double efforts in protecting albinos, because what we are witnessing here is a planned extermination of the albino community.”
There are about 200 albinos in the nation of 8 million people.
This article is only available in French. It is preceeded by a short abridged version in English. Bujumbura (AFP) – Another albino boy was murdered, this time in the Muruta community, in Kayanza Province (about 90 km north of the capital Bujumbura. “The people of the region found the body of a boy of eight or ten years old who was killed and whose legs and arms had been cut off. (….)”. On February 24, a six-year-old boy had been murdered and dismembered in the same Kayanza Province.
The recent killing brings the total number of ritual murders of albinos to nine in the past five moths.
Below the original French version:
Burundi: un garçon albinos tué
Published: March 9, 2009
Bujumbura (AFP) — Un garçon albinos a été tué et mutilé dans le nord du Burundi, dernier cas d’une série de meurtres rituels visant les albinos dans ce pays et en Tanzanie voisine, a-t-on appris lundi de source administrative. Ce nouveau meurtre a eu lieu dans la commune de Muruta, dans la province de Kayanza (environ 90 km au nord de la capitale Bujumbura).
“La population a découvert hier (dimanche) le corps d’un garçon albinos de huit à dix ans, qui a été tué et dont les bras et les jambes ont été coupés”, a rapporté à l’AFP Geneviève Ntawiha, administrateur de la commune de Muruta.
Unfortunately, the original French article has disappeared from the web.
Another murder case:
Au Burundi, la traque des albinos
The hunt for albinos in Burundi
This article is only available in French. It relates of the plight of the albinos in Burundi where since September 2008 five albinos have been murdered for ritual purposes.
Nicodème Gahimbare, in Ruyigi, in the east of the country, tells how seven bandits invaded the house, and while three of them threatened the family with their AK-47, four bandits dismembered the albinos of the family – alive – in a horrific scene. They started with the arms, then the legs, and finally the head.
Au Burundi, la traque des albinos / The hunt for albinos in Burundi
Published: December 22, 2008
By: Pierre Lepidi – ENVOYÉ SPÉCIAL BUJUMBARA (Le Monde)
Dans la région des Grands Lacs, on les appelle “les enfants du soleil” : ils portent chance. Leurs corps sont recherchés par les sorciers. Cinq meurtres ont été commis depuis septembre, dans d’effroyables conditions
Cette nuit-là, les machettes étaient aiguisées. “Sept bandits ont fait irruption dans la maison, raconte Nicodème Gahimbare, procureur de Ruyigi, province située à l’est du Burundi. Trois ont menacé la famille avec des kalachnikovs, pendant que les quatre autres découpaient l’albinos, qui était toujours vivant. Ils ont commencé par les bras puis ont tranché les jambes et enfin la tête. L’un d’entre eux recueillait le sang dans un bidon… Puis, ils sont repartis en laissant dans la pièce ce qui restait du corps.” Depuis septembre, les albinos du Burundi sont victimes d’une traque effroyable, sordide et insensée. Cinq meurtres, plus abominables les uns que les autres, ont déjà été commis. Hommes ou femmes, garçons ou fillettes, les albinos sont devenus bien malgré eux les cibles d’un marché fort lucratif.
On ne compte plus les légendes africaines qui entourent les albinos, victimes d’une maladie génétique qui se caractérise par une absence de pigmentation de la peau, des poils, des cheveux et des yeux. Mi-hommes, mi-dieux, selon les régions, leur “blancheur” pourrait apporter toutes sortes de pouvoirs, bénéfiques ou maléfiques. Au Cameroun, au Mali et dans d’autres pays du continent, on attribue à ces “enfants blancs” nés de parents noirs des forces surnaturelles. “Ici, dans la région des Grands Lacs, nous sommes considérés comme les enfants du soleil, de la chance, explique avec un air de dégoût Cassim Kazungu, président de l’Association des albinos du Burundi. Alors, certains sorciers, principalement originaires de Tanzanie, racontent que s’ils mélangent nos os et notre sang à certaines potions magiques, ils seront capables de confectionner des gris-gris pour obtenir de l’or, de la chance ou une éternelle jeunesse. On nous assassine pour des histoires de sorcellerie…”
C’est principalement sur les bords du lac Victoria que seraient nées ces légendes. Autour du plus grand lac africain, on raconte, par exemple, que verser du sang d’albinos sur une mine d’or pourrait suffire à faire jaillir des pépites, sans même avoir à creuser la terre. Chez les pêcheurs, on soutient que le fait d’appâter les eaux du lac avec un bras ou une jambe découpée sur un corps d’albinos permettrait d’attraper de gros poissons, le ventre gorgé d’or…
En attendant, c’est l’appât du gain qui nourrit ces massacres humains. “L’un des bandits qui a été arrêté après un meurtre a dit qu’on lui avait promis 1 million de franc burundais (650 euros), explique Cassim Kazungu. La peau des albinos vaut une fortune et nous sommes dans un pays où les gens ont faim… Il faudrait que le gouvernement prenne des mesures très sévères à l’encontre des tueurs.” Deux hommes ont déjà été condamnés à la peine capitale, mais celle-ci est en passe d’être abolie, ce qui accroît l’angoisse des albinos.
