Published: May 3, 2019 By: Reuters – reporting by Frank Phiri; editing by Alison Williams
BLANTYRE (Reuters) – A man was sentenced to death in Malawi on Friday for killing an albino teenager in a case has become a campaign issue ahead of a national election this month, with the opposition accusing the government of inaction.
Belief in witchcraft is widespread in rural Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, fuelling ritual killings particularly targeting people with albinism because of the belief that their body parts can increase wealth.
In the first such punishment for the abduction and killing of people with albinism, Justice Mclean Kamwambe said he wanted to send a stern warning to would-be offenders.
“The death sentence is appropriate as it reflects a sense of justice in the circumstances,” he said at Malawi’s High Court.
The judge said the killings and abductions of albinos since 2014 had tainted the international image of Malawi, and had reduced the country to “a state of terror”.
The focus on albino murders has sparked finger-pointing amongst politicians ahead of the election on May, 21 with the main opposition party, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), accusing government of doing little to stop the killings.
The government, which formed a judicial inquiry into the killings and abductions, has denied this saying it cannot interfere in work of the police and courts.
The government has also offered cash rewards for information about the abductions and killings, which have reached at least 150 since 2014 according to the United Nations.
According to the court’s ruling, the convicted 28-year-old confessed to the murder and said he wanted to use the 19-year-old victims’ body parts to become rich on instructions from a witch-doctor in neighboring Mozambique.
The superstitions, stigmas and maiming and killing of people with albinism is visible across a number of southern and East African countries with cases reported in Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa with a lucrative market for the trade in albino body parts, in the region and internationally.
Two suspected ritualists who allegedly have been killing women in the Akoko area of Ondo state, removing their breasts and other sensitive organs were on Tuesday caught by vigilant residents in Arigidi-Akoko, in Akoko North West Local Government Area of the state.
The suspects were said to have been apprehended following an attempt to kill another woman in the town.
An eyewitness who preferred to speak under anonymity disclosed to Channels Television that “Ritual killings have become very frequent in Arigidi and some other parts of Akoko land. Five women have been killed gruesomely, with their breasts and other private parts removed”.
“Nemesis caught up with two men early this morning at Arigidi when a woman raised alarm that a man came to her room to kill her and ran away when she raised alarm”.
“Immediately the town organised a search team and caught the two men in a bush at the back of Akoko Anglican Grammar School, Arigidi-Akoko. They were taken to the palace of the traditional ruler of the town, Oba Yisa Olanipekun”.
“The Suspects were later handed over to security agents in the area to prevent jungle justice on them,” the eyewitness said.
It would be recalled that a 50-year-old woman, simply called ” Iya Dunsin” and another 80-year-old grandmother, Kojusola Mogaji were brutally killed and their breasts clinically removed within an interval of two weeks in Arigidi Akoko.
Similar incidents had also been recorded in Ikare Akoko and Okeagbe-Akoko last year.
The Public Relations Officer of Ondo State Police Command, SP Femi Joseph confirmed the incident to Channels Television.
He, however, said the case is being investigated saying the two men are suspects.
He noted that the Commissioner of Police in the State, Undie Adie has set up a security team that is carrying out 24-hour surveillance in the whole Akoko Area.
He added that the traditional rulers as well as youths, and other Stakeholders in the communities are also working with police to combat the spate of killings and other criminal acts in Akoko land and the entire state.
This article is related to previous postings (see postings dated April 19, April 23 and April 28, 2019).
Warning: graphic photo shown at the bottom of this page (webmaster FVDK)
Published: April 29, 2019 By: Adebayo Waheed Ibadan
Following the gruesome murder of an 80-year-old woman, Mrs Kojusola Mogaji, by suspected ritualists, fear, anxiety and panic, have gripped the people and residents of Arigidi Akoko in Ondo State.
The deceased, a resident of Imo Quarters, Arigidi Akoko, Northwest local government area of the state, was killed by yet to be identified ritualists.
This recent killing on Thursday night is the sixth to be recorded in recent times and in all cases, the breasts of the victims were removed clinically. (italics by the webmaster FVDK)
Two of the incidences occurred opposite Ecobank Ikare, and another at Agbaluku Arigidi.
