Opinion: Insecurity in Ondo state, Nigeria

In this features article, Legit.ng’s regional reporter in Akure, Oluwadamilare Moriyeke, writes on how tackling insecurity in Ondo state is becoming more difficult for the security agencies.

I have earlier reported on the growing insecurity situation in Ondo state, notably the alarming increase in number of ritualistic killings. See my posts dated April 19, 23, 28, 29 and May 2 of the current year.
The cases mentioned below are no new cases, but the purpose of this post is to demonstrate the growing uneasiness (read: fear) of the population of Ondo state. One of the unalienable human rights is the right to be without fear. It is an obligation of the state to protect its citizens and to guarantee a peaceful life. To realize this, the rule of law is indispensable. 
(webmaster FVDK)

Opinion: Insecurity in Ondo State

Published: May 15, 2019
By: Wale Akinola – NAIJ.com 

(….)
But now, it is more pronounced in gruesome murder, arson and abduction for ritual purposes as the state records nothing less than five incidents within the past five weeks.

In Ondo city, the headquarters of Ondo west local government, a 62-year old woman with hunchback, Ibironke Abodunde, was reportedly abducted by some gunmen and all efforts to find her were to no avail. There were rumours that her son sold the mother to ritualists for N7 million but there arose a heated argument between the ritualists and the said son, who was asked to return the money after the purpose for her hunchback failed. According to report, they threatened to kill him if he did not refund their money and he too insisted that they should return his mother, who was kidnapped while selling fish, before they could get their money. However, the first child of the woman out of two, Monsurat, refuted the report and revealed that their mother did not have any son, adding that the only male child by the woman died at infancy some months after birth. Nonetheless, a source within the family pointed out that the son might be mistaken for one of her tenant, who is a herbalist and had disappeared since the incident happened.

Without leaving the vulnerable group, a septuagenarian mother of five, Medinat Ala, was killed at her residence by suspected ritualists, who removed her womb, vag.ina and brea.sts at Okeagbe area of Ikare, the headquarters of Akoko north east council. The landlady, Ala, was attacked in the wee hours of the day and clubbed to death with pestle before they removed those vital organs from her body. It was learnt that a neighbour who wanted to rescue her was attacked too and later died in the hospital. According to sources, one of the tenants, Moses Olaniyi, is now in the police net as prime suspect to the crime, while the youths and community leaders are on the watch to stop a re-occurrence as there were two cases of such incidents in recent past.

Similarly, a 80-year old Mrs. Kajosla Mogaji, was also killed under same gruesome circumstance as her head was battered and found dead in a pool of blood the next morning.
(….)

Source: Opinion: Insecurity in Ondo and concept of ‘Abiku’ by Oluwadamilare Moriyeke

Mozambique – Events of 2017 (Human Rights Watch)

Pedro Francisco César continua à espera de notícias sobre o rapto do seu irmão /
Pedro Francisco César still hopes to get news about the kidnapping of his brother four years ago 

Published: 2018
By: Human Rights Watch

Attacks on Children and Adults with Albinism

The killings, kidnappings, and physical attacks against people with albinism continued, despite government efforts to stop the violence, including several arrests. In Mozambique and some neighboring countries, people with albinism are hunted for their body parts, which are used for witchcraft.

In March 2017, the United Nations independent expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, told the UN Human Rights Council that the situation of people with albinism in Mozambique “requires urgent and immediate attention.” She estimated that more than 100 attacks against people with albinism had occurred in Mozambique since 2014. Many of the victims are children. In September 2017, according to the police, a 17-year-old boy with albinism was killed and his brain removed, in Tete province. Four months earlier, police uncovered an attempt by two parents to sell their child with albinism in the same province. In June, the Malawian press reported that a 12-year-old Malawian boy with albinism had been killed in Mozambique, and police had arrested five people allegedly connected with the crime.

Source: Mozambique – Events of 2017 (Human Rights Watch)

Political map of Mozambique

Nigeria: Yahoo ritualists narrate how they killed DELSU first-class student Elozino Ogege

Published: November 29, 2018
by: Motolani Alake

Warning: You are about to read graphic details of the ritual killing of Elozino Ogege

Elozino Ogege
She approached them that she was looking for a house and they exploited her.

A few weeks ago, Pulse reported the death of Elozino Joshualia Ogege, a 300 Level First Class student of Mass Communication at Delta State University, after she was missing for two days. It was one of the many bad news emanating from DELSU over the past few weeks. 

When her body was found, her tongue and breasts were missing. Upon a search, it was revealed that two yahoo boys and a security guard had been arrested as suspects to her death. Today, the suspects, chief of whom is Onosa security guard have confessed to killing Ogege in graphic details.

According to Punch Metro Onos narrated, “I was contacted by Desmond (one of the Yahoo boys) and another to provide a female student for Yahoo ritual.

“So when Elozino approached me that she was looking for accommodation, I saw it as a good opportunity. I contacted Desmond who told me to tell her to come back the next day. So the next day, they brought a Toyota Corolla car; and when Elozino came, they used something on her face which made her unconscious.

“We took her to a bush where we first plucked out one of her eyes while she was still alive. She was even crying and begging us to forgive her and let her go, but we plucked the other eye, removed her breast and heart before she died.”

Onos also implicated one Uche Nwaosisi, his supervisor whom he revealed posted him to DELSU to carry out ritual killings like this. While Onos claims this is the fifth killing they have jointly perpetrated, he insisted that Ogege was the first killing around DELSU and Abraka. The first four victims were abducted at Oghara, Delta State, according to Onos.

