Africa’s shameful acts of racism: the plight of persons with albinism (PLWA) in Africa

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Some of the protestors with various placards that called on the Liberian Government among other things, increase their budgetary support (Courtesy of Daily Observer, Liberia).

Africa’s Shameful Acts of Racism: The Plight of Persons with Albinism (PLWA) in Africa

Published: December 2, 2019
By: Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor, The Daily Observer (Liberia),  Webmaster Admin 

Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior to another, and that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics.   On the African Continent, we have seen the impact of colonialism and its attributes of racism and discrimination.

The former Apartheid system in South Africa and its institutionalized racial segregation was an extreme expression of European treatments of Africans. The miserable treatment of people living with Albinism by fellow Africans is not only unfortunate, it is shameful.

The condition known as ‘Oculocutaneous albinism’ (OCA) is a genetically inherited autosomal recessive condition and OCA2, tyrosine-positive albinism, is the most prevalent type found throughout Africa. Due to the lack of melanin, people with albinism are more susceptible to the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation exposure.

The National Institutes of Health reported that about 200,000 Americans are affected; and around the world, it is between one in 17,000 and one in 20,000 people are people living with albinism. However, it is prevalence in parts of Africa, but it is far higher than the global average. People living with Albinism makeup about one in 4,000 people in South Africa and perhaps one in 5,000 in Nigeria. According to a 2006 review published in the journal BMC Public Health, the prevalence in Tanzania is one in 1,400, but this estimate is based on incomplete data. Since Tanzania’s total population is more than 40 million that would suggest an albinism community of about 30,000. A census is underway, however, and the Albinism Association of Tanzania believes the total figure could be more than 150,000.

People living with Albinism suffered in the hands of fellow Africans

The human rights organization Amnesty International quoted the Malawian police’s description of the gruesome murder of Mr. Machinjiri: “About four men trafficked him to Mozambique and killed him. The men chopped off both his arms and legs and removed his bones. Then they buried the rest of his body in a shallow grave.”

There are superstitions in some parts of Africa that albino body parts bring wealth, power or sexual conquest, and that having sex with a person living with the condition of albinism cures HIV and AIDS. Attackers sell albino body parts to witch doctors for thousands of dollars, according to Amnesty International. In Tanzania, some 75 people living with albinism were reported killed between 2000 and 2016.

Also, there have been reports of people living with albinism killings in South Africa; although such crimes are less common there than in Malawi, Tanzania and Burundi. Last February, a South African court sentenced a traditional healer to life in prison for murdering a 20-year-old woman living with albinism.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN agency that deals with human rights issues reported in 2016 that hunters of people living with albinism sell an entire human corpse for up to $75,000, while an arm or a leg could fetch about $2,000”.

In many African countries, it is sad and shameful the atrocious manner in which people living with albinism are treated; their lives are compounded by “exclusion, stigmatization, and denial of basic rights such as the right to education and health,” according to Amnesty International.  People living with Albinism continue to experience social isolation and stigma which includes name-calling, mockery, and exclusion from certain community activities.

It is reported in Zambia that at least ten people living with albinism are murdered in ritual killings every year.  Some believe their body parts bring wealth or luck. Those born with the genetic condition are calling for an end to this madness. There are more than 25,000 people living with the condition in Zambia.

Madame Janet Kakusa Wonani of Zambia, Founder/President of Light of The World Foundation. She works closely with children with Albinism in Zambia, irrespective of limited financial support.

According to the Albinism Foundation of Zambia (AFZ), Executive Director John Chiti, more than 25,000 persons with albinism in Zambia are currently in need of sunscreen lotion.

In an interview with Africa Renewal, Ms. Ero, said that the albinism situation in Africa, “is a tragedy.” She referred to the 7,000 to 10,000 people living with albinism in Malawi and thousands of others in Tanzania, Mozambique and other countries as “an endangered people”, facing a “risk of extinction if nothing is done.” Tanzanians call people living with albinism zeru, zeru, meaning “ghosts.”

Prevailing Superstitious Mindsets

Superstitious mindsets in some African countries continue to seek murdered for body parts, including infants and babies. Most of the attacks have taken place in Tanzania. Murders and attempted attacks, though in smaller numbers, have also been documented in Burundi, Kenya, Swaziland, Guinea, Nigeria, South Africa, Congo, Zambia, Namibia, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso.

The Converson.com conducted research and looked at media reports published between 2008 and 2011 on albinism and murders in Tanzania. It published a data set of 563 media reports in both English and Swahili from Tanzanian national newspapers.

The data showed that the Tanzanian press portrayed and explained violent attacks against persons with albinism in four ways. They were:

  • criminal activity,
  • cultural practices,
  • a socio-economic phenomenon,
  • a human rights issue.