Sur les rives du lac Tanganyika, où l’espérance de vie est de 43 ans, où l’indice de développement humain (IDH) classe le pays à la 169e place mondiale (sur 177), la guerre civile, qui a opposé les ethnies hutu et tutsi entre 1993 et 2006, a fait près de 300 000 morts. La tension ethnique est aujourd’hui retombée et, jour après jour, la paix avance. Jeudi 4 décembre, un accord de cessez-le-feu, conclu avec tous les autres mouvements rebelles en 2006, a été signé entre le gouvernement et le FNL (Forces nationales de libération), le dernier groupe en activité. Mais les massacres ethniques ont laissé des séquelles psychologiques irréversibles, inquantifiables, et une économie en lambeaux. Le soir, dans certains quartiers de Bujumbura, la capitale, on raconte qu’il suffit de “10 000 francs “bou”” (6,50 euros) pour acheter la vie d’un homme…
C’est en Tanzanie, pays de 40 millions d’habitants qui borde le Burundi à l’est, que les premiers meurtres ont été commis. Depuis le début de l’année, il y en aurait déjà eu une trentaine, alimentant des réseaux dirigés par certains notables. Le Parlement européen a adopté, le 3 septembre, une résolution condamnant “vigoureusement” l’assassinat d’albinos dans ce pays.
Les autorités tanzaniennes ont pris des mesures de protection, comme l’instauration d’un recensement et la mise en place d’un service d’escorte pour les enfants se rendant à l’école. Le gouvernement a surtout annoncé que des sanctions très sévères, allant jusqu’à la peine de mort, seraient prises contre toute personne mêlée à ces crimes rituels. Quelques trafiquants et une cinquantaine de sorciers auraient été arrêtés dans la foulée.
L’apparition de cette traque sur le sol burundais pourrait résulter des mesures prises en Tanzanie. Les frontières sont poreuses, surtout lorsque les trafics génèrent des sommes colossales… “Le gouvernement tanzanien a agi rapidement en faisant du meurtre des albinos un crime puni de la peine capitale, a déclaré Olalekan Ajia, responsable de l’Unicef au Burundi, le 19 novembre. Du coup, les sorciers et autres charlatans sont partis pour le Burundi.” Le retour de 100 000 réfugiés burundais vivant dans des camps le long de la frontière tanzanienne est une autre hypothèse avancée.
Jusque-là épargné, le Burundi, qui recense près de 150 albinos sur une population de 8 millions d’habitants, déplore donc aujourd’hui 5 meurtres et un disparu. Début décembre, un homme en tenue militaire armé d’une machette a tenté une agression. Il a été arrêté par le père de l’albinos, qui a été sérieusement blessé lors de l’altercation. Roué de coups par les gens du village, l’agresseur est décédé le lendemain.
Les albinos du Burundi vivent la peur au ventre. “Je ne sors plus de chez moi car, même si la capitale est pour l’instant épargnée, je me sens en insécurité, lâche Pascal, 28 ans, un habitant de Bujumbura. Mais je suis bien obligé d’aller faire mes courses… Sur le trottoir, les gens disent en me regardant : “Regardez, le beau paquet d’argent qui déambule !” D’autres stoppent leur voiture à ma hauteur et me menacent : “Tu vaux l’équivalent de trois camionnettes, on va te vendre en morceaux…” Nous vivons un véritable cauchemar.” Quelques ruelles plus loin, Nathalie, 25 ans, n’est guère plus sereine. “La situation est très difficile et j’ai peur, dit-elle. Mais je suis surtout très inquiète pour ceux qui vivent à l’extérieur de la capitale.”Rien n’arrête les tueurs. Pour découper les membres d’une adolescente de 16 ans, tuée quelques jours plus tôt, certains sont allés jusqu’à déterrerdeux fois son cadavre…
Lorsque les premiers meurtres ont été commis, dans la région de Ruyigi, à mi-chemin entre Bujumbura et la frontière tanzanienne, Nicodème Gahimbare, procureur de la province, a parcouru la région pour proposeraux albinos de les héberger chez lui. L’homme a pris des risques pour assurer leur protection. Il a payé de sa poche, aussi. “Il fallait vraiment faire quelque chose pour ces gens, dit-il. Les atrocités des attaques se propageaient à travers les villages, et ils vivaient de plus en plus dans l’angoisse… Dans une même famille, je me souviens qu’il y en avait quatre ! Plus loin, un curé a accepté que je lui en confie quelques-uns… Pendant une semaine, j’en ai hébergé huit. Très vite, on a atteint la vingtaine ! Il en arrivait presque tous les jours des villages alentour…”
Le gouvernement s’est alors penché sur leur sort. Les ONG, les pouvoirs publics et la communauté internationale se sont mobilisés. L’ambassade de France a été l’une des premières à réagir en envoyant des vivres et des matelas dans la maison. L’Union européenne a fait parvenir à Ruyigi des vêtements et des chapeaux pour protéger leur peau, sur laquelle se forment des croûtes après des expositions prolongées au soleil. “Ils vivaient dans des conditions d’hygiène déplorables, confie un Français qui a fait quelques visites à Ruyigi dans un but humanitaire. La maison, qui n’avait ni eau ni électricité, possédait seulement 3 chambres. J’y ai compté 34 albinos…”
Début décembre, une nouvelle demeure a été trouvée. Elle n’est toujours pas raccordée à l’eau et à l’électricité, mais elle est plus spacieuse puisqu’elle compte 10 chambres. On y trouve 39 “enfants du soleil”, âgés de 6 mois à 62 ans, auxquels il faut ajouter 6 accompagnateurs (parents, frères ou soeurs). Le loyer est pris en charge par le gouvernement et non plus par l’Association des albinos, “dont les comptes sont totalement vides”, indique le président.