Nwaosisi, employed by a security company attached to the DELSU, denied all the allegations.

Onos adds, “Each time we kill, we remove the vital organs and take to the herbalist Robinson, who usually would ask us to come back. Robinson used to burn the heart and pound it to make powder substance out of it. It is the powder that he gives us, which we apply before speaking to our victims to make money from them. Any big woman we approach obliges us and provides money for us.”

Reports claim that the second Yahoo boy slumped and died as the Police . Delta State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Andrew Aniamaka, revealed the suspects will soon be arraigned in court.

Source: Yahoo ritualists narrate how they killed DELSU first-class student

Related article:

3 days after DELSU student was declared missing, she is found dead with tongue and breast missing

This infamy happened three days after she was declared missing.

Published: November 19, 2018 – Refreshed November 20, 2018
By: Motolani Alake

A few weeks ago, Pulse reported the death of a beautiful woman with vital organs missing, while a wailing child was beside her. Three days ago, “missing” posts and news surfaced across Twitter and Facebook that Delta State University student Elozino Ogege could not be found. 

Over the past 24 hours, news made the rounds that Elozino Ogege had been found by residents along Ekrejeta road in Abraka Community, Ethiope-East Local Government Area of Delta State with her tongue and breasts missing.

According to Wuzup Naija, Delta State Acting Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Andrew Aniamaka said, “The family of the girl is going through excruciating pain. They have not been informed.”

With the complaints of ritual killings, murder, kidnappings, armed robbery, rape, and other issues on the rise in that vicinity, students suspect Ogege might have been killed for ritual purposes.

Chairman of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) Comrade Prince Kehinde-Taiga used the Daily Post to call for the redeployment of the state Commissioner of Police, CP Muhammad Mustafa whom he says has been sleeping on duty while atrocities have continued raging.

Taiga says, “The perpetrators must be brought to book without any form of compromise. The CP must wake up from his slumber because justice must be served.”

Investigations are still ongoing.

Source: 3 days after DELSU student was declared missing, she is found dead with tongue and breast missing

Nigeria – Delta State (in red)

Previous ritual murders, attacks targeting albinos in Burundi

Burundi has an ugly past with respect to the safety of people living with albinism – like other countries in the region, e.g. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Swaziland. I have counted more than 20 registered (!) attacks on albinos in Burundi since 2008, often deadly, but very likely the real number is much higher. Arrest of culprits and prosecution of accused are rare, possibly because of – according to rumors – the involvement of politically powerful people and rich businessmen and because some murderers commit their heinous crimes on command of principals in neighboring countries, notably Tanzania.

I have reproduced a number of these murders and other incidents. Burundi is a francophone country and many articles are in French. Therefore I have provided a summary in English of the French reports and articles. Unfortunately, a number of articles have disappeared from the web since 2008.

I have omitted ritualistic murders committed before 2008 in the overview presented below.(webmaster FVDK)

Ritual murder of albinos back again!
(In French)
Summary in English:
After one year of no murders, a 15-year old albino girl named Chantal has been found murdered in the Kabezi community, south of the capital Bujumbura, on May 6. Her death and mutilation brings the total number of reported cases since 2008 to over 20.
(…..)
According to the president of the organization ‘Albinos without borders’ (‘Albinos sans Frontières’) the killers slit the girl’s throat and dismembered her. A neighbor, Kassim Kazungu, affirms that Chantal is the 18th person murdered for ritual purposes in the community since 2008. The government of Burundi is blamed for doing nothing to protect its citizens and for being too passive after the escape from prison of a number of convicted ritual killers.
(….)

The original article, in French:

Le retour du meurtre d’albinos

Published: May 7, 2012
By: RFI

Au Burundi, après une année d’accalmie, un albinos a été tué dans la nuit de samedi à dimanche 6 mai dans la commune de Kabezi, au sud de Bujumbura. Chantal, une jeune fille albinos de 15 ans a été tuée par un groupe de criminels, puis affreusement mutilée. L‘association Albinos sans frontière, qui a déjà dénombré une vingtaine de crimes rituels d’albinos depuis 2008, condamne et met le gouvernement en face de « ses responsabilités ».

Ces tueurs, armés d’un fusil, de machettes et de lances, sont d’abord passés au domicile des parents de la jeune fille albinos, une dizaine de kilomètres au sud de Bujumbura. Ils ont obligé sa mère à les accompagner chez un de ses fils, où la jeune Chantal avait trouvé refuge.

Sous la menace, la mère a demandé à son fils de lui ouvrir, qui tout naturellement s’est exécuté. La suite est racontée par le président de l’association Albinos sans frontière, sur place hier matin. « Ils ont pris la fillette. Deux kilomètres après, ils ont égorgé la fillette, et ils ont décapité ses jambes et ses bras, on a trouvé la fillette jetée dans un fossé par ces malfaiteurs ».

Frustration, colère, désarroi. « Le choc est rude  », explique Kassim Kazungu après ce meurtre, le dix-huitième qui touche sa communauté en moins de quatre ans au Burundi, d’autant explique-t-il, que tous les assassins d’albinos, condamnés et regroupés dans la prison de Ruyigi dans l’est du Burundi, se sont évadés en 2011.