Ms. Kway-Geer, the first Member of Parliament in Tanzania with albinism described her individual testimonials, first-hand accounts of difficulties as:

“When I was at primary school, people used to laugh at me, tease me – some didn’t even like to touch me, saying that if they touched me they would get this color. People used to abuse me on the road when I took the buses to school. They would run after me – crowds of kids following me – shouting ‘zeru, zeru’. (zeru, zeru, is a derogatory term).

Recommendations

The Conversation.com has identified the following recommendations.

  1. There is an urgent need to address the violence faced by this vulnerable group. Public health awareness is an important first step.
  2. Adequate health services for skin and vision disabilities should be prioritized.
  3. Putting out messages that counter the stigma against people living with Albinism is also important, as is access to education.
  4. Interventions must consider Albinism’ human rights. For example, putting children with albinism in camps may protect their right to life and security,but it restricts their rights to freedom of movement, and family life.

In addition, African Governments should seriously advocate against harmful practices against people living with albinism.  State parties should take all appropriate measures and offer support and assistance to victims of harmful practices, including legal sanctions, education, and advocacy campaign to eliminate harmful practices perpetrated on persons with albinism, such as witchcrafts, abandonment concealment, ritual killings, etc.

Conclusion

One thing for sure, the people living with Albinism did not create themselves; they were created in the same way you and I were created by the God who doesn’t make a MISTAKE. Their birth process is the same as you and me! Their mothers’ carried them for nine (9) months in their wombs before giving birth to them.

Who are we – be it an individual or government to decide that they should not live because they are different? Did God ask he needs our HELP to make His decision? The Almighty God does not need the assistance of mortal humans to run his affairs. The actions of those individuals perpetuating violence against persons suffering from albinism are no different than King Leopold II of Belgium, Adolph Hitler of Germany, Napoleon Bonaparte of France, and White racists today.

In Genesis 1:31(NIV): “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…” God himself said it was Good, NOT bad. God doesn’t create anything UGLY! So, why individuals, including governments, are killing these innocent people? In addition, 1 Thessalonians 5:22 instructs us to “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Accordingly, the GENOCIDE against these poor innocent people must be STOPPED!

Now, take a closer look at the beautiful tapestry of the people living with Albinism provided here. The question that readily comes to mind is any of you better looking than the people living with Albinism provided in these photos? I DOUBT IT! Therefore, let the persecution and killing of people living with Albinism STOP before the wrath of God descends upon us.

As Africans, it is embarrassing to read or hear that other Africans are discriminated against due to their race. Racism is contrary to God’s plan for humanity. The divisions we face today in contemporary Western nations are due to Race, the color of one’s skin or ethnic background.  And obviously, this perception is not part of God’s plan.

The Albinism Society of Kenya held a Mr. and Miss Albinism beauty pageant in Nairobi to support those with the hereditary condition. (https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-46439699).

In the words of Maya Angelou: “We, the black people, the most displaced, the poorest, the most maligned and scourged, we had the glorious task of reclaiming the soul and saving the honor of the country. We, the most hated, must take hate into our hands and by the miracle of love, turn loathing into love. We, the most feared and apprehensive must take the fear and by love, change it into hope. We, who die daily in large and small ways, must take the demon death and turn it into life.”

Indeed, Children living with albinism in Africa are our brothers, sisters, daughters, and sons, let us protect them always, they are all God’s children as well.

Source: Africa’s Shameful Acts of Racism: The Plight of Persons with Albinism (PLWA) in Africa

Africa Map

Uganda’s fight against the evil ‘medicine men’ who remove children’s limbs and organs for human sacrifice

In the villages of Uganda a new breed of witch doctors is hunting and kidnapping children to cut off their ears, noses and genitals. Often the witch doctors decapitate the boys or remove whole arms and legs of victims. Witch doctor Kivumbi Awali is pictured after his arrest

Published: June 24, 2019 
By: Stephen Gibbs – for Daily Mail Australia

  • Ritual killing of children by witch doctors takes place in Uganda, in East Africa
  • Body parts, blood or tissue are removed from boys and girls while they are alive
  • Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga saves mutilated victims and hunts the witch doctors
  • His work is partly funded by generous donations from a small Australian charity  

In the villages of Uganda a new breed of witch doctor is hunting and kidnapping children to cut off their ears, noses and genitals. 

Sometimes the medicine men remove whole arms and legs or drain blood from a boy or girl’s body while the victim is still alive. 

Sometimes the victim’s parents help decapitate their child.

Human sacrifice is not some ancient cultural ritual practised in this east African country, rather it is a barbaric modern way for cruel charlatans to make money.

Children in rural Uganda are kidnapped by witch doctors who torture and often murder them as part of a supposed spiritual sacrifice. 

The witch doctors mutilate the children and use their blood, tissue or organs in rituals they promise can bring clients protection, prosperity and good health. 

Child sacrifice survivor Allan Ssembatya was set upon in a Ugandan village called Busolo in 2009. ‘My son was coming home from school,’ his father says.  ‘They took him to the bush. They cut him. This cut on his head, this cut on his neck, damage to his private parts…’

In one of the most macabre practices to have developed, children are decapitated and their heads buried in new building foundations to bring success to businesses.

