Kenya: Witchcraft tales in thirst for land put elders lives at risk

Introduction – under construction

A volunteer teacher Nguma Kiwala (right) talks to elders at Kaya Godhoma Centre in Kilifi County. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Published: April 13, 2019
By: Baya Samuel and Siago Cece

Hidden deep in the thicket, just a kilometre from Mrima wa Ndege township is Kaya Godhoma Centre, a sanctuary that has hosted tens of elders since 2008.

As we made our way in, we were stopped on our tracks, and told we had to undergo a cleansing ritual, as we were entering a cultural place.

“Let’s all stand up and form a ‘lungo’ (a traditional circle formed by a number of people gathered before prayers),” Emmanuel Katana, 45, the current chairman of the centre asked, and we all obliged.

For the next few minutes, together with the group of about 15 elders, we joined in their prayers, in Giriama dialect, thanking their gods for us, the visitors.

The prayers then ended with a handshake, signifying peace among the members. A brief introduction followed and later we were ushered inside the kaya minus our shoes, which we left at the bushy entrance.

KAYA MEETING

Looking famished, with despairing faces, several elderly persons trickled into the kaya meeting point, under a tree shade.

Some were dressed in faded shirts and torn clothes holding their three-legged stools, while supporting their thin frames with wooden walking sticks. The women, on the other hand, donning torn lesos, carried woven mats which they spread down for the rest to sit on.

Kahindi Ngoka cuts a figure of a man weighed down by worry. At 76, Mr Ngoka is bitter at how his family turned against him, as they eyed his prime land in Kilifi.

Mzee Ngoka was branded by his own wife and children a witch, before they attempted to harm him. All along, their prime target was his one-and-half-acre prime land.

WITCH

“The problem started in 2011, when my children accused me of being a witch. I defended myself, even suggesting that we go to a local witch buster called Mwasamani in Kwale County. Even when the ‘witch buster’ exonerated me, they didn’t stop,” Mr Ngoka said.

As he tried to ignore their accusations, the family upped the stakes by tricking him into a meeting at his eldest son’s house. “As soon as I entered, the doors were locked from outside and I knew that was the end. I had to act, sneaking through the thatched roof, and I escaped,” Mr Ngoka said.

What Mr Ngoka didn’t know was that a plan had already been hatched to push him out so that his land could be sold.

“Barely weeks after I escaped and came to Kaya Godhoma, I received news that part of my land had been sold and that one of my family members had gone to court to stop the sale,” Mzee Ngoka said. “I later realised that all the troubles were the plan of my wife and some of my children. They branded me a witch so that they could sell part of my land. I leave it to God,” he said.

WORRIES

Karisa Ndhudhi’s gait depicts a man burdened by worries about his life. The 63-year-old native of Konjora village in Kilifi, struggles to control his emotions, as he narrates his near death ordeal.

“I arrived here in August of 2017, having escaped death after a section of my family turned against me, branding me a witch. My problems started immediately after the death of my wife on December 24, 2013,” said Mr Ndundhi.

Immediately after her death, after a long illness, word went round that he was responsible for it, as he had bewitched her.

“Since I wanted to prove to them that I was not a witch, we went to a witchdoctor in Kwale, who exonerated me, after performing a ritual,” he said.

Thinking that he was off the hook, Mzee Ndundhi returned home, unaware that the worst was yet to come.

CHOLERA

“Four years later, in July 2017, my third born son contracted cholera, but unfortunately despite the quick medical intervention, he passed on. Hours after my son’s death, I was again accused of bewitching him and the villagers and part of my family members descended on me with stones,” he said.

As the youths stoned him, an assistant chief called officers from the nearby Ngerenya police post, who rescued the hapless old man.

“I was then taken to Chumani village where our larger family resides,” he said. “At Chumani, a decision was arrived that he must be taken to Kaya Godhoma.

“I still love my home but I fear that once I return, they will kill me. Now my land is at stake and I have heard that there is someone seeking to purchase it, with the help of my other children,” he said.

SAD TALES

Katana Thuva, 60, died a dejected bitter man. On paper, he was worth millions but in reality, he died a pauper, surrounded by elders who were also in the same predicament, offering nothing more than companionship and sad tales.

At the time of his death in October last year, Mzee Thuva owned a half-acre plot in Watamu, second row to the beach, which the current market value stands at Sh20 million.

He was also accused of practising witchcraft, even as he said his family was out to kill him, as they sought to sell his prized possession.

Mzee Ngoka and Ndhudhi’s predicament paint the sad picture facing hundreds of other elders in Kilifi and Kwale counties, which are being dispossessed off their prime land, some touching on the beaches, by money thirsty children, who want to make a quick killing from the black gold.

SOUGHT REFUGE

The elders have all sought refuge at the Kaya Godoma in Kilifi, a centre that offers them safe refuge; whiling time away, nursed by the haunted memories of their past, and the very resource they say connects them to their forefathers – land.

Within the Coastal counties, land ownership is still an emotive issue with the resource notably the cause of the killing of most elders.

In 2018, killings in Kilifi remained high with the security agencies stating that there are about 108 cases that were reported in the entire county.

Most of those we interviewed at Kaya Godhoma Rescue Centre in Vitengeni, Kilifi County connected their ordeal to land ownership.

Even with much spirited campaign from the government to end the trend, scores were killed especially in Kilifi and Kwale counties.

A report done jointly by Haki Africa and Institute for Land, Governance and Human Rights has shown that land ownership tussles were behind the killings. In an interview with Saturday Nation, Haki Africa executive director Khalid Hussein said that the report focused on the three years to 2018.

KILLED

The report shows that in 2016, 41 elderly people were killed, while in 2017, 37 lost their lives. Last year, there were around 25 old men and women who were killed. “The main thing we found from the residents is that witchcraft was being used as a trigger of forceful land inheritance, with the children becoming impatient,” Mr Hussein said.

“We are currently undertaking a programme which we are implementing with local leadership in Kilifi and Kwale counties to address this menace.”

Poverty is also said to be a contributing factor, which has driven a lot of the young people to have an insatiable appetite to sell their ancestral lands.

The report further said that most of the victims were innocent of the witchcraft accusation, but still lost their lives because of land tussles.

“When over 100 people are killed in a span of one year, then you know that there is a problem. The only thing we are doing at the moment is to raise awareness so that locals can desist from killing the elderly,” Kenya National Commission for Human Rights (KNCHR) Coast regional coordinator Brenda Dosio said.

WITCHCRAFT ACT

Ganze legislator Teddy Mwambire said he will be pushing for an amendment in Parliament to review the Witchcraft Act to cushion the elderly people from being murdered on suspicion of being sorcerers.

“The Act in its current form falls short of providing security to the aged. Ignorance is to blame for the rampant killings of the elderly in our society. People associate advanced age with witchcraft, a trend that has seen hundreds murdered. I will be seeking amendments of the Act or table another Bill altogether in parliament that will seek to cushion the elderly from such retrogressive acts,” he said.