« Depuis 2008 au mois d’août jusqu’aujourd’hui, nous comptons dix-huit enfants albinos déjà massacrés. Nous pensons que l’Etat est impuissant, parce que s’il était puissant, à Ruyigi comme vous le savez, il y avait dix-huit personnes qui étaient condamnées, mais aujourd’hui il n’y a plus personne. Tous se sont évadés de la prison et nous, nous pensons que c’est eux-mêmes qui continuent ces massacres d’albinos. Nous demandons à l’Etat – où sont ces gens là qui avaient été condamnés à cause des massacres d’albinos ? »

Très gênées, plusieurs autorités burundaises contactées par RFI ont refusé de s’exprimer, en se réfugiant derrière le secret de l’instruction.

Source: Burundi : le retour du meurtre d’albinos

Then…. two years later:

Another ritual murder of an albino child in Burundi:
Nouveau meurtre rituel d’un albinos au Burundi

Albino children in parts of Africa are targeted by groups who believe their body parts bring luck (stock image)

Published: October 4, 2010
By: RFI Afrique / RFI

A 8-year old boy has been found dead and mutilated in the province of Ruyigi, near Tanzania. This brings the
total to eight murdered albinos and one still missing in the past four months.
(…)
Last May a 28-year old mother together with her 4-year oldd son were killed and mutilated for ritual purposes in the community of Cendajuru, also near the Tanzanian border.
(…)
SInce September 2008 14 albinos have been murdered in Burundi.
(…)

The original article:

Les albinos du Burundi sont sous le choc. Il y a un peu plus de 48 heures, un garçon albinos de 8 ans a été tué puis démembré, alors que les autorités pensaient avoir mis fin à ces crimes rituels qui avaient frappé jusqu’ici la province de Ruyigi, frontalière de la Tanzanie. Le président de l’association Albinos sans frontière du Burundi, Kassim Kazungu, exprime la terreur qui anime désormais les albinos et entend agir pour ne plus voir ce genre de crime.

Au Burundi, six albinos ont été tués et un septième porté disparu au cours des quatre derniers mois. Chacun des membres de cette communauté vit désormais dans la terreur d’être le prochain sur la liste. Aujourd’hui, des dizaines d’albinos ont fui leurs collines pour les villes où la sécurité est mieux assurée.

Selon Kassim Kazungu président de l’association Albinos sans frontière du Burundi  « il y a au moins 80 albinos qui sont déplacés de chez eux. Ils sont regroupés dans les chefs-lieux de communes et chefs-lieux de provinces».

Mais jusqu’ici, assure le président de l’association des Albinos sans frontière du Burundi, seules quelques associations leur viennent en aide alors que certains responsables administratifs menacent de chasser ces albinos. Kassim Kazungu affirme que « le gouvernement burundais ne fait rien, seulement des promesses et qu’il ne tient pas ».

Après ce nouvel assassinat d’un jeune albinos, un garçon de 8 ans tué à coups de machette puis amputé de ses bras et jambes, Kassim Kazungu ne décolère pas. Il appelle le pouvoir burundais à prendre exemple sur le voisin tanzanien où l’on est parvenu à mettre fin à ces assassinats rituels.

« En Tanzanie, le président lui-même a pris la situation en main. Les albinos de Tanzanie sont mieux traités, dit-il. Alors pourquoi pas chez nous ? Je demande alors au chef de l’Etat d’aider ces albinos. Si nous ne sommes pas les enfants de cette nation qu’on nous renvoie là d’où nous sommes venus ».

Huit personnes accusées au Burundi d’assassinats et tentatives d’assassinats d’albinos ont été condamnées à des peines allant de un an de prison à la perpétuité en juillet 2009.

L’ONG canadienne « Under the same sun » (Sous le même soleil) a dénoncé en mai dernier l’assassinat et la mutilation le 2 mai d’une mère de 28 ans et de son fils de 4 ans, tous deux albinos, dans la commune de Cendajuru, près de la frontière tanzanienne, portant à 14 le nombre d’albinos tués au Burundi depuis septembre 2008. Ces albinos auraient été victimes d’un trafic d’organes vers la Tanzanie voisine où certaines parties de leurs corps serviraient à confectionner des charmes qui apportent la richesse à leurs possesseurs.

De son côté, le chanteur Salif Keita préside l’Association solidarité pour l’insertion des albinos du Mali. La mission de cette structure est de chercher des solutions aux problèmes que rencontrent les albinos dans la société. Son action se fonde sur l’égalité des chances et la solidarité.

Les albinos souffrent d’une maladie génétique caractérisée par une absence de pigmentation de la peau, des poils, des cheveux et des yeux. Ils sont victimes de discriminations dans de nombreuses régions d’Afrique.

Source: Nouveau meurtre rituel d’un albinos au Burundi


Jail over Burundi albino killings
Published: July 23, 2009, 6:23 GMT
By: BBC News

One person has been sentenced to life in prison and eight others to jail in Burundi over the murder of albinos whose remains were sold for witchcraft.

Three other suspects were acquitted by the court in Ruyigi province over the the killings of at least 12 albinos.

The victims were mutilated and their body parts sold in neighbouring Tanzania for use in potions.

In addition to the killing of albinos in Burundi, more than 40 have been killed in Tanzania.

In addition to the life sentence, those convicted were jailed for between one and 15 years.

The trial is believed to be the first linked to a spate of albino killings in East Africa since 2007.

Witchdoctors in the region claim potions made with albino body parts will bring those who use them luck in love, life and business.