Fighting this terrible trade is pastor Peter Sewakiryanga who saves children scarred by ritual mutilation, and helping him is a small group of Australians.

Pastor Peter, a former accountant, started campaigning against child sacrifice about a decade ago and runs charity Kyampisi Childcare Ministries.

He helps rehabilitate survivors and raise awareness of the practice, working with politicians, police, prosecutors and judges to bring offenders to justice. 

Pastor Peter’s work features in an episode of the SBS program Dateline called How to Catch a Witch Doctor to air on Tuesday night. 

The program follows Pastor Peter and Brisbane civil engineer Rodney Callanan as they hunt for a witch doctor who allegedly almost killed six-year-old Allan Ssembatya ten years ago. 

Reporter Amos Roberts speaks to Allan’s father Hudson Semwanga about what happened to his boy in a village called Busolo in the district of Kayunga on October 21, 2009.

Justice Margaret Mutonyi is pictured with a girl whose hands have been cut off. ‘We have a society that believes in witchcraft,’ she tells the SBS program Dateline. ‘The majority of the population including Christians who go to church, they consult these witch doctors’
Robert Mukwaya suffered spinal injuries so serious it was thought he would never walk again. He had been snoozing in his grandmother’s kitchen in a village near Lake Victoria when a man dragged him out of the room and stabbed him in the neck. He underwent surgery in Australia

‘My son was coming home from school,’ Mr Semwanga says. ‘They took him to the bush. They cut him.

‘This cut on his head, this cut on his neck, damage to his private parts, in my view it’s very surprising that Allan is alive. 

‘What hurts me the most is that they were people that knew me really well, I grew up with them, I went to school with them. We used to treat each other as family.’ 

One of the two men accused of kidnapping and cutting up Allan is witch doctor Kivumbi Awali, who was secretly filmed by a BBC crew in 2011.

The crew posed as members of a construction company looking for a witch doctor who could bring their business prosperity. 

They were introduced to Awali, who killed a goat for good luck at their first meeting, then a few days later explained what he said was his most powerful spell: human sacrifice. 

Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga holding Hope, a young victim of child sacrifice. ‘They prey on the desperation of the people who are sick and are poor,’ Pastor Peter told Daily Mail Australia. ‘Even the elite who live in the city and are rich are now engaged’
Rodney Callanan, from the Brisbane charity Droplets In A Stream, helps fund the pursuit of Ugandan witch doctors who have not been brought to justice. ‘Unfortunately, the police, the courts in Uganda are grossly underfunded,’ Mr Callanan tells Dateline 

‘There are two ways of doing this,’ Awali was recorded telling the bogus businessmen. ‘We can bury the child alive on your construction site.’

‘Or we cut the child, and put their blood in a bottle of spiritual medicine. If it’s a male, the whole head is cut off, and his genitals.’

When Awali was finally arrested by police in the company of Pastor Peter and Mr Callanan he had a machete in his custody. As he was led away he complained his handcuffs were too tight.

Awali was charged with attempted murder and aggravated trafficking. 

His case is still before the courts and if convicted he could face a death sentence or life in jail. 

Allan is one of five child victims of human sacrifice Pastor Peter has helped bring to Australia for life-changing surgery. 

‘Sometimes it’s difficult to talk about what happened to me,’ the now 16-year-old tells Dateline. ‘And sometimes when I talk about it I start crying.

‘I remember the injuries I got, I remember when I was taken, I tried to struggle to run, they hit me up and they did whatever they wanted. So when I think about it I cry.’ 

Pastor Peter is supported by a Brisbane-based charity called Droplets In A Stream which provides education and health care opportunities to victims of child sacrifice who survive.

A witch doctor advertises his work outside his house in Kampala, the Ugandan capital. ‘A traditional healer with powers over spirits solves all cases, demons, thieves, tooth decay, madness, fevers, appelipse, genital affairs’. 

Doctors at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital and Brisbane’s Mater Children’s Private Hospital have operated on rescued children free of charge. 

‘Australia has been so kind,’ Pastor Peter said. ‘These children would otherwise be dead.’

Witch doctors practising child sacrifice are motivated solely by money but pretend to be adhering to cultural beliefs to justify their crimes.

‘They prey on the desperation of the people who are sick and are poor,’ Pastor Peter told Daily Mail Australia. ‘Even the elite who live in the city and are rich are now engaged.

‘The problem is a national issue. It started in poor pockets of the community. Now it’s widespread. 

‘It has crossed boundaries into families killing their own children.’ 

The extent of this trade is hard to judge but Pastor Peter says he works with between 20 and 25 cases each year.

‘The issue is done under such secrecy it’s hard to estimate numbers. I can trace it to ten to 15 years ago.’ 

Balluonzima Christ (left) and Rose Ajiba (right) hold a photograph of their daughter Caroline Aya, who was allegedly killed in a sacrificial ceremony in the town of Jinja in southern Uganda 

‘It’s not part of our culture. It hides in our culture. It must be condemned.’

