The articles reproduced below show the perversity of ritual murders in Nigeria, usually for purposes of ‘money rituals’. Ritual murderers, who resort to human sacrifices to become rich or famous, are criminals, there is no doubt about it. What happens nowadays in Nigeria, and also in other Sub-Saharan countries where notably albino people are targeted, shows even a different kind of ritual murderers. They kill purely for material gain, to sell human body parts thus obtained. A repulsive practice, which in this case is based on the superstition of the buyer of the body parts. A crucial role is played by the ritualist or traditional doctor, the witch doctor, as is shown by the articles below. They should all be locked up, but – even more important – people should be educated that there is no place for superstition in the 21st century. (webmaster FVDK)
How I killed children, sold their body parts to ritualists – Suspect confesses
Published: July 3, 2020 By: Daily Post Nigeria – Fikayo Owololagba
The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Oyo State Command, has arrested a 29-year-old, suspect over alleged kidnapping and murder.
The suspect was arrested after the police received a tip-off from commercial motorcycle riders around the area.
The command’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Olufemi Adetunji, disclosed this to newsmen on Friday, at the NIS office, Agodi-Gate, Ibadan, while handing over the suspect to the police command in the state.
The suspect whose identity was not revealed in an interview with NAN confessed that he was not only involved in duping, but also in kidnapping and selling of human parts to ritualists.
He confessed that he enticed children with biscuits on the streets and lured them into their cars.
The suspect, a resident of Beere, Oje area in Ibadan was a member of a gang of nine, comprised of two females and seven males that carry out operations.
He added that he had killed at least two children, and sold their parts to suspected ritualists.
“We have a car which we use for kidnapping. We buy biscuits and other things and keep them in the car, which we used to entice the children.
“Anytime we see little children walking on the road unaccompanied by an adult, we entice them with biscuits and quickly put them in the car and zoom off.
“We later kill the kidnapped children and sell their parts to the ritualists,” he added.
‘We kill children, sell their body parts’ – suspect confesses as he was arrested by Immigration officer
Published: July 3, 2020 By: Opera News
The Nigerian Immigration services has arrested a 29-year-old suspect, Lekan Raheem, for killing and selling children’s body parts to ritualists. After his arrest, the suspects confessed that his gang had killed some children and sold their body parts for ritual purposes. According to the suspect, the Ritualist require the body parts for ritual purposes.
The suspect made the confession to the Nigerian Immigration services after being interogated. After the confession, he was handed over to the police. According to the confessional statement of the suspect, him and his gang usually lure innocent children with biscuits and kidnapped them.
The suspect confessed that he was not only involved in duping people, but he also kidnapped, kill and selling human parts to ritualists. According to reports, the suspect lives at Oje area of Ibadan. The gang members includes 9 members including 2 females and 7 males.
The suspect went on to say that anytime his gang members see little children walking alone, they lure them with biscuits. The children are quickly dragged into their car and they quickly take them away. The Oyo State Nigerian Immigration services Public Relations Officer, Olufemi Adetunji disclosed that the suspect was arrested following a tip off by some people.
Warning: the article reproduced below contains graphic details of the heinous crime committed (webmaster FVDK).
Successful surgery of boy rescued from ritual sacrifice
Published: February 25, 2020 By: Uganda Christian News
Robert Mukwaya suffered severe spinal injuries in 2014, it was thought he would never walk again.
He had been resting in his grandmother’s kitchen in Mukono district when a witch doctor heartlessly dragged him out of the room and stabbed him in the neck, leaving him with a spinal damage and feet permanently facing down.
Robert was left paralysed, but the surgery he had on 20th February, 2020 at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Salt Lake City, USA might change his story.
Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, a Christian charity organisation founded by Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga issued a statement saying the young man’s surgery was “all success.”
He had a “big operation on his hip, foot and hands” among other areas.
“More prayers for healing,” the statement read. “He has done very well this brave and strong miracle gem! His post operation recovery is longer, but doctors are confident in helping him improve.”
Kyampisi Childcare Ministries helps child sacrifice survivors and their families rebuild their lives and overcome the trauma. The organization has helped over ten victims since its creation in 2009.
In an update shared online, Ms Anne Mitchell who interacted with Robert in USA before his Thursday surgery had this to say:
“Robert was unfortunately cut in his neck by a witch doctor. He was left with many issues especially in walking and using his arms. He was left a partial quadriplegic. Hopefully his surgery can allow him to walk and move much better. He will need considerable rehabilitation, but Robert is a wonderful resilient boy. Praying for the best outcome possible.”