An association campaigning for the rights of albinos in Burundi says the authorities are now taking the killings seriously, but more needs to be done.

At least 200 people have been arrested over the trade in Tanzania, but none has been convicted.

Source: Jail over Burundi albino killings


Regional parliament decries albino killings

Published: May 30, 2009
By: The Citizen, Tanzanian online newspaper

The East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) has decried the killing of albinos in the region and urged “tougher measures” to stop the ritual murders and protect albinos. (…) At the ongoing meeting of the regional parliament in Bujumbura, Burundi, MPs from the five EAC member states called for regional cooperation to protect albinos victimised by superstitious fortune seekers.
(…)
The killings are rampant in some parts of Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania.
(…)
The legislators said while “considerable progress” had been made on human rights issues in the EA region, the current killings and hostility portrayed towards the albino community showed there was still a long way to go in achieving the full respect for human rights.

Source: Regional parliament decries albino killings
Unfortunately, the original article has disappeared from the web.


Alleged albino killers on trial in East Africa

Published: March 20, 2009 (updated 12:23 am)
By: Africa correspondent Andrew Geoghegan

Eleven people accused of murdering 12 albinos in East Africa have gone on trial.

A recent spate of albino killings has seen at least 50 people across East Africa murdered and those on trial in Burundi are accused of killing 12 of them.

There is a widespread belief in the region that African albinos, who lack pigment in their skin and appear white, are cursed.

Some witchdoctors have encouraged the killings and police believe body parts are traded for use in witchcraft.

Human rights campaigners have accused police of failing to act on the murders.

Two hundred people connected to the trade in body parts have been arrested in Tanzania but no one has been convicted.

Source: Alleged albino killers on trial in East Africa


Burundian albino murders denied
Published: May 19, 2009
By: BBC News


The trial has begun in Burundi of 11 defendants accused of attacking and killing 12 albino people, starting with the murder of a young girl.

It is thought to be the first trial linked to the recent spate of albino killings in East Africa, which has claimed more than 50 lives.

The 11 denied charged of murder and attempted murder.

Police believe albino body parts are smuggled out of Burundi and sold in Tanzania, to be used in witchcraft.

Magic potions

If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced to life in prison.

Witchdoctors in the region tell clients that potions made with albino body parts will bring them luck in love, life and business.

In addition to the killing of albinos in Burundi, more than 40 albinos have been killed in Tanzania.

An association campaigning for the rights of albinos in Burundi says the authorities are now taking the killings seriously, but more needs to be done.

At least 200 people have been arrested over the trade in Tanzania, but none has been convicted.

Source: Burundian albino murders denied


Burundi: Progress in the ‘albino cases’

Translated:

Burundi: Des progrès dans les “affaires d’albinos”

Published: March 15, 2009
By: ? (see: ‘Source’)

Huit personnes trouvées à leurs domiciles en possession d’ossements humains censés provenir d’albinos assassinés ont été arrêtés dans la province de Ruyigi, dans l’est du Burundi. Selon le parquet local, les personnes interpellées ont été dénoncées par deux autres suspects arrêtés ayant avoué avoir assassiné deux albinos.

Deux pays d’Afrique des Grands Lacs notamment – le Burundi et la Tanzanie voisine – connaissent ces derniers mois une vague de meurtres rituels d’albinos alimentée par un commerce macabre. Les organes d’individus souffrant d’albinisme – absence de pigments colorants de la peau – sont très recherchés des sorciers et autres fétichistes parce qu’ils sont censés porter chance en amour et en affaires notamment.

Source: Burundi: Des progrès dans les “affaires d’albinos”
Unfortunately, the original French article has disappeared from the web.


Burundi arrests eight for albino killings

Published: March 15, 2009
Reporting by Patrick Nduwimana, editing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura / Reuters

BUJUMBURA, March 15 (Reuters) – Burundi has arrested eight people found with human bones suspected of belonging to albinos, a government official said on Sunday.

The tiny east African nation and neighbouring Tanzania have been convulsed by a spate of ritual albino murders fuelled by a body parts trade. Witchdoctors tell clients that albino parts will bring them luck in love, life and business.

“Before arresting them, we did a search and found human bones in their houses,” said Nicodeme Gahimbare, a public prosecutor in the eastern Ruyigi province.

“The eight were denounced by two other detained people who have already confessed to killing two albinos,” Gahimbare said.

Albinism is a condition that causes a lack of pigment in the eyes, skin or hair, which makes patients especially vulnerable to skin cancer and burns, and makes life particularly difficult in sun-drenched Africa.

Since last year, 11 albinos have been killed in Burundi. Forty others have been murdered in Tanzania since mid-2007.

Kazungu Kassim, the head of a Burundi albino association, said: “Authorities have now realised that the killing of albinos is a serious matter which needs concrete action.

“We urge the government to double efforts in protecting albinos, because what we are witnessing here is a planned extermination of the albino community.”

There are about 200 albinos in the nation of 8 million people.

Source: Burundi arrests eight for albino killings


Albino boy killed
Un garçon albinos tué

Stock image

This article is only available in French. It is preceeded by a short abridged version in English.

Bujumbura (AFP) – Another albino boy was murdered, this time in the Muruta community, in Kayanza Province (about 90 km north of the capital Bujumbura. “The people of the region found the body of a boy of eight or ten years old who was killed and whose legs and arms had been cut off. (….)”. On February 24, a six-year-old boy had been murdered and dismembered in the same Kayanza Province.