Droplets In A Stream, which Mr Callanan co-founded, also helps fund the pursuit of witch doctors who have not been brought to justice.  

‘Unfortunately, the police, the courts in Uganda are grossly underfunded,’ Mr Callanan tells Dateline.

‘Many cases actually don’t go to court or to trial because of lack of funding. And that’s one of our biggest roles in this area and that’s financial support.’

Judge Margaret Mutonyi tells the program: ‘We have a society that believes in witchcraft.’

‘The majority of the population including Christians who go to church, they consult these witch doctors.’

Paul Odida, a repentant witch doctor, now helps Pastor Paul raise awareness of the issue of human sacrifice. He visits villages to explain how the witch doctors instill fear in communities

In one scene Pastor Peter examines photographs of a boy approximately ten years old whose body was found dumped in the bush. 

‘So they cut off the ears, they cut through the neck and cut out the throat and cut off the limbs,’ he says. ‘Body parts were missing. The tongue, the legs, the genitals.’ 

The program also features Robert Mukwaya who in 2014 suffered spinal injuries so serious it was thought he would never walk again. 

Robert had been snoozing in his grandmother’s kitchen in a village near Lake Victoria when a man dragged him out of the room and stabbed him in the neck. 

He was left paralysed but surgery at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital two years ago has allowed him to regain the use of his legs.  

In another scene Pastor Peter and Mr Callanan visit a village to warn about the practice of child sacrifice.  

‘Why we are here is we heard of a story of a child who was sacrificed here and unfortunately the people that kill these children are among us,’ Pastor Peter says.

‘Please, if you know who killed our child, just come and tell us, call the number, we will even put a reward. Please don’t fear. If you fear, next time it will be your child.’

How To Catch A Witch Doctor airs on Dateline on Tuesday, June 25 at 9.30pm on SBS. It can be watched later on SBS On Demand.

Allan Ssembatya (left) with father Hudson and Pastor Peter (right) after learning of one of his alleged attackers, Kivumbi Awali, has been arrested

Source: How to catch a witch doctor: Uganda’s fight against the evil ‘medicine men’ who remove children’s limbs and organs for human sacrifice – and the Australian charity helping bring them to justice

Related article: Pastor receives funding boost for iconic rehab centre for child sacrifice survivors
Published: June 24, 2019
By: Aaron Sseruyigo   

Executive director of Kyampisi Childcare Ministries in Mukono, Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga (M) receives a financial boost for his efforts to end Child sacrifice in Uganda during The Entrepreneurial Business School (EBS) Gala Charity Awards Dinner in Australia (Courtesy Photo)

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.

Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga (Courtesy Photo)

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. 

Australians help hunt witch doctors who kill Ugandan children in barbaric human sacrifice

Published: June 30, 2019
By: Brinkwire

In the villages of Uganda a new breed of witch doctor is hunting and kidnapping children to cut off their ears, noses and genitals. 

Sometimes the medicine men remove whole arms and legs or drain blood from a boy or girl’s body while the victim is still alive. 

Sometimes the victim’s parents help decapitate their child.

Human sacrifice is not some ancient cultural ritual practised in this east African country, rather it is a barbaric modern way for cruel charlatans to make money.

Children in rural Uganda are kidnapped by witch doctors who torture and often murder them as part of a supposed spiritual sacrifice. 

The witch doctors mutilate the children and use their blood, tissue or organs in rituals they promise can bring clients protection, prosperity and good health. 

In one of the most macabre practices to have developed, children are decapitated and their heads buried in new building foundations to bring success to businesses.

Fighting this terrible trade is pastor Peter Sewakiryanga who saves children scarred by ritual mutilation, and helping him is a small group of Australians.

Pastor Peter, a former accountant, started campaigning against child sacrifice about a decade ago and runs charity Kyampisi Childcare Ministries.

He helps rehabilitate survivors and raise awareness of the practice, working with politicians, police, prosecutors and judges to bring offenders to justice. 

Pastor Peter’s work features in an episode of the SBS program Dateline called How to Catch a Witch Doctor to air on Tuesday night. 

The program follows Pastor Peter and Brisbane civil engineer Rodney Callanan as they hunt for a witch doctor who allegedly almost killed six-year-old Allan Ssembatya ten years ago. 

Reporter Amos Roberts speaks to Allan’s father Hudson Semwanga about what happened to his boy in a village called Busolo in the district of Kayunga on October 21, 2009.

‘My son was coming home from school,’ Mr Semwanga says. ‘They took him to the bush. They cut him.

‘This cut on his head, this cut on his neck, damage to his private parts, in my view it’s very surprising that Allan is alive. 

‘What hurts me the most is that they were people that knew me really well, I grew up with them, I went to school with them. We used to treat each other as family.’ 

One of the two men accused of kidnapping and cutting up Allan is witch doctor Kivumbi Awali, who was secretly filmed by a BBC crew in 2011.