DEEPER PROBLEMS

Mr Julius Wanyama, a Peace Programme Coordinator at Haki Yetu organisation, said “From our assessment, the witchcraft accusations against the elderly are an excuse, but a very fatal one. It’s a trigger to deeper problems within the society -that is the thirst for land and money.”

“As an organisation, we have had to seek a meeting with the county security team to address the problem. We discovered there was no ready forum to address or resolve misunderstanding and initiated a programme called ‘Wapatanishi’ (local interveners), who have helped especially when they of the targets. So far they have managed to save 20 in Kilifi County and 10 in Kwale who are currently living in their homes without fear of being killed.”

Source: Kenya: Witchcraft tales in thirst for land put elders lives at risk

Amnesty International: “End violence against people with albinism in Malawi” (2018)

This report is a follow-up to the 2016 report “We are not animals to be hunted or sold’”: Violence and discrimination against people with albinism” and is based on visits conducted in 2017 as well as follow-up interviews and desktop research.

Published: 2018
By: Amnesty International 

End violence against people with albinism in Malawi – Towards effective criminal justice for people with albinism in Malawi

Introduction

Violence against people with albinism in Malawi decreased soon after Amnesty International published its 2016 report “We are not animals to be hunted or sold’”: Violence and discrimination against people with albinism. 

However, since the report was published in 2016, there was a resurgence in attacks, with four more people with albinism being killed in Malawi since January 2017. That report recorded 69 cases involving crimes related to people with albinism, comprising 18 cases of people killed, five abducted and missing, between November 2014 and May 2016. In February 2018, a joint report by the Malawi Police Service and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs revealed that the number of reported crimes had increased to 148, including 14 cases of murder and seven attempted murders since November 2014 (note 1). 

In May and June 2017, an Amnesty International delegation visited Malawi and met with civil society, victims and government officials from the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the national prosecuting authority, the Chief Justice and other members of the judiciary and the police. 

This briefing is a follow-up to the 2016 report and is based on visits conducted in 2017 as well as follow-up interviews and desktop research. The briefing focuses on the current resurgence in attacks against people with albinism, stemming from an atmosphere of prejudice and a lack of understanding of the condition. The problem is exacerbated by inadequate resources to deal with crime, leading to a culture of impunity. The briefing analyses the causes of recurring attacks and the government’s response, and identifies gaps in the criminal justice system. 

It also assesses the progress made in Malawi towards the protection of the right to life and security of people with albinism. 

Background

The UN noted that from 2000 to 2013 it had received 200 reports of ritual attacks on people with albinism across 15 African countries (note 2). Since November 2014, however, an unprecedented wave of killings and other human rights abuses including abductions and robberies against people with albinism has swept through Malawi. Similar attacks have occurred in neighboring Mozambique. People are targeted for their body parts in the belief that they contain magical powers. The current population of people with albinism in Malawi is estimated at between 7,000 and 10,000, representing a ratio of 1 in every 1800 persons (note 3).

Between June and December 2016, Malawi experienced a seven-month respite from attacks and killings, believed to be because of awareness brought by the launch of the Amnesty report, the public condemnation of the attacks by President Mutharika and other senior government officials. This was broken in January 2017 when Madalitso Pensulo, a teenage boy with albinism, was killed in Mlonda village under the Nsabwe Traditional Authority in Thyolo District. In February 2017, Mercy Zainabu Banda, a 31-year-old woman with albinism was found murdered in Lilongwe with her wrist, right breast and hair removed. Two brothers were stabbed in Nsanje in March 2017, amid several attempted abductions or killings. Cases of verbal insults, threats and robbery of graves containing the remains of persons with albinism have also been recorded. Women and children with albinism are particularly vulnerable to abductions and killings by criminal gangs because they are seen as easy targets. According to the UN, suspected perpetrators operating as gangs or individuals can gain up to US$75,000 for the sale of a full set of body parts (note 4).

Notes:

Note 1:
Joint Docket Tracing Exercise Report for Cases of Persons with Albinism in Malawi. This is a Joint report by the Malawi Police Service, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. It was funded by the UNDP with technical assistance from UNICEF.

Note 2:
www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/…/A_HRC _24_57_ENG.doc Report on Albinism, UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, 2013

Note 3:
Amnesty International, ‘We are not animals to be hunted or sold’: Violence and discrimination against people with albinism (Index: AFR 34/4126/2016)

Note 4:
http:/news.un.org/en/story/2016/03/525042-witchcraft-beliefs- trigger-attacks-against-people-albinism-un-expert-warns 

Continue reading the 24 pages report: see source (below) 

Source: End violence against people with albinism – Towards effective criminal justice for people with albinism in Malawi



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

Albino Foundation condemns killing of albinos in Nigeria (2013)

Published: May 2, 2013
By: Channels Television

Nigerian albinos

Founder of the Albino Foundation in Nigeria, Mr Jake Epelle has condemned the alleged killing of albinos in some parts of the country for ritual purposes.

Speaking in Abuja ahead of the national albinism day, Mr Epelle says Nigerians living with albinism suffer discrimination from their families, schoolmates and peers in addition to a deliberate failure to educate children living with albinism.

Mr Epelle therefore appealed to the various arms of government to come to the aid of persons living with albinism.

Dressed in yellow T-shirts and face caps, albinos converged on the national press centre in Abuja to listen to talks on albinism ahead of the national albinism day.

Some promoters of the albinism cause also appealed to privileged members of the society to assist persons living with albinism and stop all forms of discrimination against them.

Members of the albino foundation appealed to the federal government to assist them particularly in the area of acquiring education.

Albinism is an health condition that occurs in people of all race and gender and Nigeria is estimated to have one of the highest albinism prevalence rate in the world with children constituting about 40 per cent of the albinism population.

With the campaign for a national albinism day, the challenges of albinos may reduce stereotypes against persons living with albinism.

Picture is a screen shot. The link below to the Source  contains the link to this short video.

Source: Albino Foundation Condemns Killing Of Albinos In Nigeria

Mali: Salif Keita retires, his Golden Voice falls silent

This tribute to Salif Keita is long overdue. I first met this great Malian musician in Ségou, a regional capital city in south-central Mali in the early 1980s. With a big band of more than 20 musicians, Salif Keita performed in the open air court of a second-rate hotel in the outskirts of this modest city. It was a hot, humid Saturday night in August, 1984. We were in the middle of the rainy season. I was struck by the versatility of his music: African, Caribbean, Latin American, jazzy. He captivated the audience, all music lovers from Mali. I was the only white person in the crowd. From that day on, I was a passionate fan of this allround musician and singer.