The recent killing brings the total number of ritual murders of albinos to nine in the past five moths.
(…)

Below the original French version:

Burundi: un garçon albinos tué

Published: March 9, 2009

Bujumbura (AFP) — Un garçon albinos a été tué et mutilé dans le nord du Burundi, dernier cas d’une série de meurtres rituels visant les albinos dans ce pays et en Tanzanie voisine, a-t-on appris lundi de source administrative. Ce nouveau meurtre a eu lieu dans la commune de Muruta, dans la province de Kayanza (environ 90 km au nord de la capitale Bujumbura).
“La population a découvert hier (dimanche) le corps d’un garçon albinos de huit à dix ans, qui a été tué et dont les bras et les jambes ont été coupés”, a rapporté à l’AFP Geneviève Ntawiha, administrateur de la commune de Muruta.

Unfortunately, the original French article has disappeared from the web.

Another murder case:

Au Burundi, la traque des albinos
The hunt for albinos in Burundi

This article is only available in French.
It relates of the plight of the albinos in Burundi where since September 2008 five albinos have been murdered for ritual purposes.

Nicodème Gahimbare, in Ruyigi, in the east of the country, tells how seven bandits invaded the house, and while three of them threatened the family with their AK-47, four bandits dismembered the albinos of the family – alive – in a horrific scene. They started with the arms, then the legs, and finally the head.

Au Burundi, la traque des albinos / The hunt for albinos in Burundi

Stock image

Published: December 22, 2008
By: Pierre Lepidi – ENVOYÉ SPÉCIAL BUJUMBARA (Le Monde)

Dans la région des Grands Lacs, on les appelle “les enfants du soleil” : ils portent chance. Leurs corps sont recherchés par les sorciers. Cinq meurtres ont été commis depuis septembre, dans d’effroyables conditions

Cette nuit-là, les machettes étaient aiguisées. “Sept bandits ont fait irruption dans la maison, raconte Nicodème Gahimbare, procureur de Ruyigi, province située à l’est du Burundi. Trois ont menacé la famille avec des kalachnikovs, pendant que les quatre autres découpaient l’albinos, qui était toujours vivant. Ils ont commencé par les bras puis ont tranché les jambes et enfin la tête. L’un d’entre eux recueillait le sang dans un bidon… Puis, ils sont repartis en laissant dans la pièce ce qui restait du corps.” Depuis septembre, les albinos du Burundi sont victimes d’une traque effroyable, sordide et insensée. Cinq meurtres, plus abominables les uns que les autres, ont déjà été commis. Hommes ou femmes, garçons ou fillettes, les albinos sont devenus bien malgré eux les cibles d’un marché fort lucratif.

On ne compte plus les légendes africaines qui entourent les albinos, victimes d’une maladie génétique qui se caractérise par une absence de pigmentation de la peau, des poils, des cheveux et des yeux. Mi-hommes, mi-dieux, selon les régions, leur “blancheur” pourrait apporter toutes sortes de pouvoirs, bénéfiques ou maléfiques. Au Cameroun, au Mali et dans d’autres pays du continent, on attribue à ces “enfants blancs” nés de parents noirs des forces surnaturelles. “Ici, dans la région des Grands Lacs, nous sommes considérés comme les enfants du soleil, de la chance, explique avec un air de dégoût Cassim Kazungu, président de l’Association des albinos du Burundi. Alors, certains sorciers, principalement originaires de Tanzanie, racontent que s’ils mélangent nos os et notre sang à certaines potions magiques, ils seront capables de confectionner des gris-gris pour obtenir de l’or, de la chance ou une éternelle jeunesse. On nous assassine pour des histoires de sorcellerie…”

C’est principalement sur les bords du lac Victoria que seraient nées ces légendes. Autour du plus grand lac africain, on raconte, par exemple, que verser du sang d’albinos sur une mine d’or pourrait suffire à faire jaillir des pépites, sans même avoir à creuser la terre. Chez les pêcheurs, on soutient que le fait d’appâter les eaux du lac avec un bras ou une jambe découpée sur un corps d’albinos permettrait d’attraper de gros poissons, le ventre gorgé d’or…

En attendant, c’est l’appât du gain qui nourrit ces massacres humains. “L’un des bandits qui a été arrêté après un meurtre a dit qu’on lui avait promis 1 million de franc burundais (650 euros), explique Cassim Kazungu. La peau des albinos vaut une fortune et nous sommes dans un pays où les gens ont faim… Il faudrait que le gouvernement prenne des mesures très sévères à l’encontre des tueurs.” Deux hommes ont déjà été condamnés à la peine capitale, mais celle-ci est en passe d’être abolie, ce qui accroît l’angoisse des albinos.

Sur les rives du lac Tanganyika, où l’espérance de vie est de 43 ans, où l’indice de développement humain (IDH) classe le pays à la 169e place mondiale (sur 177), la guerre civile, qui a opposé les ethnies hutu et tutsi entre 1993 et 2006, a fait près de 300 000 morts. La tension ethnique est aujourd’hui retombée et, jour après jour, la paix avance. Jeudi 4 décembre, un accord de cessez-le-feu, conclu avec tous les autres mouvements rebelles en 2006, a été signé entre le gouvernement et le FNL (Forces nationales de libération), le dernier groupe en activité. Mais les massacres ethniques ont laissé des séquelles psychologiques irréversibles, inquantifiables, et une économie en lambeaux. Le soir, dans certains quartiers de Bujumbura, la capitale, on raconte qu’il suffit de “10 000 francs “bou”” (6,50 euros) pour acheter la vie d’un homme…

C’est en Tanzanie, pays de 40 millions d’habitants qui borde le Burundi à l’est, que les premiers meurtres ont été commis. Depuis le début de l’année, il y en aurait déjà eu une trentaine, alimentant des réseaux dirigés par certains notables. Le Parlement européen a adopté, le 3 septembre, une résolution condamnant “vigoureusement” l’assassinat d’albinos dans ce pays.