The crew posed as members of a construction company looking for a witch doctor who could bring their business prosperity. 

They were introduced to Awali, who killed a goat for good luck at their first meeting, then a few days later explained what he said was his most powerful spell: human sacrifice. 

‘There are two ways of doing this,’ Awali was recorded telling the bogus businessmen. ‘We can bury the child alive on your construction site.’

‘Or we cut the child, and put their blood in a bottle of spiritual medicine. If it’s a male, the whole head is cut off, and his genitals.’

When Awali was finally arrested by police in the company of Pastor Peter and Mr Callanan he had a machete in his custody. As he was led away he complained his handcuffs were too tight.

Awali was charged with attempted murder and aggravated trafficking. 

His case is still before the courts and if convicted he could face a death sentence or life in jail. 

Allan is one of five child victims of human sacrifice Pastor Peter has helped bring to Australia for life-changing surgery. 

‘Sometimes it’s difficult to talk about what happened to me,’ the now 16-year-old tells Dateline. ‘And sometimes when I talk about it I start crying.

‘I remember the injuries I got, I remember when I was taken, I tried to struggle to run, they hit me up and they did whatever they wanted. So when I think about it I cry.’ 

Pastor Peter is supported by a Brisbane-based charity called Droplets In A Stream which provides education and health care opportunities to victims of child sacrifice who survive.

Doctors at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital and Brisbane’s Mater Children’s Private Hospital have operated on rescued children free of charge. 

‘Australia has been so kind,’ Pastor Peter said. ‘These children would otherwise be dead.’

Witch doctors practising child sacrifice are motivated solely by money but pretend to be adhering to cultural beliefs to justify their crimes.

‘They prey on the desperation of the people who are sick and are poor,’ Pastor Peter told Daily Mail Australia. ‘Even the elite who live in the city and are rich are now engaged.

‘The problem is a national issue. It started in poor pockets of the community. Now it’s widespread. 

‘It has crossed boundaries into families killing their own children.’ 

The extent of this trade is hard to judge but Pastor Peter says he works with between 20 and 25 cases each year.

‘The issue is done under such secrecy it’s hard to estimate numbers. I can trace it to ten to 15 years ago.’ 

‘It’s not part of our culture. It hides in our culture. It must be condemned.’

Droplets In A Stream, which Mr Callanan co-founded, also helps fund the pursuit of witch doctors who have not been brought to justice.  

‘Unfortunately, the police, the courts in Uganda are grossly underfunded,’ Mr Callanan tells Dateline.

‘Many cases actually don’t go to court or to trial because of lack of funding. And that’s one of our biggest roles in this area and that’s financial support.’

Judge Margaret Mutonyi tells the program: ‘We have a society that believes in witchcraft.’

‘The majority of the population including Christians who go to church, they consult these witch doctors.’

In one scene Pastor Peter examines photographs of a boy approximately ten years old whose body was found dumped in the bush. 

‘So they cut off the ears, they cut through the neck and cut out the throat and cut off the limbs,’ he says. ‘Body parts were missing. The tongue, the legs, the genitals.’ 

The program also features Robert Mukwaya who in 2014 suffered spinal injuries so serious it was thought he would never walk again. 

Robert had been snoozing in his grandmother’s kitchen in a village near Lake Victoria when a man dragged him out of the room and stabbed him in the neck. 

He was left paralysed but surgery at Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital two years ago has allowed him to regain the use of his legs.  

In another scene Pastor Peter and Mr Callanan visit a village to warn about the practice of child sacrifice.  

‘Why we are here is we heard of a story of a child who was sacrificed here and unfortunately the people that kill these children are among us,’ Pastor Peter says.

‘Please, if you know who killed our child, just come and tell us, call the number, we will even put a reward. Please don’t fear. If you fear, next time it will be your child.’

How To Catch A Witch Doctor airs on Dateline on Tuesday, June 25 at 9.30pm on SBS. It can be watched later on SBS On Demand.

Source: Australians help hunt witch doctors who kill Ugandan children in barbaric human sacrifice 

Children accused of witchcraft: abuse cases on the rise in UK (2014)

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) 

Victoria Climbié (left) and Kristy Bamu (right), tortured to death by relatives
who were sentenced to life imprisonment (UK)

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

Victoria Climbié

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. 

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

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. 

MANY COUNTRIES

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.

In 2009, the Associated Press reported

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.” 

Screen shot – the link to the source (below) gives acces to the video ‘Witch Child Documentary’

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.

Throughout Africa, the vast majority of children accused of witchcraft are not murdered but — if torture has not helped remove the evil spirits — are expelled from their homes and communities.