I was also very much impressed by Salif Keita’s modesty. Greeting ceremonies in Mali are complicated and lengthy. One day, in the late 1980s, I was standing next to the reception desk in the lobby of (then) one of Mali’s most luxurious hotels – Hotel de l’Amitié in Bamako, the country’s capital – waiting for an appointment who was late.  It was around 7:30 a.m. I saw Salif Keita stepping out of the elevator, walking towards the reception desk and greeting everyone behind the desk . When he was done he continued greeting the by-standers, including me. He took his time, he greeted everybody as if they were his brothers and sisters. Maybe they were, because in Mali many people are related – somehow, somewhere.  

The third time I came face to face with Salif Keita was at the Africa festival in Hertme, the Netherlands, in 2013. Salif had become a middle-aged gentleman in his sixties, slightly corpulent, but his music was as brilliant as ever!

Salif Keita’s star will continue to shine, also after this retirement.  As a person with albinism he has realized one of the most envied goals one can imagine. Millions have enjoyed his music – and still do. He is world famous. In the future he will continue to raise his voice against the discrimination of people living with albinism, against the murder and mutilation of innocent people, men, women, children, even babies who are being victimized because of their albinism.  His last public performance was at a free concert on November 17 in Fana, in Mali, dedicated to the memory of Ramata Diarra, a five-year-old girl with albinism who was brutally murdered then mutilated in a ritual killing in May of this year. It will certainly not be the last time we’ve heard of Salif Keita. His struggle is our struggle. A luta continua!
(webmaster FVDK)

Salif Keita retires, his Golden Voice falls silent

Published: November 24, 2018
By: Charles Onyango-Obbo

Malian afro-pop singer-songwriter Salif Keita. He is unique not only because of his reputation as the “Golden Voice of Africa” but because he has albinism and is a direct descendant of the founder of the Mali Empire, Sundiata Keita. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The great Malian musician Salif Keita, dubbed the “Golden Voice of Africa,” has announced his retirement from performing.

The 69-year-old Keita made the announcement after the release of, supposedly, the last album of his storied career. Titled Another White, it is a cry for the protection of people with albinism, a cause he has championed all his life.

Born into a local royal house, Keita was rejected by his family because of his albinism, considered either a sign of bad luck in many African cultures – or mysterious power, which drives the ritual killing of people with albinism.

In East Africa, Tanzania and Burundi are notoriously dangerous places to be a person with albinism.

Appropriately, Keita gave what could be his last major public performance at a free concert on November 17 in the town of Fana, in Mali, dedicated to the memory of Ramata Diarra, a five-year-old boy living with albinism who brutally murdered then mutilated in a ritual killing early in the year.

I am one of those Africans for whom Keita offered one of the defining sounds of our youthful years. There is something unique about Keita’s generation of musicians, along with other luminaries like Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango, and Guinea’s Mory Kante, and on the more youthful end, Senegal’s Youssou N’dour, to name a few.

First, their music isn’t always overtly political, though it is. They sing in their native tongues, and draw heavily from folk imagery, local culture, history, and communal stories.

Probably as a result of that, they function like mediums, so bring a great ease to their art. It is almost annoying.

Some years ago, at an Africa arts festival in Copenhagen, over the course of a week I watched performances by Keita, N’dour, and Malian kora player Toumani Diabate one after another.

They mesmerised the crowds but Keita and Diabate especially barely broke a sweat. It was as if they could have still have pulled it off even if they were half asleep.

That was in stark contrast to watching the performances of Hugh Masekela or Fela Kuti, some of the most political musicians to have come out of Africa.

They laid into their music and its politics with incredible energy and fury that left you giddy with revolutionary spirit. Going to the street to protest oppression or the bush to join the rebellion, seemed to be the next logical step.

But it’s in that contrast that the music of Keita and others in his musical tribe reveals their relationship to the broader African liberation experience.

In the Cold War era, when music often ran into ideological walls, and the troubled 1970s and 1980s in Africa, Masekela and Kuti played to an internationalist solidarity crowd that had bought into the anti-apartheid and anti-imperialist movements, were angry at the World Order, and wanted to overthrow it.

People like Keita won over the fence-sitters, the ignorant, the soccer moms, and people of goodwill. They didn’t fit the stereotype of flame-throwing radicals, and thus lowered the cost of embracing progressive African causes in a polarised world.

Closer home, The Man, Congolese great Franco Luambo Makiadi, had a similar effortless genius.

One of the most accomplished musicians Africa will ever produce, on stage his massive figure seemed a strangely reluctant presence – until he opened his mouth and moved his guitar fingers.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is publisher of data visualiser Africapaedia and Rogue Chiefs. Twitter@cobbo3

Source: Salif Keita retires, his Golden Voice falls silent

Gabon senator arrested in ritual killing case (2013)

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
Andrew Lawson

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.

Wave of Ritual Killings Spark Panic in Cameroon (2013)

The two articles reproduced here date from 2013, hence the reported cases of ritual killing are no recent ones. Be that as it may, I believe they are authentic and the reported cases are genuine.
Late 2012 the population of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, was terrified after the disappearance of 18 young women and the subsequent discovery of their mutilated bodies. In September 2013, parliamentary elections were held in Cameroon. They were originally scheduled for July 2012, but were repeatedly postponed: February 2013, July 2013, and finally held on September 30, 2013, alongside local elections. It has never been proven that the wave of ritual killings in 2012 was linked to the planned elections, but observers of ritualistic murders in Africa point to the fact that often there is an increase in ritual killings during election campaigns. Also, as one of the articles states, ritual killings were common in Cameroon until the 1970s though more recently the number of ritualistic murders has decreased. (webmaster FVDK)

Ritual Killings: 18 Young Women Found Murdered With Brains, Eyes, Genitals Missing

Published on January 23, 2013
By: Naij.com

A series of ritual killings of young women in the West African nation of Cameroon has caused panic in the capital city Yaoundé.

Families are now refusing to let their daughters go out after a spate of gruesome killings of young girls who were abducted by the drivers of motorcycle taxis before being murdered and dismembered.

Police have found 18 mutilated bodies on the streets of the capital in the past two weeks, five of them outside a nursery school, and all are believed to be linked to occult rituals.

In some parts of the country traditional healers believe that body parts including eyes, genitals, breasts and tongues have mystical powers, with many believing they bring riches and other good fortune.  Others believe that performing a human sacrifice will bring good luck.

Ritual killings were common in Cameroon until the 1970s but as education spread, the number of murders decreased.

Now families fear the practice is coming back, with the latest wave of killings causing near-hysteria in the capital city.

This week, the sister of a 17-year-old girl whose corpse was found on Friday outside a nursery school, minus the genitals, tongue, eyes, hair and breasts, wrote to Cameroon President Paul Biya demanding action to prevent further killings.