Les autorités tanzaniennes ont pris des mesures de protection, comme l’instauration d’un recensement et la mise en place d’un service d’escorte pour les enfants se rendant à l’école. Le gouvernement a surtout annoncé que des sanctions très sévères, allant jusqu’à la peine de mort, seraient prises contre toute personne mêlée à ces crimes rituels. Quelques trafiquants et une cinquantaine de sorciers auraient été arrêtés dans la foulée.

L’apparition de cette traque sur le sol burundais pourrait résulter des mesures prises en Tanzanie. Les frontières sont poreuses, surtout lorsque les trafics génèrent des sommes colossales… “Le gouvernement tanzanien a agi rapidement en faisant du meurtre des albinos un crime puni de la peine capitale, a déclaré Olalekan Ajia, responsable de l’Unicef au Burundi, le 19 novembre. Du coup, les sorciers et autres charlatans sont partis pour le Burundi.” Le retour de 100 000 réfugiés burundais vivant dans des camps le long de la frontière tanzanienne est une autre hypothèse avancée.

Jusque-là épargné, le Burundi, qui recense près de 150 albinos sur une population de 8 millions d’habitants, déplore donc aujourd’hui 5 meurtres et un disparu. Début décembre, un homme en tenue militaire armé d’une machette a tenté une agression. Il a été arrêté par le père de l’albinos, qui a été sérieusement blessé lors de l’altercation. Roué de coups par les gens du village, l’agresseur est décédé le lendemain.

Les albinos du Burundi vivent la peur au ventre. “Je ne sors plus de chez moi car, même si la capitale est pour l’instant épargnée, je me sens en insécurité, lâche Pascal, 28 ans, un habitant de Bujumbura. Mais je suis bien obligé d’aller faire mes courses… Sur le trottoir, les gens disent en me regardant : “Regardez, le beau paquet d’argent qui déambule !” D’autres stoppent leur voiture à ma hauteur et me menacent : “Tu vaux l’équivalent de trois camionnettes, on va te vendre en morceaux…” Nous vivons un véritable cauchemar.” Quelques ruelles plus loin, Nathalie, 25 ans, n’est guère plus sereine. “La situation est très difficile et j’ai peur, dit-elle. Mais je suis surtout très inquiète pour ceux qui vivent à l’extérieur de la capitale.”Rien n’arrête les tueurs. Pour découper les membres d’une adolescente de 16 ans, tuée quelques jours plus tôt, certains sont allés jusqu’à déterrerdeux fois son cadavre…

Lorsque les premiers meurtres ont été commis, dans la région de Ruyigi, à mi-chemin entre Bujumbura et la frontière tanzanienne, Nicodème Gahimbare, procureur de la province, a parcouru la région pour proposeraux albinos de les héberger chez lui. L’homme a pris des risques pour assurer leur protection. Il a payé de sa poche, aussi. “Il fallait vraiment faire quelque chose pour ces gens, dit-il. Les atrocités des attaques se propageaient à travers les villages, et ils vivaient de plus en plus dans l’angoisse… Dans une même famille, je me souviens qu’il y en avait quatre ! Plus loin, un curé a accepté que je lui en confie quelques-uns… Pendant une semaine, j’en ai hébergé huit. Très vite, on a atteint la vingtaine ! Il en arrivait presque tous les jours des villages alentour…”

Le gouvernement s’est alors penché sur leur sort. Les ONG, les pouvoirs publics et la communauté internationale se sont mobilisés. L’ambassade de France a été l’une des premières à réagir en envoyant des vivres et des matelas dans la maison. L’Union européenne a fait parvenir à Ruyigi des vêtements et des chapeaux pour protéger leur peau, sur laquelle se forment des croûtes après des expositions prolongées au soleil. “Ils vivaient dans des conditions d’hygiène déplorables, confie un Français qui a fait quelques visites à Ruyigi dans un but humanitaire. La maison, qui n’avait ni eau ni électricité, possédait seulement 3 chambres. J’y ai compté 34 albinos…”

Début décembre, une nouvelle demeure a été trouvée. Elle n’est toujours pas raccordée à l’eau et à l’électricité, mais elle est plus spacieuse puisqu’elle compte 10 chambres. On y trouve 39 “enfants du soleil”, âgés de 6 mois à 62 ans, auxquels il faut ajouter 6 accompagnateurs (parents, frères ou soeurs). Le loyer est pris en charge par le gouvernement et non plus par l’Association des albinos, “dont les comptes sont totalement vides”, indique le président.