 Exploring Issues of Witchcraft and Spirit Possession in London’s African communities

Child Abuse Linked to Accusations of Possession and Witchcraft — Eleanor Stobart, Dept. of Education and Skills

Source: Children accused of Witchcraft: abuse cases on the rise in UK

Related articles:

Rise in ‘witchcraft’ child abuse cases
Published: October 8, 2014
By: BBC
(extensive coverage of Victoria Climbié’s murder)

Rise in cases of ritual child abuse linked to witchcraft beliefs reported, say police 
“Threefold increase in allegations, say police, including two claims of rape and of children beaten ‘to drive out the devil’” 
Published: October 8, 2014
By: The Guardian
(with numerous articles on Kristy Namu’s murder)

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

AfriKids: Ghana’s haven for ‘spirit’ children marked for murder

Further to my previous post – on Seth Kwame Boateng’s breathtaking account of a journey to an orphanage in Sirigu, in Ghana’s Upper East Region, in 2011, I find it heart-warming to read about the valuable work which is being realized by the non-governmental organization AfriKids. In Northern Ghana, AfriKids runs a centre in the village of Sirigu and another in nearby Bongo district. Though I am not sure, it looks as if Afrikid’s Sirigu center for disabled children and pregnant women is the same as the Mother of Mercy Babies Home visited by Seth Kwame Boateng in 2011. Joseph Asakibeem is AfriKids project manager in the Upper East Region. He and his team are doing a great job. Read about their work below (‘AfriKids: Ghana’s haven for ‘spirit’ children marked for murder’).

Joseph Asakibeem hails from the Kassena Nankana district (in the Upper East Region) where the superstition in the power of spirit children is most widespread. AfriKids and OrphanAidAfrica have been fighting against infanticide for many years.

In 2013 the two non-governmental organizations were joined by Anas Aremeyaw Anas, an investigative journalist and filmmaker. Anas’ film Spirit Child ‘promised’ to become a U-turn in the fight against infanticide. In the aftermath of his investigation, local leaders in the Kassena Nankana region banned the ritual killing of ‘spirit children‘. However…., a recent follow-up to Anas’ 2013 investigative report – see my post dated June 4, 2018 – shows that the practice of infanticide still exists in the region. (webmaster FVDK)

AfriKids: Ghana’s haven for ‘spirit’ children marked for murder

Published on February 27, 2018, at 11:50 am
By MIldred Europa Taylor

Ghana, Upper East region – This Catholic Sister has dedicated her life to protecting babies and children and plays a precious role in the fight against infanticide in the region — Afrikids

The act of killing babies who were born with disabilities was until recently widely practised in some parts of northern Ghana. These children were labelled as “spirit children” with the belief that they brought bad luck. They were killed to “save the lives of their parents and family”.

These children were basically taken to medicine men who would give them a poisonous potion and lock them in a room. The belief is that if you die from the potion, it means you are indeed a spirit. The children are then buried in an isolated place far away from the village.

This traditional belief was highly practised in some parts of the Kassena-Nankana West District in the Upper East region but thanks to AfriKids, a child rights Non-governmental organization (NGO), the practice has declined even though it is believed to be still ongoing in some parts of northern Ghana. The NGO has so far been able to save a number of children perceived to be “spirit children” in some parts of the Upper East Region.

Joseph Asakibeem is the project manager at AfriKids. The 41-year-old was recently awarded the Bond Humanitarian Award 2018 for his work in saving many disabled children who would have been killed due to the traditional practice.

Growing up in the Kassena Nanakana district where the belief in spirit children was deeply entrenched, Asakibeem told Reuters that he and his team at AfriKids started talking to chiefs, parents, opinion leaders and medicine men about the need to change the perception they have about children born with disabilities.

Asakibeem explained to them that there were medical reasons for these disabilities – poor nutrition and health care during pregnancy, and the inability to get access to medical help during labour resulting in complications.

AfriKids has a centre in the village, Sirigu, and another in nearby Bongo district, where they provide help for disabled children and antenatal care for pregnant women. Mothers, through Afrikids, have also been able to acquire small loans to grow their businesses.

The main challenge for the child rights NGO has been trying to change the mindset of concoction men and other community members about “spirit children”, but interestingly, many of them have now joined the fight against the practice.

For 10 years, no child has been killed for being deformed in Kassena Nankana, but Asakibeem said the act is still being practised in other areas. Babies whose mothers die in childbirth, or who are born after the family has been hit with an unfortunate incident, have the risk of being labelled spirit children.

As AfriKids continues to expand its activities to the whole of northern Ghana, Asakibeem is hopeful that the practice would be effectively abolished in 15 years.

In 2013, Ghanaian investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas published “Spirit Child”, an undercover investigation film on the ritual killings of deformed children. Two concoction men were charged with attempted murder and another three men charged with conspiracy to commit murder. 

Source: Face2FaceAfrica, February 27, 2018

Ghana – Upper East Region

Shocking!…Ritual baby killing in Northern Ghana

On June 4, this year, I drew attention to Spirit Child, a film on infanticide in West Africa, made by Anas Aremeyaw Anas and Seamus Mirodan, and I reproduced a related article, published by Al Jazeera. The article, on infanticide in Ghana – and Burkina Faso, Benin and Nigeria – was a follow-up to a 2013 investigative report of the same journalist and filmmaker, Anas Aremeyaw Anas. The latter and his colleague, Seamus Mirodan, are to be commended for their fight against infanticide.