Deborah Ngoh Tonye Epouse Mvaebeme said her sister, Michele Mbala Mvogo, a student at the government bilingual High School Yaoundé was abducted three days before her body was found outside a nursery school. She accused the city’s commonly-used motorcycle taxi drivers of facilitating the murder, and said the government had failed to do enough to protect the victims, who were from the poverty-stricken neighbourhoods of Mimboman and Biteng.

One local said: ‘The moto-taxi drivers are the assassins’ accomplices, and their targets are girls aged 16-25 who get the taxis after nightfall.  For a large sum of money, these girls are delivered to men in the suburbs who do the rest.’

The head of a Mimboman nursery school told afrik.com how she found one of the bodies outside her school.

She said: ‘It was a strong smell of rotting that drew my attention, so I decided to do a tour of the school. ‘That’s how I found, behind one classroom, a body of a young girl in an advanced state of decomposition, with her underwear placed on her feet, before my very eyes.’

Families in the neighbourhood are said to be in a state of hysteria, banning their girls from taking motorbike taxis and keeping them indoors after dark.

Communication minister Tchiroma Bakary said: ‘Ritual sacrifices with a demoniac connotation are unacceptable and intolerable, and the government will do all it can to put a stop to it.’

Ngoh Tonye, whose sister was murdered, told CNN: ‘There is laxity in the forces in ensuring security in the capital.’

The bodies of the five most recent victims were identified yesterday, according to a State security official who said most of the victims were high school students aged 15-26.

Two men have been arrested in connection with the killings but so far no charges have been brought.

The Cameroon capital, which has a population of just over two million, is in a state of distress with families staying behind locked doors as soon as darkness falls. Police warn pedestrians to walk in groups at all times and have cracked down on local bars frequented by criminals, shutting them down in the dozens. Vigilante groups of young men guard the streets at night and hunt for the killers, as the people of Yaoundé say the police are not doing enough to keep the city safe.

The new wave of gruesome killings in the capital has also seen dozens of complaints about mutilated corpses in the mortuaries of Yaoundé’s public hospitals, according to Health Minister André Mama Fouda.

Source:
Ritual Killings: 18 Young Women Found Murdered With Brains, Eyes, Genitals Missing

Yaoundé, capital of Cameroon

Related article:

Wave of Ritual Killings Spark Panic in Cameroon, Increase Safety Measures

Published: 28th February 2013, 14:15 GMT+11
By: Global Press Institute – Nakinti Nofuru

BAMENDA, CAMEROON When Sarah Ewang, 41, heard about the homicide and dismemberment of 18 young women in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, she cried and prayed to God to give strength to the victims families.

Ewang, a jewelry trader in Bamenda, the capital of the Northwest region, can understand the pain the girls endured during the moments before they were slain by alleged ritual killers. I came so close with ritual killers, she says. God delivered me from the hands of those evil men.

During 2005, Ewang traveled from Bamenda to Douala, the capital of the Littoral region, to buy jewelry to restock her shop. In Douala, she entered a taxi already occupied by two men, who appeared to be passengers. As they drove, another woman stopped the taxi. Moments after picking up the second woman, one of the men in the car pointed a gun at them and ordered them to keep quiet. I tried to shout, but one of the men slapped me very hard, Ewang says.

The taxi took a sharp turn off the main road and drove for more than an hour into an isolated forest. Eventually, the car stopped at a strange-looking hut, constructed of sticks, grass and old bags. I knew my life was coming to an end, Ewang says, and the next thing I thought of was my 3-months-old baby.

She says she cried out and received a second slap from the man carrying the gun, causing her to pass out. When she awoke, she discovered that they had removed her from the car. The driver and one of the men walked into the hut, but the man with the gun remained with them. She says they were ritual killers. They didnt request for anything from us, Ewang says, so they didnt look like armed robbers or thieves.

Finally, the two men emerged, along with four other men carrying cutlasses. Desperate, Ewang cried aloud in her local dialect, Bakossi. Oh my God, I will die and leave my 3-months-old daughter to who? she says she cried. Oh God, please come and help me.

Immediately after she spoke, the man with the gun walked up to her and looked her in her eyes but did not say a word, she says. He then led the other men back into the hut, where they remained for more than 45 minutes. Eventually, the man with the gun returned and asked her and the other woman to get into the car.

The men returned them to Douala and told them to walk away without causing any alarm. As they walked away, the man with the gun spoke. Go and look after your 3-months-old baby, she says that he told her in Bakossi. Extend my greetings to her. Tell her that her forest uncle sends his greetings. Your fluency in your dialect has saved your soul.

As soon as she heard the man speaking her dialect, Ewang stopped, fell to the ground and wept. She says he must have been from the same tribe as her in the Southwest region, where she is originally from. The men drove away, probably to look for the next victim, Ewang says.

Now, eight years later, news of recent killings in Yaoundé has brought fear to Ewangs home in Bamenda as she recalls her own experience.

It is an experience I will live to remember, she says, her voice breaking, and then bursts into tears. May God come to our rescue. Her youngest daughter, who was 3 months old at the time, is now 8. She uses her right hand to dry her mothers eyes. Mummy, dont cry, she says.

Since the discovery of nearly 20 young womens corpses in December and January, women in Bamenda say they will stop at nothing to ensure the safety of their daughters from ritual killers. Young women advise each other to not go out at night. Teachers report that lectures on safety tips for their pupils have intensified in their schools. Local police state that they are working to maintain peace and security for the population.

The dismembered corpses of 18 young women were discovered in Yaoundé, some hidden in bushes and one discovered by a headmistress in a primary school classroom, says Mark, a member of the Rapid Intervention Battalion in Bamenda, who declined to publish his last name for reasons of job security. The battalion is a special branch of the police force in Cameroon tasked with responding to emergency situations.

News reports also reached Bamenda that vital parts of the corpses were missing, including the womens breasts, eyes, kidneys and heart, Mark says.

A lecturer at the University of Bamenda, who requested anonymity to ensure his safety, explains that the removal of those body parts is what marks the deaths of these young women as ritual killings.

He explains that ritualists pay killers to come back with certain body parts, which the ritualists then take to witch doctors or use themselves. Ritualists are usually people seeking fame, money, or positions in government and politics.

Although there were occasional reports of ritual killing in Cameroon before, he says, they were not as large in scope or frequency as the massive killing that recently occurred in Yaoundé.

Beatrice Ngwe, a mother of four girls and one boy, lives with her family in Bamenda. Ngwe says she feels the pain of the mothers in Yaoundé who lost their daughters to ritualists.

Being a mother of four girls is not easy, she says with a heavy voice. I fear for their life all the time.

Ngwes friends daughter disappeared during 2008 after the woman sent her 9-year-old to deliver a message, Ngwe says. The girls body has not been found, leading the town to suspect she became a victim of a ritual killing.

Ngwe says she would not want to live with the guilt of being the author of any of her daughters or sons misfortune, so she is taking extra safety precautions. These days, she fears even more that they may be killed for ritual purposes.