Since 2014 Robert has undergone a series of operations, all aimed at seeing him walk again. In 2017, he has surgery performed at the John Hunter Hospital in Australia.
“On that day I left him alone at home and went to the church to pray, when I came back I found him laying on a mat in a pool of blood,” Robert’s grand mother, Yowani Nakiwala told Transterra Media earlier. “His neck was almost falling off, the doctors worked on him and dressed him with a collar around his neck.”
Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga told Transterra Media: “The condition we find them is quite sad, those that die, we find their bodies completely a part – they cut the head and drain the blood – They can cut the stomach and take the organs out of their bodies. They are shocking incidences, shocking pictures. Those that survive need huge medical attention.”
“Children are sacrifice because there is a growing belief that when you sacrifice a child, you get wealth, you get protection, you get healing and this belief which is a lie has spread all over the country and there has not been a tiger reaction from the Government or from people concerned to be able to educate masses that you don’t have to kill a child to get wealth or you don’t have to kill a child to get protection. Wealth comes from hard work, protection comes from God and because people are desperately poor and desperately in need of wealth issues, there is a witch-doctor in the community who claims to bring healing, to bring joy and happiness and blessings – the people go to that person and they are lied and they are sent for body parts of children,” Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga said.
Also see my posts dated August 30, 2018 – “Get rid of this evil”: High Court judge calls govt to ban all shrines in Uganda – and August 20, 2018 – We wanted wealth!’ Four witch doctors arrested over ritual murders tell Police and and more articles – on the ritual murders in Kayunga District (webmaster FVDK).
Published: November 12, 2019 By: Jalira Namyalo
One of the persons implicated in ritual killing and burial of five people in a shrine in Kisoga Village, Nazigo Sub-county in Kayunga District has been sentenced to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty. Joseph Kibuuka, alias Junior, pleaded guilty to murder charges but court reduced the charge to being an accessory to the murder under the plea bargain process.
After the sentencing, Kibuuka turned into a prosecution witness. He entered the witness box and testified against the five other accused persons with whom he had been indicted for murder of five people among them Zulaika Nansamba Mirembe.
Other suspects are Ssebuyungo alias Owen Sonko (witchdoctor/ herbalist); Muhammad Wamala alias Vincent Bob; James Lutwama; Fred Kiiza Ssemanda and Issa Walakira.
In his testimony, Kibuuka said the deceased Mirembe came to Ssebuyungo’s shrine one evening in May and they had a meal with her and Wamala in a trading centre before going back to Ssebuyungo’s shrine.
“At around 9pm, we (Wamala, Mirembe and Barbara, a sister of Ssebuyungo) drove back and they dropped me at my place near Ssebuyungo’s shrine. Wamala told me not to close the door because he was to sleep at my place but he did not come. In the morning when I went to clean the shrine, I found a fresh grave and did not see Mirembe. I was scared and feared to say anything,” Kibuuka narrated. According to Kibuuka, after sometime Ssebuyungo and Wamala had disagreements which prompted Wamala to report a case of murder to police.
He said it is Wamala who trained Ssebuyungo in witchcraft but could not tell how other bodies were buried in the same shrine. He said he worked at the shrine for few months as a cleaner.
Pastor receives funding boost for iconic rehab centre for child sacrifice survivors
Together, we will end child sacrifice, Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga says.
Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga who runs Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, a Christian charity seeking to stamp out child sacrifice in Uganda, has received a cash donation of $134,225 (approximately Ush491 million) for a rehabilitation centre expected to be a safe place for children who have been victims of child sacrifice and trafficking.
Pastor Peter received the funds from the Bruce Campbell Entrepreneurial Business School whose founder and Principal Business Coach, Mr Bruce Campbell, has been extensively awarded for his work through various international bodies.
This happened in Australia over the weekend.
“We are humbled by the incredible continuous support of the Bruce Campbell Entrepreneurial Business School,” Kyampisi Childcare Ministries said in an update on Sunday.
“Thank you for this generosity, partnering with us in our efforts to build a new Trauma Rehabilitation Centre for kids abused through Child sacrifice and trafficking. What a community full of love and compassion. Together we will End Child Sacrifice,” they added.
Pastor Peter takes care of several child survivors of trafficking and human sacrifice and has built an extensive network linking communities and security to track suspected cases.