L’Etat s’est engagé à prendre à sa charge les 8 policiers, contre 4 auparavant, qui assurent la sécurité de la maison. “On pensait que la situation durerait quelques mois, mais elle perdure, déplore Nicodème Gahimbare. Un jeune albinos est retourné dans son village, mais il s’est fait attaquer dans sa propre maison. Ceux qui sont sous notre protection ont tellement peur de rentrer qu’ils ne veulent plus repartir…”

Le gouvernement burundais, avec l’appui de la communauté internationale, vient de lancer plusieurs campagnes de sensibilisation à travers le pays. Mais s’il faudra du temps pour enseigner la tolérance, il en faudra encore plus pour faire taire les croyances. “Autrefois, on disait qu’un albinos qui naissait de parents noirs portait forcément malheur, car il était l’enfant d’une mère volage, lâche Cassim Kazungu. Il était rejeté et vivait comme un marginal, un laissé-pour-compte. Maintenant, on fait croire aux gens que nous portons chance. Alors, on nous massacre !”

Source: Au Burundi, la traque des albinos


6-year-Old Albino Girl Killed for Body Parts

Published: November 19, 2008
By: ? See below (‘Source’)

The following is an excerpt from the original 2008 article which has since disappeared from the web:

(…)
In Ruyigi province, Burundi, a 6-year-old girl, named Cizanye, was murdered in front of her family because she was an albino. A gang of armed bandits broke into the family home; they tied up the girl’s parents and shot the little girl in the head. They then cut off her head and both her arms and legs and left with the body parts. The attack took place at the family’s home in Bugongo, more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) east of the capital Bujumbura. Police said they suspected criminals of hunting albinos to sell their organs and limbs to witch doctors in Tanzania who use them for lucky charms.

“This little girl is the third albino victim of such barbaric crimes in our province since September. We are doing everything we can to find the killers,” Ruyigi province prosecutor Nicodeme Gahimbare said.
(…)
In the meantime, officials in eastern Burundi said that 24 albinos have fled their villages and gone into towns for fear of slaughter. Msembo said many albino children were dropping out of school for fear of being kidnapped. Many albinos have sought refuge in urban centers, which are relatively safer. She said “They are cutting us up like chickens” while pointing to a picture on a wall in her cramped office of a limbless body with the skin on its face peeled off from an incident in 2007.

Source: 6-year-Old Albino Girl Killed for Body Parts 
(linked disappeared in cyberspace)

The following BBC article refers to the same incident:


Albino girl killed for body parts

Published: November 17, 2008
By: BBC News

A six-year-old albino girl in Burundi has been found dead with her head and limbs removed, in the latest killing linked to ritual medicine.

Albinos in the region have been targeted because of a belief peddled by witchdoctors that their body parts can be used for magic potions.

The girl, who was attacked on Sunday, was the sixth person with albinism to be killed in Burundi since September.

There have also been a number of attacks in neighbouring Tanzania.

The latest attack took place in Burundi’s eastern province of Ruyigi.

The BBC’s Prime Ndikumagenge in Burundi said the child and her family had only just returned to their family home.

Armed attackers broke into the family home and tied up the girl’s parents before shooting her in the head, local officials say.

They had been among a group of about 50 people with albinism to have fled to a provincial centre because they feared for her safety.

The head of the Burundi Albinos’ Association, Kasim Kazungu, says people with albinism had not suffered any discrimination until other Burundians heard about the lucrative trade in albino body parts in neighbouring Tanzania.

Last week, police in south-western Tanzania arrested a man who was attempting to sell his albino wife to Congolese traders.

Two mothers in western Tanzania were also attacked with machetes after gangs failed to find their albino children.

Source: Albino girl killed for body parts

eSwatini: Security fears keep 250 pupils away from school (Swaziland)

Swaziland King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, has renamed his country ‘the Kingdom of eSwatini’.

On April 18, 2018 King Mswati III of Swaziland announced that he was renaming the country ‘the Kingdom of eSwatini’. The new name, eSwatini, means ‘land of the Swazis’.

King Mswati III is Africa’s last absolute monarch. He is being criticized by human rights organizations and activists for not allowing political parties and discriminating against women. See e.g. Richard Rooney’s blog.

King Mswati is known for his many wives, 15 – though this is much less than the number of wives his father, King Sobhuza II, had: 125 – and for his adherence to traditional dress (see picture below).

Ritual murder especially of children is a common experience in the Kingdom of eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland. The number of ritual murders increases at election time. As reported earlier (see my June 19 posting), in 2003, King Mswati III urged Swaziland’s politicians not to engage in ritual killings to boost their chances. Five years later, Prime Minister Absalom Themba Dlamini issued a similar warning (2008).

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.”

So far, about 45 people have been abducted, killed and mutilated in countrywide attacks that are believed to be associated with ritual activities ahead of parliamentary elections later this year (read article below).

(webmaster FVDK)

King Mswati III, centre, has ruled the country for more than 30 years (since 1986).

eSwatini: Security fears keep 250 pupils away from school

Published: June 18, 2018
APA News, Journal du Cameroun.com

Some 250 pupils from one community in eSwatini have abandoned school over fears linked to the recent spate of ritual kidnappings and murders.

Residents of Mafutseni, about 50km from Manzini, decided to withdraw their children from schools following incidents of attempted murder in the space of two weeks.

“At least residents pulled their children out of school and did not take the law into their own hands by hunting and killing the murder suspects,” said community headman, Mamilela Maphosa.

The first incident occurred two weeks ago when a 15-year-old boy was captured by three men and his throat slot in an attempted murder apparently over ritual purposes.

The boy escaped and is currently admitted to a hospital.

The other case involved a community policeman who fled from an attack by three men whom he believed wanted to abduct him last week.

The two incidents forced parents of pupils at a nearby primary school to keep their children at home until they were assured of their safety.