Fortunately, they are not the only ones who raise there voices against these age-old practices which have no reason to exist in the 21st century. While mentioning the names of others it is not my intention to belittle the activities and achievements of others, who work with them. Recently, I read an article on AfriKids, a non-governmental organization running an orphanage in northern Ghana, in the Upper East Region, in a village called Sirigu, to be more specific. Project manager at AfriKids is Joseph Asakibeem, who was recently awarded the Bond Humanitarian Award 2018 for his work in saving many children who would have been killed due to the gruesome traditional practice of killing disabled children and so-called ‘spirit childs’. More on Afrikids and its work in my next post.

When reading about the village of Sirigu I remembered an article, written by another outstanding Ghanaian journalist, Seth Kwame Boateng. In 2011 he visited Sirigu and made a breath-taking documentary for Ghana’s Joy 99.7 FM’s Hotline. Below the transcript.
Seth Kwame Boateng was named ‘journalist of the month‘ in July 2017 and can boast of an impressive list of awards and documentaries. Read here what he wrote in 2011 on infanticide in Northern Ghana. (webmaster FVDK)

SHOCKING!…Ritual baby killing in Northern Ghana

Originally published on April 1, 2011
by Seth Kwame Boateng

Joy FM reporter Seth Kwame Boateng visits an orphanage in the Upper East Region of Ghana called “Sirigu” to uncover the chilling practice of cultural murder; the killing of babies who are born with deformities, or whose birth coincide with a tragic incident in the family, such as the loss of a parent.

Such babies are called spirit children or siri sirigu, and are thought to be bad omen for the community.

Below is a transcription of his documentary for Joy 99.7 FM’s Hotline.
I have come to the Upper East Region on an assignment, a very different assignment. The job has tight time frames. I’m rushing to meet deadlines.

I hear a stranger chatting with a friend on the streets of Bolgatanga. He mentions a Babies’ Home in the area.

The conversation reminds me of a story somebody once told me about this town and a very strange kind of orphanage.

Most children who end up in an orphanage have lost their parents. But in the Sirigu facility in Bolga, the children’s fate is much more tragic. If the child is born with deformities, the child is killed.

The first time I heard this story, I could hardly believe it. I’ve always lived in a community where great merry-making accompanies childbirth, no matter the condition of the baby or the mother.

So at first I didn’t pay too much attention to the story.

{They put the child on the hill and put plenty rocks on the child.}

Since coming to Bolgatanga I feel this story is following me. I see goose pimples all over my body and my eyes are heavy with tears when people tell me the details.

I have a very busy schedule. I tell myself I won’t have time to go to this place of horror. As I reach for my pillow one night to sleep, I can’t help myself. I make a firm resolution to travel to Sirigu the next morning no matter the consequences. It’s as if I have been possessed, I feel so uncomfortable.

I reach a friend at dawn the next day who agrees to take me on his motor bike to Sirigu. It takes about 45 minutes to drive from Bolgatanga to Sirigu and it’s not easy. The road is barely passable.
We have done only 10 minutes of the journey, and I have already regretted embarking on this trip. I don’t have a helmet. In the side mirror, I see my hair color has turned brown as if I’ve applied a dye.
I don’t have any protective cloth, so I’m shivering as if I’ve been beaten by heavy rain as I sit behind my friend on his bike.
But the story of those babies and a drive to understand the dark side of cultural practice keeps me going.

After 45 minutes of a bone-shaking journey, we finally reach Sirigu.

{Some come healthy, some come sick, some almost dying.}

At the Mother of Mercy Babies Home in Sirigu a Catholic Sister, a caretaker and a community leader are in front of the fading, brown iron gate of the home to welcome us. I look at the children and wonder what stories they would tell if they could find the words and exchange it with me. There are 16 babies in this 26-year-old home and the youngest is only two months old.

In an orphanage in Sirigu, in Ghana’s Upper East region. This Catholic Sister has dedicated her life to protecting babies and children. Now in 2018 the orphanage is being run by Afrikids.

The caretakers tell me the babies in the home are not considered ‘real’ human beings by their families. They have been cast out as evil spirits… either because they were born physically deformed or their mothers died during childbirth. And, according to an ancient cultural practice that survives in this area the babies must die to save the families from evil.

In some situations there were strange events at the time of their birth. All of the children except one, are motherless.

The caretaker, Sister Innocentia Depor tells me how some of the children are rescued and arrive on their doorstep.

{Because of the education, family members of the babies bring them themselves. The moment they get to know that the child can be termed a spirit child, they rush them here. So come very hefty, sick and weak.}

I decide to go to the nearby town to delve deeper into this story. Perhaps I will find some fathers or family members.

I meet the assemblyman for the area, Azokulgu Azotipelba, and he makes a shocking admission.