In his remarks earlier in March, Mr Bruce Campbell said, “This will be the largest rehab centre of its kind in Uganda (& maybe Africa). So honored to be a board member and help guiding this life changing organisation.”
The organisation, Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM) condemns witch doctors’ brutal ritual of child sacrifice, and has brought to books several culprits this year in the capital of Kampala alone.
In his recent interview with local media, Pastor Peter explained that victims of child sacrifice in Uganda carry with them serious and disturbing life scars and injuries which include complete genital mutilations, castration, deep stab wounds, missing tongues, ears, as well as emotional and psychological scars that need life time healing.
Working each day to bring Christ’s hope and healing to these children, Sewakiryanga’s devotion to the cause in 2017 attracted The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) who during an interview with the preacher, joined undercover detectives and armed police in a hunt for witch doctors accused of kidnapping and killing children.
“When they get the child, most times they cut the neck, they take the blood out, they take the tissue, they cut the genitals or any other body organs that they wish that the spirits want.” Pr Sewakiryanga said.
Child body parts are especially prized in rituals because people believe mixing their blood with herbs makes a strong concoction that can cure diseases and appease local spirits. Genitalia are especially prized.
“The problem is increasing and many children are killed, and there are very few actually that survive, most of them die.” Pr Sewakiryanga added.
According to CBN News, Kyampisi Childcare Ministries is the only organization in the country providing long-term financial and medical care to survivors of child sacrifice.
“We want to see that the life of a child who has survived is supported, that they are socially able to stand and heal from the injuries, and that they can have a life after that,” said Pastor Sewakiryanga.
He also works with Ugandan lawmakers to help draft specific laws targeting perpetrators of child sacrifice.
In 2018, Pastor Peter was one of two Ugandan activists recognised by The European Union (EU) for their tireless campaign to stop child trafficking.
He was credited for championing research and spearheading an awareness campaign in communities to stop the crime.
Nino Mbatha and Lungisani Magubane sentenced to life for murder of woman
Zanele Hlatshwayo said to have been raped and murdered as part of ritual killing
Traditional ‘healer’ Mbatha said cannibalism would bring Magubane good luck
Members of small community of Esigodlweni dug up graves to give to Mbatha
Two cannibals, one of which was found carrying a bag with a human hand and a leg inside, have been jailed for life in South Africa.
One of the cannibals told officers when he turned himself into police that he was ‘tired of eating human flesh’.
Nino Mbatha, 33, and Lungisani Magubane, 32, were jailed for life today for the murder of Zanele Hlatshwayo.
Mbatha, said to be a ‘traditional healer’, was arrested after handing himself in at a police station in Estcourt, a town in KwaZulu-Natal province last year.
He was carrying a bag containing a human leg and a hand, telling officers he was ‘tired of eating human flesh’.
Police refused to believe his claims until he took officers to a house where more body parts were found.
Sitting at the Pietermaritzburg High Court, judge Peter Olsen, said the pair were guilty of ‘the most heinous crime’, the Witness newspaper said.
The court heard that Ms Hlatshwayo had been beheaded by Mbatha who, with the help of Magubane, removed her internal organs, hands and feet in order to gain luck through ‘muthi’ – a term for traditional medicine in parts of southern Africa.
Mbatha was said to have instructed Magubane to eat the 24-year-old woman’s flesh for ‘good luck’, before claiming he was forced into cannibalism.
At earlier hearings in Estcourt, angry residents gathered outside the courthouse to protest against the grisly murder.
South Africa has no direct law against cannibalism, but mutilating a corpse and being in possession of human tissue are criminal offences.
A third man was acquitted today, with seven people initially arrested during the investigation.
A fourth man arrested and charged, Sithembiso Sithole, 31, died in prison after apparently killing himself while awaiting trial.
The trio of men were arrested after Mbatha went to police and more remains were found in a nearby house, leading to the discovery of a woman’s mutilated body, who was also said to have been raped.
After a meeting was held in the village of Esigodlweni, home to just 971 people, it emerged almost a third of the population had been digging up graves or eating residents.
In the aftermath of the arrests, villagers gathered in the community hall allegedly admitted tasting human flesh.
Two of the men initially arrested were said to be witch doctors, or traditional healers, and a third was on parole from jail at the time of the killing.
Community members were also said to have dug up graves under the orders of Mbatha to give him the bones.