It was observed that since the recent killing in the area, the people have become anxious and fearful especially women, who are afraid of even going for regular Church and Mosque programmes in the early hours of the morning.
Apart from that, it was also observed that the people were no longer willing to open their doors to just anybody for fear of being greeted by attackers.
The brother of the latest victim, Mr Vincent Sunday, has, since his sister’s death, urged traditional rulers and community leaders in the area to speak up about the unpleasant situation even as he called for a security summit in Akokoland.
He urged security agents to beam their searchlight on Akokoland since residents no longer felt safe.
The daughter of the deceased, Mrs. Kehinde Adewumi, who is a local government official, appealed to the police to investigate and bring to book, those responsible for her mother’s sudden death.
It is important to note that the case presented below is not a firm case of ritual murder. However, the firm belief that “(….) we do not have any doubt that they killed him for muti (….)” as one of the community-member said, speaks for itself. This statement does not replace the coroner’s work, but is an indication of the daily fear of people living in South Africa where muti murders are no exception. We will follow related events en revelations and keep you informed on this place. (webmaster FVDK)
Published: April 27, 2019 By: Kaizer Nengovhela – Zoutnet (South Africa)
Unrest yet erupted once more in the Madabani area, this time because of a suspected ritual killing. The body of Mr Johannes Khangale (66) was discovered by his nephew on the night of April 15. He was found in his room in a pool of blood, with a piece of rope around his neck. Some of his body parts had allegedly been removed, causing all the blood.
News of the murder spread like wildfire, with hundreds of people streaming to the scene. Angry community members blocked the road to Kutama last Wednesday night (17th) with branches of trees and various other objects. They accused the police of not doing their job to arrest the suspects.
The nephew of the deceased, Mr Bally Rambau, said that he had last seen his uncle on the 13th and had tried to phone him several times, but his phone had kept on ringing. When he visited him on the 15th, he found him in a pool of blood with the rope around his neck. He said that he had shouted for help and other community members had alerted the police.
Rambau said that the family members were devastated by the news of the murder. “How can they do this? They deserve to be punished; this is cruelty at its worst,” he said. “Breaking the news about his death was a mammoth task for me, and it was so difficult for them to accept,” he said.
Khangale was not working and survived on his grant, his nephew said. “My uncle was a loving person who made sure that we were all raised well, irrespective of his not working. We will always think of the good he did for the family. He was such a wonderful person; we are totally devastated by his death,” he said.
Rambau said that they were still waiting for the results of the post-mortem. Khangale was buried last Friday.
Mr Sy Mukhuba, a community member, said that they were deeply shocked by the incident. “We do not know exactly what had happened, and all we have here are rumours doing the rounds,” he said.
“We are now living in fear and we do not know who will be the next, as these people never seem to get enough of our family. Look, they killed a defenceless elderly [person] and we do not have any doubt that they killed him for muti,” he said.
Mukhuba said all indications made them believe that foul play tainted the whole incident. “We are very worried and saddened about the whole incident, and we are waiting for answers to unravel the mystery. Police should do their best to dig deep in this case and the culprits should be brought to book,” he said.
Brig Mojapelo of the SAPS confirmed the case and said they had opened an inquest docket. “We are busy with investigations and we will get to the bottom of the case,” he promised.
Mojapelo added that they did not have conclusive evidence linking it to a ritual murder, but if the post mortem pointed to the contrary, the case would be changed. He cautioned community members to desist from spreading rumours and to give the police a chance to do their work.
Published: April 25, 2019 By: Nathan Ochunge – Standard Digital (Kenya)
A series of gang attacks in the last one month that have left six people butchered in a ritualistic fashion have caused fear among residents of Matungu sub-county in Kakamega County.
All the six who were killed by the gangs had their tongues, genitals and eyes removed. In some cases, nothing was stolen from the victims.
John Osieko, a Nyumba Kumi official, said the attacks were most likely executed by a gang calling itself 42 Brothers. Residents of Butere, Khwisero and Emuhaya sub-counties are now living in fear.
Six night guards were last month killed in Emuhaya. In Khwisero, four other night guards were killed. Butere has seen more than 14 people killed between September last year and January this year.