I will die to protect my daughters, Ngwe says. If an errand is very important that it cant wait to see the light of the next day, I prefer to go on it myself.

Melanie Vishiy, 22, is a student at Trinity Computer Training Center in Bamenda. She says she fears for her life because of the news of ritual killings of young women in Yaoundé as well as of another girl during January in Nkambe, a town in the Northwest region.

Since I heard of the death of the young girls in Yaoundé and in Nkambe, I dont go out after 6 p.m., she says, shaking her head. No, I dont, not even to urinate at night. I do that in a small bucket meant for the purpose.

Vishiy had heard of incidents of ritual killings before. But she says that she didnt understand the reality of it and was never scared until news broke about the recent series of deaths.

Now, she says she has never been so scared and alert in her life. She doesnt trust any man she comes across while walking alone.

If a man is on a path with me, just two of us, I make sure I start preparing my heels for running, she says. I look at him directly into his face and try to keep a reasonable distance from him.

Vishiy advises girls to stay indoors for their safety.

I am calling on girls and women to stay close to homes, she says. I am not saying that they shouldnt go out there and have fun, but they should do it with limitation and reasoning.

Beyond the home, teachers in Bamenda are doing their part to spread the message of safety.

Sarah Koye is a teacher at Government Bilingual Primary School Group 2 in Bamenda. She says the recent killings in Yaoundé have prompted teachers to introduce safety tips to their pupils.

We ask them to always move in groups when coming to school and when going back home, Koye says.

Some teachers go as far as asking pupils to tell their parents that they should not send them on errands in the dark or on lonely roads.

The children know what is going on in the nation, she says. When she asked her students whether they had heard about the killings, some children shouted that they had watched it on the news, while others had heard about it from their parents and friends. At school, children shared safety tips that they had received at home.

Because all victims since December have been women, Koye focuses extra training on female students. Some ritual killers begin by violating the children sexually, so she has also introduced some elementary sex education and lessons on morality.

Koye helps the students understand that they are too young for sexual activities and advises them to run and scream if a man makes such advances. She asks them not to follow strange men into homes or bushes. Teachers also tell pupils not to speak with or to accept gifts from strangers on the way to and from school.

In our days, we could receive things from strangers, talk with strange people on the way, without any strings attached, she says. Today, such interactions may only lead to danger. We tell our pupils to be very careful and alert.

The students are doing their best to take the advice that they are being given in school, Koye says.

Outside of school and the home, the police is working to protect the population of Bamenda.

Ever since the ritual killing cases in Yaoundé, the commissioner of police has asked the force to be more vigilant, Mark of the Rapid Intervention Battalion says. They are to arrest and interrogate anybody walking the streets late at night.

We patrol the town all night just to make sure that nothing goes wrong, he says. We have arrested and interrogated many suspects that we find in suspicious places in the heart of the night.

Mark says the battalions lines are open to all. They have received many calls both day and night from people who find themselves in difficult situations. He says the force always goes to their rescue and doesnt spare any suspect from questioning and possible detainment.

He says the number of calls they receive and suspects they have pursued is confidential. But so far, there have been no cases of ritual killing in Bamenda.

Security has stepped up in all the towns of Cameroon, Mark says. He asks the public to trust the capabilities of the police.

We will stop at nothing to put this town under serious surveyance, he says.

Source: Wave of ritual killings spark panic in Cameroon, increase safety measures

Albinism in Tanzania: slow progress in combatting violence and discrimination

In 2008 a wave of murders of albinos in eastern and central Africa attracted worldwide attention and condemnation even though it wasn’t the first time albinos were targeted in countries like Tanzania, Burundi and Malawi.

In June 2008, a New York Times online edition aired a news brief on albino killings in Tanzania, which caused a sensation. In July 2008, a BBC journalist, Vicky Ntetema, posed as a businesswoman who wanted to get rich quick and consulted 10 witchdoctors in Tanzania. Several witchdoctors promised to get her a magic concoction mixed with ground albino organs. The starting price was $2,000 for the vital organs. Later she had to go in hiding after receiving death threats because of her undercover work. A BBC video on the horrifying spate of killings of albinos in Tanzania, broadcast in August of the same year, was later taken off the air. Also in July Al Jazeera presented a video on the fate of albinos in Tanzania (Part 1 and Part 2). The European Union condemned the ritual murdering of albinos (September, 2008), followed by UNICEF (December, 2008). By then, according to the Tanzania Albino Society (TAS), more than 35 albinos had been killed in 2008 alone, with many other such cases unreported. For more cases, covering the 2003 – 2010 period, you’re welcome to visit my archives. Unfortunately, many links have expired. (For this reason I copy all articles and publish them on the present site while acknowledging their origin).
It’s important to mention that ‘Under The Same Sun’ founder Peter Ash estimates the total number of deadly victims to be twice the official figure in a December 3, 2008 interview. Viewers are warned that the interview can be shocking because of the graphic nature of the story.

The NGO Under The Same Sun helps people with albinism overcome often deadly discrimination through education and advocacy. UTSS was started by Peter Ash, a former pastor and Canadian businessman with albinism, and Vicky Ntetema, mentioned earlier, Tanzania’s BBC bureau chief whose report in July 2008 broke the story to the world of the gruesome murders of persons with albinism in Tanzania. UTSS was founded in 2008. Visit the impressive site of Under The Same Sun, a comprehensive site about Persons with Albinism in Tanzania.

Under The Same Sun helps people with albinism overcome often deadly discrimination through education and advocacy

The following article dates from 2015 but as forthcoming posts will also demonstrate, the fight against discrimination of people with albinism is far from over, and therefor I want to congratulate Under The Same Sun, the Tanzania Albinism Society, and other organizations supporting the same cause for their valuable work and wish them success in the future. May their work soon be no longer needed! (webmaster FVDK)

Published on May 13, 2015
By Daniel Wesangula
The Guardian

Around 30,000 people with albinism are thought to be living in Tanzania. Photograph: Ana Palacios

Albinos live with the risk of being killed, their body parts fetching high prices for witchcraft – but NGOs hope that change is coming.

“This is possibly the worst time to be a person living with albinism in Tanzania,” says Amir Manento.

In October, citizens will go to the polls to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections. “Every election period brings with it a new cycle of killings. In between we have other smaller elections translating to more abductions, more killings.” Manento, a retired judge and human rights activist, has been at the forefront of campaigning for the rights of people living with albinism for decades. “We see an increase of witchcraft and the use of human body parts, particularly albino body parts, in the run-up to the general elections.” Albino body parts are associated with good luck, and as the country gears up for the elections, the demand for good luck charms goes up. Sacrifices during this time are thought by some to be a sure way of guaranteeing victory in the polls.