When police were investigating officers discovered eight ears in a pot, local councillor Mthembeni Majola told the media.
People with albinism in some African countries are particularly at risk of ‘muti’ killings due to the belief held by some that their body parts impart power and health to those who eat them.
A man Durban was found with a human head in his backpack last July, as he was thought to be attempting to sell the head to a witch doctor.
Also in Ivory Coast witch doctors (locally called ‘marabouts’ and ‘féticheurs’) are held responsible for ritual killings committed in this country. The article reproduced below focuses on the case of a 4-year old boy named Bouba who disappeared, had his throat sliced and was found back buried. In the article, the author André Silvar Konan also mentions the wave of kidnappings of small children that terrified the population of this francophone West African country in 2015. André Silvar Konan criticizes the local authorities, accuses them of complicity, and demands justice: those who are responsible should be traced, arrested, tried and spend the rest of their lives behind bars. He points at corruption and illegal enrichment as driving forces behind these ritual killings and pleads for another, more healthy, state of mind – not only in Ivory Coast, but in the whole of Africa.
The original article also contains 20-plus interesting comments published on Facebook.
Crime sur le petit Bouba en Côte-d’Ivoire: « Les marabouts et féticheurs des brouteurs ne doivent plus connaître de repos »
Translation (mine – FVDK – free translation): “Witch doctors of predators should be hunted”
Published: February 28, 2018
By: André Silver Konan
“Missing” (left); “The suspect” (right)
Après le crime sur le petit Bouba à Williamsville (Abidjan), André Silver Konan exige que les marabouts et féticheurs des brouteurs soient traqués, arrêtés, jugés et condamnés à vie. Ci-dessous sa position.
Personnellement, j’ai un problème avec la manière dont le ministère public mène les enquêtes en Côte d’Ivoire chaque fois qu’un criminel rituel est mis aux arrêts. Dans l’affaire Bouba, on a une unique occasion de démanteler un vrai réseau criminel qui a choisi comme cible, nos enfants.
Pour mettre fin à ce genre de crimes rituels, opérés par de stupides gens qui pensent encore au 21è siècle, qu’ils peuvent devenir riches, en volant la vie d’un homme ; la justice doit amener les personnes arrêtées, à citer, non seulement leurs complices et commanditaires, mais surtout leurs marabouts et autres féticheurs.
On ne pense pas souvent à ces derniers, mais ils sont l’alpha et l’oméga de tous ces crimes. Les marabouts et autres féticheurs sont les premiers criminels dans ces affaires, il faut les arrêter parce qu’ils sont soit des complices soit des commanditaires de ces meurtres. Tant que ces derniers ne seront pas inquiétés, harcelés, arrêtés, emprisonnés à vie (je milite pour la prison à vie de ces gens-là), ce phénomène ignoble va continuer.
Heading (translated): Case of 4-year old child kidnapped, sacrificed and buried: “Suspect mentions ‘big shot’ – Accomplice arrested” (Source: Soir info, Wednesday, February 28, 2018 – Ivory Coast / Côte d’Ivoire).
Je répète : les marabouts et féticheurs de ces brouteurs stupides ne doivent plus connaître de repos. J’avais proposé en 2015, après la vague historique d’enlèvements d’enfants dans le pays, qu’un procureur spécial et une brigade spéciale soient nommés, pour lutter contre les atteintes aux droits de nos enfants. Je réitère cette proposition, elle reste d’actualité.
J’avais déjà dit que la corruption était un état d’esprit en Afrique. Je soutiens aussi que l’enrichissement illicite est un état d’esprit. Nous vivons tous dans des quartiers avec des brouteurs, qui deviennent riches du jour au lendemain, alors que nous savons pertinemment qu’ils ont, au pire usé de sacrifices rituels criminels pour devenir ce qu’ils sont, au mieux de vols et de détournements de fonds d’autrui, pour être ce qu’ils sont.
Mais qui d’entre-nous songe à les dénoncer ? Qui au sein de la justice, songe à traquer véritablement les brouteurs, si ce ne sont de petites actions médiatiques ? Quel DJ n’est pas fier de chanter les louanges d’un brouteur et n’est pas heureux de recevoir son argent dégoulinant du sang de nos enfants ?
Regardons autour de nous, les gens sont nommés et trois mois plus tard, ils roulent carrosses et construisent immeubles. Mais n’est-ce pas eux que nous prenons comme modèles dans nos quartiers, que nous désignons comme respectables dans nos villages, que nous choisissons à des postes électifs ?