On Tuesday residents held a march around the area carrying placards that condemned such acts.

So far, about 45 people have been abducted, killed and mutilated in countrywide attacks that are believed to be associated with ritual activities ahead of parliamentary elections later this year.

Source: eSwatini: Security fears keep 250 pupils away from school
JournalDuCameroun, June 28, 2018.

Also read my June 18 (2018) posting.

Swaziland, or ‘the kingdom of eSwatini’ as the country is being named since April 2018, is a landlocked country and smaller than the US state of New Jersey.

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

Fear of ritual killings grows in Swaziland

Richard Rooney’s blog on Swazi Media Commentary, Information and commentary in support of human rights in Swaziland is one of te best, if not the best, source of information on Swaziland and the archaic rule of king Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland.

The site contains precious information and commentary about human rights in Swaziland.
(webmaster FVDK)

Fear of being kidnapped and killed for ritual purposes made 258 children of the Mafutseni Children’s Care Point stay home on Monday.

Published: Thursday, 14 June 218

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

Something close to panic has gripped Swaziland / Eswatini as the fear that children will be kidnapped and ritually murdered has taken hold.

The Swazi Observer reported on Thursday (14 June 2018) that 258 children absconded from school at Mafutseni Children’s Cup Care Point in fear of being kidnapped and killed.

It reported one of the teachers Zine Mkhwanazi told a meeting of parents children were afraid to go to the school because of an incident in May where a 16-year-old boy escaped from three knife-wielding men who had cornered him in a forest and tried to slice his throat in what was believed to be a ritual murder attempt. The boy escaped and was admitted to hospital.

The newspaper reported Mkhwanazi said what happened scared everyone, more so, because the attempt on the boy was made at a spot children pass on their way to school.

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (12 June 2018) that parents were now trailing their children wherever they go. ‘It is said some of the parents even accompany their children to Sunday school, just to make sure prowling killers do not go near them,’ it reported. Parents also go with their children to school.

This has happened after reports, many unconfirmed, that children across Swaziland are being abducted and ritually murdered. Body parts are then said to be used in muti to create spells to bring good luck. There is a belief that some people are doing this to help them win seats in the forthcoming National Assembly election.

The Observer quoted one concerned parent saying, ‘Elections are a curse to some of us as that’s the period where children go missing. It’s bad that such incidents are now associated with the elections and it paints a bad picture of the country because in the eyes of the world we are known as a nation where ritual murders are rife during elections.’

Another parent said, ‘There is fear that when we let our children leave school on their own, that places them in danger.’

The Times of Swaziland reported on Thursday (14 June 2018) an alleged ritual killer was assaulted by a mob and set on fire at Mafutseni. It happened after a man made a joke that his own blood was not fit to be used as muti. A mob singled him out as a ritual killer because he appeared to have knowledge about how blood was used to make spells. It added the incident happened about a month after one of the man’s relative went missing.

Source: Fear of Ritual Killings Grows, June 14, 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.

Swaziland: Campaign to educate on albinism

There are also positive and encouraging newspaper reports and blogs, like e.g. Richard Rooney’s post on Swazi Media Commentary, Information and commentary in support of human rights in Swaziland. On March 30, 2018 Richard Rooney published the following report on ‘A campaign to educate on albinism in Swaziland’. Also in other African countries, people rise up against ritualistic killings and related human rights violations, e.g. in Gabon.

‘Freedom of fear is a human right;  rule of law an obligation of the state’. The answer to ritualistic killings in the short term is the rule of law – but the only real answer to these heinous crimes is EDUCATION.
(webmaster FVDK)

Like many people living with albinism in Swaziland, Albert fears for his life.

CAMPAIGN TO EDUCATE ON ALBINISM

BY RICHARD ROONEY
SWAZI MEDIA COMMENTARY – INFORMATION AND COMMENTARY ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN SWAZILAND
Published: March 30, 2018

A campaign has started in Swaziland called ‘Don’t kill us, we are human beings too’ to raise awareness about people with albinism.

People in Swaziland with the skin condition live in fear of their lives as some traditional healers, witchdoctors and others use their body parts in spells to bring good luck.

The Stukie Motsa Foundation is now using social media to dispel the false belief that people with albinism cleanse back 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. An election is due in Swaziland later in 2018.

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.’

At present, a Swazi traditional healer is in police custody in South Africa for allegedly killing two children from Vosman near Witbank, one of them living with albinism. The South African Deputy Minister for Social Development, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said the killing of people living with albinism by people believed to be Swazis has become a national crisis in her home country.

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (27 March 2018), ‘The deputy minister said she wanted to know what Swaziland was doing to stop the killing of people living with albinism. She also stated that some of these people were quitting their jobs and schools in fear of being kidnapped.’

Albinism affects the production of melanin, the pigment that colours skin, hair and eyes. It’s a lifelong condition, but it doesn’t get worse over time. People with albinism have a reduced amount of melanin, or no melanin at all. This can affect their colouring and their eyesight. Albinism is caused by faulty genes that a child inherits from their parents.

See also :
PEOPLE WITH ALBINISM WANT PROTECTION

Source: A campaign to educate on albinism, March 30, 2018

More on Swazi Media Commentary (source: Pambazuka News):
Swazi Media Commentary: Telling the truth about Swaziland
by Peter Kenworthy | February 2, 2011

Related article on albinism in Swaziland: Why Albert is living in fear