“Albino hunting came into the limelight around 10 years ago, particularly within the fishing and mining communities,” says Dr Benson Bana, a political science and public administration lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam. Bana believes that some of the roots of the problem lie in the financial downturn in the area around Lake Victoria, one of the regions where there have been the most killings and abductions.

“A certain poverty touched our people after the privatisation of fishing activities in Lake Victoria,” says Bana. “Everything was being controlled, from where one could fish to the size of the holes in his fishing net. The result was diminished harvests. Every above-average catch by the little guys was then attributed to superstition. This is when witchdoctors started peddling the belief that people living with albinism or their body parts, most of whom coincidentally live in these regions, could be used as good luck charms.”

Bana believes that this devastating association was then passed on to neighbouring mining communities. “Eventually it caught wind and was looked upon as a legitimate way of acquiring riches and power by some individuals. Hence the association with politicians.”

Tanzania is thought to have one of the world’s largest populations of people living with albinism, a congenital disorder that robs skin, eyes and hair of their pigment. But for years this population of about 30,000 people has existed under the threat of abductions and ritual killings, and in recent years the situation appears to have worsened.

According to a report by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, a complete set of Albino body parts – including all four limbs, genitals, ears, tongue and nose – can fetch up to $75,000 (pdf).

The Tanzania Albinism Society says it is almost impossible to know the numbers of those abducted or killed since the beginning of the year. What they are sure of, though, is that the number of victims will be higher than the two cases that made it into police records in 2013.

“Even last year the numbers might have been higher because these crimes are very intimate. Mostly a close family member, even a father, is involved in the killings and abductions. In such cases silence wins; his wife will probably be an accomplice in the crime. Nothing will be said of the matter again and the police will have no chance of prosecuting anyone,” says Severin Edward, programme coordinator for the Tanzanian Albinism Society.

A total of 155 cases of violation of albino rights have been reported to Tanzanian authorities since 2009, according to a study (pdf) released in March by Under The Same Sun, an NGO working to combat discrimination against people with albinism.

“Of these cases, 75 were deaths. We have also received 18 reports of grave violations,” said Don Sawatzky, director of operations for UTSS. The study, which gathered together data from 25 different countries in Africa, found reports of 145 albino killings, in addition to 226 violations that include mutilations, other forms of violence, and kidnappings.

UTSS has been actively pushing the United Nations for four key resolutions aimed at ending all forms of discrimination of people living with albinism.

A total of 155 cases of violation of albino rights have been reported to Tanzanian authorities since 2009.
Photograph: Ana Palacios

However, Sawatzky argues that to describe the killings as a phenomenon propelled by recent economic hardship would be “to accept the easy answer”.
“Nobody really knows the origin of the killings, since documentation in Africa is not common other than through oral tradition. All we know for sure is that albinism has been ‘mythologised’ since time beyond memory. Muti murders, or ‘medicine’ killings, have a deep, longstanding history, and are a familiar concept to most Africans,” he says. In Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, the nation’s first albino member of parliament, Isaac Mwaura, says it is time measures are put in place to end these killings and abductions, and that existing laws need to be adhered to by all affected countries.

“Kenya has strict trafficking laws, the same as Tanzania. What makes it possible for criminals to take our children, mothers, fathers or brothers across borders and sell them off like commodities to witch doctors? Enforcement of laws is one of the weakest links in this war. We have become the hunted. Neither we nor our children are safe. Fathers are betraying their children’s trust and selling them off like unwanted baggage. Mothers are conspiring to traffic their own flesh and blood to senseless deaths.”

In Tanzania the government has been working with NGOs and civil society, and results are now being seen. “Never before have we seen so much effort from the government and the general public. At least we are now getting convictions, primarily because investigations are more thorough and new laws are being set up,” says Manento. “Although no executions have taken place, a total of 17 individuals have received the death sentence, some of them as recently as March, when four individuals, including the husband of the murdered victim, were convicted,” he said.

To win this war, NGOs at the forefront believe collusion within the community must come to an end. “We must educate families to understand that having such a child is not a gateway to quick riches. We then encourage the rest of the community to speak up,” says Edward. “The society needs to be more empowered and supported to co-operate. For instance, when family members are involved in killings or abductions it is quite difficult to get witnesses, because even they are not assured of their security.”

Sawatzky also believes that the war will be won, just not in the near future. “Like all forms of discrimination, it will take several generations to achieve. I will not see the war won in my lifetime. The youth and future generations are the best answer to this war,” he said.

More community sensitisation needs to be achieved, says Justus Kamugisha, regional police chief in Shinyanga, in the north of the country. “We need to make our people understand that there are no shortcuts to prosperity. Only hard, honest work pays. Taking the life of someone else, regardless of his condition, is simply murder, for which you will be charged.”

Source: The Guardian, May 13, 2015

More:

Albinism in Tanzania: safe havens in schools and support centers – in pictures
Photographs by Ana Palacios – May 13, 2015

Tanzania bans witchdoctors in attempt to end albino killings,
The Guardian, January 14, 2015

Tanzania albino murders: ‘More than 200 witchdoctors’ arrested
BBC, March 12, 2015

Witchcraft and the law in Tanzania
The Guardian, September 26, 2008

Ritual killings linked to elections – Swaziland

Unfortunately, also in Swaziland the number of ritual murders increases at election time. I remember a BBC article of June 2, 2003, reporting that King Mswati III had urged Swaziland’s politicians not to engage in ritual killings to boost their chances in the general elections later that year.

Five years later Prime Minister Absalom Themba Dlamini issued a warning to aspiring members of parliament against committing ritual murders to win the vote. When speaking during the Ascension prayer service held at Embangweni Royal Residence on May 4, 2008, the PM said it was very disturbing that, already, there were reported incidents of people disappearing under a cloud of controversy as the elections dates draw closer. He said King Mswati III issued a similar warning.

We’re now in 2018 and apparently nothing has changed. The Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) has issued a statement recently, saying it is “(…) deeply alarmed and distressed by recent media reports of abductions and kidnappings resulting in mutilations and killings. Children, both girls and boys, are especially targeted (…). The fact that there are widespread speculations on whether or not these abductions are for ritual purposes linked to the upcoming Parliamentary elections in Eswatini cannot be ignored.”
(webmaster FVDK)

Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) is a non-governmental organization which has been working for over 20 years to eradicate Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and Human Trafficking in Swaziland.

‘Ritual murder has long been part of Swazi life.’, as Richard Rooney said.

More in the following article written by Richard Rooney.

Published: Thursday, 31 May 218

BY RICHARD ROONEY Y
SWAZI MEDIA COMMENTARY – INFORMATION AND COMMENTARY ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN SWAZILAND

There are ‘widespread speculations’ across Swaziland that a number of recent abductions resulting in mutilations and killings might be related to the ongoing national election in the kingdom, the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) said.