Nous avons une Inspection générale d’Etat, une haute autorité pour la bonne gouvernance, des Agents judiciaires du Trésor, des Inspecteurs et contrôleurs financiers dans tous les ministères, mais combien de personnes ont déjà été arrêtées, jugées et condamnées pour enrichissement illicite, détournements de fonds publics ?
Les crimes rituels en rapport avec l’enrichissement rapide et illicite continueront tant que les autorités elles-mêmes qui sont censées faire respecter les textes sur l’enrichissement illicite continueront de se comporter comme des brouteurs. Y en a marre !
Insécurité : Des artistes se révoltent après l’assassinat du petit Bouba
Translation (mine – FVDK – free translation) Artists enraged after the murder of young Bouba
Published: March 1, 2018
By Philomène Yaï (Stg) – linfodrome
4-year old Aboubcar Sidick nicknamed Bouba was murdered. Marabouts and/or féticheurs had been involved (witchdoctors). Bouba had disappeared and was found back dead, buried. His murderers had his throat sliced, apparently for ritual purposes.
Artists in Côte d’Ivoire have reacted on the brutal killing of the young child Aboubcar Sidick nicknamed Bouba. His murder was a trending topic on social media and had a tremendous impact on the showbiz community in Ivory Coast.
Read the following article (in French):
Des artistes ivoiriens ont réagi après l’assassinat du petit Aboubacar Sidick dit Bouba. L’affaire, qui a affolé les réseaux sociaux depuis quelques jours, a touché les acteurs du showbiz ivoirien.
Les artistes n’ont pas voulu rester en marge de ce drame qui a affecté la Côte d’Ivoire. Chacun a, à son niveau, posé des actes pour exprimer sa srevolte et temoigner sa solidarité.
Debordo Leekunfai a effectué le déplacement pour aller soutenir la famille meurtrie résidant à Williamsville.
Bien avant son déplacement, l’artiste a traduit ses sentiments de tristesses sur les réseaux sociaux. « J’ai le cœur qui saigne ! Un cœur en larme ! Pourquoi enlever un sourire à un enfant qui n’a rien demandé à part vivre ! Je dis NON à tous ces actes d’enlèvement ! Que cela cesse ! Chers parents, protégeons nos enfants, car ils sont la relève de ce pays ! Que ton âme repose en paix petit ange! », a exprimé le chef du robbot macador.
”Opah La Nation” ne s’est pas arrêté là. Il a ajouté que le Showtime qu’il prépare en ce moment, qui est prévu le 31 mars 2018, au Palais de la culture d’Abidjan, est dédié à ce petit Bouba.
A côté de Debordo Leekunfa, Mc One, le filleul de Kédjevara Dj, a lui aussi eu une pensée pour le petit Bouba. Avec des paroles poignantes dans un single, Mc One a rendu hommage à Aboubacar Sidick. « Petit Bouba fait la fierté de son père et sa mère, vit le jour au jour mais ne sait pas que la vie est très amère, que pout peut changer d’une minute à l’autre. La vie est un choix mais dans certains cas la vie choisit pour nous même (…), prenons conscience et posons de bons actes pour assurer notre atterrissage parce que la vie est un vol et la mort est un crash. Bouba, Petit Bouba, je sais que de là où tu es, tout va bien …», a écrit Mc One dans son texte en hommage au petit Bouba d’un crime rituel d’un bijoutier.
A High Court judge has asked government to ban shrines throughout the country, a local news daily has reported.
Judge Margaret Mutonyi while addressing hundred at an event organised by one Christian Charity and advocacy organisation, Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM) said Parliament should enact a law to ban shrines in this country.
“If I had powers, I would have ordered immediate demolition of all shrines to get rid of this evil since they are semi-permanent structures where owners can easily be compensated,” she said.
Her appeal comes at a time reports on the practice of ritual killing and human sacrifice continue to make headlines in the country. This is a ruthless practice of removing body parts, blood or tissue from an individual, alive or dead. A victim that survives sacrifice is left with traumatizing consequences for the rest of their lives.
Earlier this month, Police officials confirmed the arrest of six witch doctors after five human bodies and a skull believed to be of a child were retrieved from their shrines in Kayunga District. They have been remanded on murder charges, sources said.