“A Form Three student of St Joseph’s Namberekeya Secondary School was killed in cold blood and his body dumped in a culvert on the Mumias – Busia road last Sunday. So far, no suspect has been arrested in connection with the murder,” said Mr Osieko.
Last week, two people were killed in separate incidents on the nights of Tuesday and Wednesday.
Osieko said Mohammed Chikombe was a night guard at Campsite Resort and his mutilated body found on Tuesday. He said beer worth at least Sh59,000 was also stolen.
He said the body of the other middle-aged man was found dumped in a culvert near River Nzoia, with his tongue and genitals missing and eyes gouged.
A National Intelligence Service (NIS) officer who sought anonymity said: “We give intelligent reports to the police on time.
“Overstayed The NIS official said some officers who had overstayed in local stations could be colluding with the gang.Yesterday, two gangsters believed to be members of the 42 Brothers gang were gunned down.
Matungu sub-county Police Commander John Matsili said the two were in a gang of four at Lukusi village in Mukweya sub-location when they were ambushed by police.
“When they were asked to surrender, they opened fire on our officers, who neutralised them. The other two escaped through a sugarcane plantation,” said Mr Matsili.
He added that police recovered an axe and a mini Ceska pistol from the suspects. Police said the weapons could have been used in some of the attacks last week.
“We mounted a 24-hour operation and managed to arrest two more suspects in connection with the Campsite Resort killing,” said Matsili.
Matungu Chief Criminal Investigations Officer Robert Mureithi said the gangsters were being processed for trial.
Released recently “The two gangsters under our custody have been jailbirds who were released recently. One of the gangsters has been on the police radar after he stole a police walkie talkie from Lukongo police post in Mumias West,” said Mureithi.
Published: April 22, 2019 By: Hakim Gbadamosi – Nigerian Tribune
Detectives from the Ondo State Police Command are trying to unravel the mystery behind the abduction and killing of a 60- year- old hunchback, Mrs Rukayat Abodunde, by men suspected to be ritual killers.
Mrs Abodunde was abducted by armed men who invaded her home at Ayetoro Street, Ondo town, the headquarters of Ondo West Local Government Area of the state.
Apart from the suspected ritual killers, the police are also looking for the son of the abducted woman who was said to have conspired with the ritual killers and sold her mother to them for rituals.
Family source said the deceased who sold fish beside her house was abducted by two gunmen who pretended to have come to buy fish from her around 10 :00 p.m. in the night.
He said the two men started shooting into the air to scare away people and dragged Abodunde into a waiting vehicle
The source explained that the incident was reported at the police station in Ondo town, while men from the command visited the house to investigate the incident.
However, the gunmen reappeared few days after the abduction of the woman, demanding for the refund of N7 million from his son.
The kidnappers were said to have discovered that the hump was not a natural one but was a result of domestic accident, and called for the refund of the N7 million from the son of the deceased.
The source said the ritual killers discovered that the hump was not useful to them after killing the woman, threatened to kill the young man if he failed to refund the money.
However, the boy insisted that the ritual killers must also return his mother alive before the money could be refunded, and has run away from the house since then.
According to the source, the young man had used part of the money to buy clothes for the deceased before her abduction, part of the money to renovate and repaint the house before the incident.
The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Femi Joseph, who confirmed the abduction of the woman, said two suspected kidnappers invaded the home of the victim and whisked her away.
He said: “The incident was reported at the police station by one Omotola Oseyemi, while the police swung into action to ensure the release of the abducted woman.
“We interrogated the people in the area, but it was unfortunate that members of the family are not showing enough interest in the disappearance of the woman.
“Some family members visited the station to notify the police that they were no longer interested in case but will like to handle it in a traditional way”.
Joseph, however, said the police are still investigating the incident with a promise to unravel those behind the crime.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Published: April 16, 2019 By: Patricia Mtungila – Nyasa Times
As the debate on whether Malawi should practically utilize the death penalty on convicted killers of people with albinism continues, United Democratic Front (UDF) shadow Councilor for Chibanja Ward Ulia Kaunda has added his voice to the discussion with a suggestion that giving the stiffest penalty in the land is what will end the increasing cases of ritual murders of people with albinism.