SWAGAA said, ‘Children, both girls and boys, are especially targeted; however, this does not mean adults cannot be a target in future. For this reason, all people should remain on high alert.’

It said in a statement, ‘The fact that there are widespread speculations on whether or not these abductions are for ritual purposes linked to the upcoming Parliamentary elections in Eswatini [Swaziland] cannot be ignored.

Swaziland has a history of abductions and ritual killings in the run-up to national elections that are held every five years. Voter registration is currently taking place and ends on 17 June 2018. The date for the actual election has yet to be announced.

In June 2017, during a voter-education workshop, Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) called for an end to ritual killings around voting time. It was concerned about reports of people mysteriously disappearing across the kingdom.

At KaLanga in the Lugongolweni constituency EBC educator Cynthia Dlamini said ritual murder reports increased during election time. The Swazi Observer reported at the time, ‘Dlamini said this was one belief driven by lunacy which tarnishes the image of the country in the process. She said the commission condemns such beliefs and called for intensive investigations against those who would be suspected of ritual killings.’

At the last election in 2013, The Swaziland Epilepsy Association warned that cases of the abduction of epileptic people always increased during elections. Mbuso Mahlalela from the association told the Swazi Observer at the time it was common for the vulnerable to be targeted and abducted. He spoke after a report that a 13-year-old epileptic boy might have been abducted for ritual purposes.

Before the election in 2008 a march by civil society groups to draw attention to ritual killings was banned by the government amid fears that it would bring bad publicity to Swaziland and might embarrass King Mswati III, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, who had spoken out against the practice.

The Times of Swaziland reported at the time the march had been motivated by the mystery disappearances and murders of women. Some of these had been found mutilated fuelling speculating that they were related to rituals.

Some Swazi people believe body parts can be used as ‘muti’ which is used to bring good fortune to candidates at the election and help them to win seats in parliament.

In 2008, it was strongly rumoured in Swaziland that the reason why members of the government wanted to ban discussion on the ritual murders was that some of them had themselves used ‘muti’ to get elected.

In March 2018, a campaign called ‘Don’t kill us, we are human beings too’ was launched to raise awareness about people with albinism, a group at particular risk at election time. The Stukie Motsa Foundation is using social media to dispel the false belief that people with albinism cleanse bad luck and bring fortune to people.

There have been concerns in Swaziland for years that people with albinism have been targeted and murdered. Witchdoctors use the body parts to make spells that they claim bring people good luck.  Sport teams have also been known to use spells to bring them good fortune during matches. Witchdoctors’ services are especially sought after by candidates contesting parliamentary and local elections.

In January 2017, the Director of Public Prosecution’s office in Swaziland told witchdoctors in the kingdom to stop murdering people for body parts. The witchdoctors, also known as tinyanga, were advised to go to the Ministry of Health for body parts, such as bones.

During the national elections in Swaziland in 2013, people with albinism lived in fear that their body parts would be harvested by candidates seeking good luck.

Independent Newspapers in South Africa reported at the time, ‘In the past [people with albinism], who lack the skin pigment melanin, as well as epileptics have been specifically targeted, prompting the police to set up registries.

‘In 2010, the killing and mutilation of [people with albinism], including in one instance the decapitation of two children in Nhlangano, prompted panic.’

In August 2013, Independent Newspapers quoted an academic at the University of Swaziland, who did not want to be named, saying, ‘Ritual killings to achieve elected office are a natural outgrowth of a government based not on rationality or democratic principles but on superstitious beliefs.

‘The Swazi king claims power through an annual Incwala festival where a bull is brutally sacrificed and mysterious rituals occur, and this sets the tone. No one knows how office-holders are appointed in Swaziland. It’s all done in secret, without recourse to merit or any rhyme or reason, so this fuels irrational beliefs.

‘Ritual murder has long been part of Swazi life.’

Source: Ritual killings linked to elections, May 31, 2018

Spirit Child: Ritual Killings in Ghana

Years ago, I drafted an article on infanticide in Benin for the present website on ritual killings in Africa. I never published it, because I hesitated. Thought it wasn’t ready yet. I may publish it one of these days.

This morning I ran into the article below on infanticide in Ghana – and Benin, Burkina Faso, Nigeria – and who knows in which other African countries this age-old practice occurs. The article is a follow-up to a 2013 investigative report of the same journalist and filmmaker, Anas Aremeyaw Anas. He fights a honorable battle against these murders, since we’re talking about the murdering of children.

Infanticide is an age-old horrible practice, but we’re living in the 21st c. and it’s absolutely necessary that governments take action in this respect. People are afraid to speak about infanticide, as Anas Aremeyaw Anas writes, since they fear the consequences of revealing a secret: death.

Witchcraft, the fear of witchcraft, superstition and ritual killings are closely related. Education can end this nexus. And economic development: jobs. It’s a fight against poverty and ignorance.

Moreover, people have the right to live without fear. It’s a human right.
(webmaster FVDK)

Spirit Child: Ritual Killings in Ghana

Published: June 3, 2018
Author: Anas Aremeyaw Anas
Published by Aljazeera

WARNING: both original articles (2018; 2013) include a film with graphic images that may be shocking.
Anas Aremeyaw Anas investigates the ritual killings of Ghanaian children deemed to be possessed by evil spirits.

Every year an unknown number of children – most of them disabled in some way – are murdered in northern Ghana because of the belief that they are in some way possessed by evil spirits set on bringing ill fortune to those around them.

The practice is the consequence of ancient traditions and customs and is shaped by poverty and ignorance in remote and often marginalised communities. No one knows the exact number of these ritual deaths across Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso and parts of Nigeria, but some believe it could be in the thousands.

For years, NGOs and the Ghanaian authorities have tried advocacy and education in an attempt to eradicate the practice but with only marginal success. Well into the 21st century, Ghana’s so-called spirit children are still being killed because they carry the blame for the misfortunes of everyday life.

In 2013, award-winning Ghanaian investigative reporter Anas Aremeyaw Anas set out to track down and expose some of those responsible for the senseless killings – determined to bring them to justice and stop the practice.

Back then, he wrote: “When I first heard about this I could not believe it was happening in my country in the 21st century … The practice originally emerged as a way for poor families to deal with deformed or disabled children that they cannot look after. These families approach village elders known as concoction men and inform them that they suspect their child to be a so-called spirit child.

The concoction man then takes the father of the child to visit a soothsayer who confirms whether or not the child is truly evil, without ever actually laying eyes on them. Once this confirmation has been received, the concoction man brews a poisonous liquid from local roots and herbs and force-feeds it to the child, almost always resulting in death.

Over time, this practice has become a perceived solution to any problems a family might be having at the time of a child’s birth. By blaming the child for sickness in the family, or the father’s inability to find work or provide money to support his dependants, these communities have found an otherworldly explanation for their problems … But infanticide has always been a crime against humanity.”