L’Etat s’est engagé à prendre à sa charge les 8 policiers, contre 4 auparavant, qui assurent la sécurité de la maison. “On pensait que la situation durerait quelques mois, mais elle perdure, déplore Nicodème Gahimbare. Un jeune albinos est retourné dans son village, mais il s’est fait attaquer dans sa propre maison. Ceux qui sont sous notre protection ont tellement peur de rentrer qu’ils ne veulent plus repartir…”
Le gouvernement burundais, avec l’appui de la communauté internationale, vient de lancer plusieurs campagnes de sensibilisation à travers le pays. Mais s’il faudra du temps pour enseigner la tolérance, il en faudra encore plus pour faire taire les croyances. “Autrefois, on disait qu’un albinos qui naissait de parents noirs portait forcément malheur, car il était l’enfant d’une mère volage, lâche Cassim Kazungu. Il était rejeté et vivait comme un marginal, un laissé-pour-compte. Maintenant, on fait croire aux gens que nous portons chance. Alors, on nous massacre !”
Published: November 19, 2008
By: ? See below (‘Source’)
The following is an excerpt from the original 2008 article which has since disappeared from the web:
In Ruyigi province, Burundi, a 6-year-old girl, named Cizanye, was murdered in front of her family because she was an albino. A gang of armed bandits broke into the family home; they tied up the girl’s parents and shot the little girl in the head. They then cut off her head and both her arms and legs and left with the body parts. The attack took place at the family’s home in Bugongo, more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) east of the capital Bujumbura. Police said they suspected criminals of hunting albinos to sell their organs and limbs to witch doctors in Tanzania who use them for lucky charms.
“This little girl is the third albino victim of such barbaric crimes in our province since September. We are doing everything we can to find the killers,” Ruyigi province prosecutor Nicodeme Gahimbare said.
In the meantime, officials in eastern Burundi said that 24 albinos have fled their villages and gone into towns for fear of slaughter. Msembo said many albino children were dropping out of school for fear of being kidnapped. Many albinos have sought refuge in urban centers, which are relatively safer. She said “They are cutting us up like chickens” while pointing to a picture on a wall in her cramped office of a limbless body with the skin on its face peeled off from an incident in 2007.
The following BBC article refers to the same incident:
Albino girl killed for body parts
Published: November 17, 2008
By: BBC News
A six-year-old albino girl in Burundi has been found dead with her head and limbs removed, in the latest killing linked to ritual medicine.
Albinos in the region have been targeted because of a belief peddled by witchdoctors that their body parts can be used for magic potions.
The girl, who was attacked on Sunday, was the sixth person with albinism to be killed in Burundi since September.
There have also been a number of attacks in neighbouring Tanzania.
The latest attack took place in Burundi’s eastern province of Ruyigi.
The BBC’s Prime Ndikumagenge in Burundi said the child and her family had only just returned to their family home.
Armed attackers broke into the family home and tied up the girl’s parents before shooting her in the head, local officials say.
They had been among a group of about 50 people with albinism to have fled to a provincial centre because they feared for her safety.
The head of the Burundi Albinos’ Association, Kasim Kazungu, says people with albinism had not suffered any discrimination until other Burundians heard about the lucrative trade in albino body parts in neighbouring Tanzania.
Last week, police in south-western Tanzania arrested a man who was attempting to sell his albino wife to Congolese traders.
Two mothers in western Tanzania were also attacked with machetes after gangs failed to find their albino children.
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.