{it happened within our house, our family and within our community so I have witnessed it several times. And when that type of child dies, they don’t use a proper thing to carry him for the burial, they will take a rough mat and put the child there and hold it just like anything and go and throw it away. They normally don’t take the baby to the hill alive. They will use something like a stone, stick, or a cutlass to hit the child and kill him}

Once again, my entire body is shaking. My mouth is wide open and I’m close to tears as I visualize the events the Assemblyman is describing.

Trying to understand innocent blood being shed in the name of culture, I talk with an elder in the town, John Ayamaga. He takes time as he explains.

{when you give birth and the mother dies instantly, the myth is that it is the baby that has killed the mother so the child must also go so when there is no intervention, the baby is sent to the hill there for that rituals. If the child is born with some deformities either with some teeth or some of the hair being white, that child is termed a spirit child and that baby is not accepted in that community. We have a very big hill; they take them there and put a stone on that spirit child so that it will not get up again. The family will not fail to do that because they think if that baby has killed the mother, it can kill the rest of the family.}

I listen carefully to the stories of the people who have seen this horror first hand. I try to put myself in their shoes, to understand the fear and ignorance that leads to the slaughter of innocent children.

As I watch the kids of the Sirigu orphanage playing, I think of those who didn’t make here… Lying in shallow graves under a pile of stones on the hills in the distance.

Then a breeze blows through the window and this place of safety feels vulnerable. What if frightened family members hunted down these kids who have found refuge here. The assemblyman Azokulgu Azotipelba says this frightening possibility exists.

{At times the children will grow up to 10 or 15 years and they will still manage and go and kill that particular child. If a baby like this escape, the whole family and the entire community will come out and go and search and kill that baby. Because it is a culture for that community and the whole community believes that whatever the soothsayer says is for all so they have no reason to defy it.}

But despite these dangers the children will be discharged when they are three years old, according to the caretaker, sister Innocentia.

And, the local community has started taking advantage of the facility, bringing children who are not endangered but merely because they cannot afford to raise them.

{It was before that they don’t want the children that they always want to kill. But now with the education, they want their children but how to take care of them, very tiny, they prefer to bring the children here so that after three years when they can eat anything then they come for their child. When they bring the babies we always tell them not to come and throw the babies here like that. They should always visit them. And when they are bringing the babies, here, each child with a caretaker so that when the baby is discharged, he will have somebody he is familiar with. He will not feel like a stranger in somebody’s house.}

Poor people from the surrounding villages, outside Sirigu, have heard about the home and now bring their babies here because they are struggling to make ends meet. One child was recently brought from Bongo, a town in the Upper East Region. Little Marilyn as they’ve named her is only a month old but motherless. She is fortunate to have been spotted and saved by Hajia Mary Issaka, a midwife in-charge of the Anafubisi health center.

{Last week Friday we went to a community to run a clinic then we saw a pregnant woman holding this baby at the outreach point then we ask of the mother and she said the mother died at Bolga hospital. We ask what they were given and they told us that some people came to the funeral and donated some money and bought some lactogen and they are giving to the baby. So when we saw her, we knew that they cannot take care of the baby in the house so I sent this nurse to go the house and meet the community members and speak to the people about this orphanage. If they agree, we will arrange and bring the baby to Sirigu and they agreed.}

But little Marilyn is one of the more fortunate.

Everywhere I go in this town people have stories about baby killing that make my blood run cold.

{there are certain things they don’t even want to mention it. There was a community like that when a woman died after delivery and they gave the baby to another woman who died when there was an outbreak of CSM. And they are saying that it is the baby that has killed both the mother and the caretaker so they brought the baby out and knock the child on the tree and it died. So some of these things they are silent}.

The services of the Sirigu home is made possible by donations from foreign NGO’s like Friends of African Babies (FAB), based in the region.

Mary Kaglan is from Ireland and a member of the NGO. She tells me what motivated her organisation help the home.

{I think it was to see these sisters working so hard looking after so many babies thus the least we could do as we live in the area and that any help we could give them would be a bonus. The sisters of course take very good care of the babies so it is not that the case that the babies are looking after. But I think it is that people would be aware there is a home in Sirigu so people can visit and assist with the little they have}

But even with the assistance of the FAB NGO, sister Innocentia Apor and the staff here struggle to raise these children.

{The NHIS does not cover all the sickness so when you have a child that sickness surpasses the national insurance, it is difficult and to take a child like this, you would have to start the child with artificial food and all these are very costly. They are all the challenges. Right now we have one who has hydrocephalus and if it had not been FAB, it would have been difficult for us to take care of him. So medical wise it is a challenge}

The world is full of orphanages. And, I’ve done my fair share of stories about pain and suffering.

But the faces of the children of this place and the silent cries of the ones buried on the hill will remain with me for a long time to come.

Seth Kwame Boateng; for hotline in Sirigu.

Source: Modern Ghana, April 1, 2011

Upper East Region – Ghana