Now, five years later, Anas, spoke to REWIND about why he doesn’t want to show his identity, the dangers of undercover journalism in Africa, and what has become of the concoction men that killed those children.

“Most African journalists who do investigations have a series of dangers pointing at them. You just have to be yourself and think about how to survive. I came up with the beads that I wear, so people don’t see my face. I’m sure that some of my colleagues, in Nigeria or Malawi have other ways to protect themselves,” Anas told Al Jazeera.

Talking about the threats facing investigative journalists, he said: “Generally, people definitely want to point guns at you or some will try to kidnap you. And most of these things have happened; getting death threats and legal suits is normal, most of my colleagues in the continent suffer that.”

“There is nothing more frustrating than doing a story on someone and then walking on the same streets with that person. It is even more dangerous and that can easily end the life of any journalist.”

“We don’t make stories so that people can just read them and smile in their bedrooms. We make stories that have impact on the society. For me, it is a good story when the bad guy is named, shamed and put in jail … Many people have gone to jail as a result of my work and I’m proud of it.”

Anas also talked about the concoction men that he met during his Spirit Child investigation.

“A legal process was started but they were too old, so at the time that the process could finish, some of them couldn’t even make it to court. But the key thing that happened in that story is that it told the community that whoever you are, when you attempt to do some of these things, you are going behind bars.”

“For the first time, those witch doctors were arrested and put before court. That sends a strong signal to all witch doctors to be careful, that when you are dealing with the life of a child it’s a completely different matter. And we can’t sit down for these children to be killed in the way they are being killed.”

Source: Al Jazeera, June 3, 2018

Related: Spirit Child
By Anas Aremeyaw Anas
Published: January 10, 2013

Every year an unknown number of children – most of them disabled in some way – are murdered in northern Ghana because of the belief that they are in some way possessed by evil spirits set on bringing ill fortune to those around them.

The practice is the consequence of ancient traditions and customs and is shaped by poverty and ignorance in remote and often marginalised communities. But it is still infanticide and no less horrifying than the killing of children anywhere. For years NGOs and the Ghanaian authorities have tried advocacy and education in an attempt to eradicate the practice but with only marginal success. Well into the 21st century, Ghana’s so-called spirit children are still being killed because they carry the blame for the misfortunes of everyday life.

Award-winning Ghanaian investigative reporter Anas Aremeyaw Anas is determined to do something to stop this senseless slaughter. In this shocking and remarkable film for People & Power he sets out to track down and identify some of those responsible and to bring them to justice.

Thousands of children have been killed in Ghana because the communities they are born into believe they are evil spirits. When I first heard about this I could not believe it was happening in my country in the 21st century.

The practice originally emerged as a way for poor families to deal with deformed or disabled children that they cannot look after. These families approach village elders known as concoction men and inform them that they suspect their child to be a so-called spirit child. The concoction man then takes the father of the child to visit a soothsayer who confirms whether or not the child is truly evil, without ever actually laying eyes on them.

Once this confirmation has been received, the concoction man brews a poisonous liquid from local roots and herbs and force-feeds it to the child, almost always resulting in death.

Over time, this practice has become a perceived solution to any problems a family might be having at the time of a child’s birth. By blaming the child for sickness in the family, or the father’s inability to find work or provide money to support his dependents, these communities have found an otherworldly explanation for their problems.

In this highly patriarchal society it enables heads of family to pass the blame for their struggles onto someone else. And by branding the child a spirit from outside the family, they can disassociate themselves and feel justified in murdering their own offspring, while telling those around them that now all will be well – the evil presence is gone.

But infanticide has always been a crime against humanity. I believe there is plenty of evidence of infanticide in the history of all human societies and its continued and widespread practice makes a mockery of the democratic credentials of the countries, including mine, where this crime still takes place. Many forms of civic engagement and advocacy have been used in a bid to eradicate this practice in Ghana and other West African nations. Sadly though, the limited efficacy of such techniques is illustrated by the fact that today children are still being killed in this way.

Ready to spill blood in the name of tradition

And sometimes a strong focus on understanding and education when dealing with traditional practices can distance us from the reality of a situation; it can place us in an ivory tower where we fail to engage with the true manner in which those involved are behaving. Far from acting like a man fulfilling a sad but necessary duty, the concoction man I hired to kill my fictitious child for the purposes of this film was excited; his eyes pinned wide with zeal as he went about preparing for the task at hand.

He laughed and joked about his previous experience, telling me about how he had recently killed a 12-year-old girl by tricking her into drinking his concoction and boasting about how effective his methods are. Without knowing the context, any casual observer would surely consider his disposition nothing short of murderous.

While I understand that he was misguided – ready to spill innocent blood in the name of tradition – I also strongly believe that, no matter what the circumstances, where children are being murdered the state must step in to punish those responsible in the same way that the citizens of any developed democracy would expect it to.

That is not to say that some understanding cannot be afforded to the concoction men and the communities that continue to practice these rituals. Unlike those with the benefit of technology who can see a badly developed fetus and terminate it before birth, the mothers whose babies are killed in northern Ghana have no such options.

They may find themselves giving birth to a child only to discover that it is not normal: it will never be accepted and will always be a burden on those around it. In the absence of technology or a refuge for mother and child to escape to, the concoction man is the only solution. As a result, the parents perceive him as a saviour; the only one who can deliver them from enduring further hardship. And the concoction men in turn thrive on the standing and power this affords them in the community.

When we think of slavery or the burning of alleged witches, these crimes against humanity were only eradicated when key actors in government decided to take a stand. By declaring these practices as unacceptable and threatening those who continue to perpetrate them with prosecution, governments have brought about the abolition of centuries-old traditions in a relatively short space of time.

Permitting evil to triumph over good

From northern Ghana, where the spirit child story is set, through Burkina Faso, Benin and parts of Nigeria, countless babies are killed based on age-old cultural beliefs. But despite this, we were unable to find any evidence of previous arrests for these crimes.

During the three weeks that I worked on this story, I came across 10 men who were willing to kill a baby for spiritual reasons. They were easy to find. Yet when I asked a senior police officer why no arrests have been made, his response was: “It is a very difficult thing to do. It’s unfortunate, we have no idea why this is happening, who is behind this and why they have not been arrested.”

My intention is not to suggest that one investigation or police arrest can stop this trend. But in many ways, the practice’s continued existence is a result of the impunity enjoyed by those involved. The fact that the police have never acted in any way to prevent these children being killed is surely a strong incentive for the concoction men to continue their business as usual. Invariably, this type of laisser-faire attitude is what permits evil to triumph over good.

Democracy has no value if it is only limited to occasional ceremonies for power holders. It is worthless if the voiceless are crushed and the perpetrators of atrocities are allowed to continue living their life without suffering any consequences. It certainly cannot exist where freedom and justice, selectively applied, mean that children are killed with impunity.