Myths that body parts of people with albinism work in lucky charms for fortune and power-seekers have fanned brutal attacks on people with albinism in the country.
Kaunda made the suggestion on Friday at a political debate for ward councilors organized by the National Initiative for Civic Education NICE (Trust) held at New Jerusalem Private Primary School in Mzuzu.
The debate attracted three participants; Lillian Kadango of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Chimwemwe Mhango an independent candidate and Kaunda.
The shadow councilor promised to lobby for the utilization of the death sentence for those found guilty of killing a person with albinism.
Said Kaunda: “This is a difficult issue. It is not right for a person to be killing other people just like that and these cases have been left for too long without finding the real killers and without any convictions while people with smaller crimes get stiff sentences.
“I will protect all people with albinism in Chibanja, when I am elected. I will also meet the Member of Parliament and ask him to push for the death penalty on anyone who kills an albino.”
Kaunda, a businessman, however, sent people laughing when he failed to articulate himself in English and had to ask the moderator , Emmanuel Lawyer, to allow him to speak in the vernacular Chichewa or Tumbuka.
“Sir, I will not speak English because my supporters do not speak English, they are not English. I will speak Chitumbuka or Chichewa ,” said Kaunda.
Still, independent candidate Chimwemwe Mhango concurred with Kaunda on the need for the death penalty to be applied on albino killers.
But the MCP shadow Councilor Lillian Kadango said that she would focus on strengthening community policing efforts to ensure that people with albinism are protected by the community.
While some activists in Malawi feel that if applied , the existing death penalty law could deter the syndicates involved in the abduction and killings of people with albinism.
Human rights agencies such as the United Nations, through the United Nations Development Programme are against the death penalty saying that such punishments will only lead to further dehumanization of people.
At the close of the debate in Chibanja the three panelists and local leaders signed social contracts aimed at ensuring that the councilors adhere to their campaign promises when elected.
Apart from killings of people with albinism, escalating child-prostitution, mushrooming of illegal bars and high youth unemployment rates are some of the major issues that people in Mzuzu are asking candidates in the May 21 Tripartite Elections to take a clear stand.
The Chibanja debate was part of a series of 21 debates being organized by NICE and other electoral stakeholders in Mzuzu City and Mzimba North aimed at promoting unity and tolerance among Malawians and to offer the electorate a chance to assess the would-be political leaders before polling on May 21 2019.
(….) Myths that body parts of people with albinism work in lucky charms for fortune and power-seekers have fanned brutal attacks on people with albinism in the country. Media reports indicate that over 20 people have been murdered, hundreds mutilated while many have gone missing since the killings began in 2014. (….)
The police have begun an investigation into human parts peddling in Ekiti State after a 23-year-old man was found with human hands in Ijero Ekiti.
According to the police spokesman, Caleb Ikechukwu, the man, simply identified as Nifemi, was arrested by officials of the command. The police said some human hands were found with him in a black polythene bag.
Mr Ikechukwu said the man was nabbed during a stop and search operation on Saturday at Ijero Ekiti.
The suspect was reportedly on his way to Okemesi Ekiti when he was arrested.
There has been an increase in security surveillance in the area since last weekend following fears of a likely attack by bandits.
Ekiti State has also been plagued by series of kidnappings and ritual killing in the recent past. (italics added by the webmaster FVDK)
Despite the efforts of security agencies in combing the forest in the affected areas, the problem has refused to abate.
Mr Nifemi was said to have hidden severed hands in a polythene bag and was on his way to Okemesi to sell the parts to his “customers.”
He also reportedly confessed to the police that he got the parts from Asa farmstead, near Okemesi.
“When quizzed by the police, the young man said he got the two hands at Asa farmstead near Okemesi and had brought them to Ijero,” he said.
Mr Ikechukwu, who confirmed the incident on Monday in Ado Ekiti, indicated that the suspect could be an agent of a syndicate specialised in peddling human parts for ungodly purposes.
He said investigations had started and efforts were on to break the syndicate.
“Our men arrested him during one of our operations. We are gathering more facts about the case, because we are aware he has been operating with some people and they have to be brought to book,” he said.