“We should not only look at stopping this evil of child sacrifice but look at the genesis of this problem. I work in Mukono where shrines (owners) thrive and camouflage as traditional healers while using funny things like blood. Parliament should enact a law to ban shrines in this country,” Margaret Mutonyi said, according to the Daily Monitor.
The Judge urged that shrines have no place in the modern world.
“We are faced with this brutality but those who are still alive have no body parts and are suffering even when their tormentors are punished. But with the looming amendment (in the laws), they should include psycho-socio support to victims and treatment by government,” the judge advised.
Justice Mike Chibita, the Director of Public Prosecutions according to the media outlet urged the public to join the fight against human sacrifice.
“It takes a village to raise a child, let us continue with that role and strive to protect the children,” he said.
I was confronted with the phenomenon of ritualistic murders in Liberia when living in Monrovia – where I taught at the University of Liberia – and, later, in Harper, capital of Maryland County, in the second half of the 1970s. In Harper I witnessed the public execution of the Harper Seven, in 1979. They were convicted of the ritual murder of a fisherman and popular singer, Moses Tweh, and sentenced to death by hanging. The trial of the Harper Seven turned out to be Liberia’s most notorious ritual killing case.
‘Big shots’ were involved, such as Maryland County’s Superintendent, Daniel Anderson – son of the Chairman of Liberia’s only political party, the True Whig Party – and Allen Yancy, member of the House of Representatives for Maryland County and cousin of former Liberian president William Tubman (1944 – 1971). Reportedly, Allen Yancy had been involved in previous ritual murder cases but he was never convicted, allegedly because of Tubman’s protection.
Ritualistic killings in Liberia have been rampant, and I fear the gruesome practice has far from disappeared – as is demonstrated by the article reproduced below.
The article reproduced below summarizes well Liberia’s recent history of ritualistic murders. What used to be a cultural phenomenon – human sacrifices for the well-being of the clan or tribe – has become a political instrument, used by unscrupulous politicians and businessmen to further their interests.
I will not dwell too long here on these atrocities and outdated but persistent beliefs in supernatural powers. Readers are invited to visit my website for more details.
Last but not least, my publications on ritual murders in Liberia became the prelude to the present website on ritual killings in Africa in general. See the site’s menu, notably the section ‘Why publish this site?‘
Public execution by hanging of the ‘Harper Seven’, including Maryland Superintendent Daniel Anderson and Representative Allen Yancy, at dawn in Harper, Liberia on February 16, 1979. Picture taken by Fred van der Kraaij (copyrights).
Liberia’s elections, ritual killings and cannibalism
Published: August 01, 2011 · 10:52 AM UTC By: Emily Schmall and Wade Williams
MONROVIA, Liberia — The pregnant woman was found dead in the shallows of Lake Shepherd. The fetus had been removed.
A candidate for Liberia’s Senate and a former county attorney are among those standing trial for the 2009 murder, the latest in a long history of ritual sacrifices performed for political power in Liberia.
In this case in southeastern Maryland County, prosecutors were tipped off by a witch doctor who provided a list of 18 people allegedly connected to the killing, including Fulton Yancy, the former county attorney, and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Special Envoy and Ambassador-at-Large Dan Morias.
Vials of blood were discovered in Yancy’s home. Nine were charged with murder but were released earlier this month following a Supreme Court ruling.
Liberia will have general elections later this year and the ritual killings tend to flare up during election season, according to Jerome Verdier, former chairman of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
”Unfortunately it happens during elections time because people are competing for political power, they don’t know God and they believe that these supernatural powers will come to them once human blood is shed,” Verdier said.
During Liberia’s two-decades-long civil war hundreds were killed for ritual purposes, the TRC discovered during its hearings.
”During our research at the TRC we found out that bloodshedding was very, very common during the conflict. People killed indiscriminately women and children believing that it would give them some power to continue fighting and that they would be protected,” said Verdier.
Liberia’s Maryland County has traditionally been the hub for the country’s ritual murders. The killings have haunted the southeastern county for decades. In recent years, however, ritual killing cases have cropped up across the country.
Verdier said some of those who confessed at the TRC hearing gave graphic accounts of ritual killings they carried out.
“People went as far as eating their opponent’s body — when such person is killed in battle they cook their body to eat, believing that the spirit, the powerful spirit of that person, will come to them and by eating them, the person’s power is completely destroyed, so there can be no reemergence in that person’s family line or their ethnic line.”
‘General Butt Naked’, a notorious warlord in Liberia’s First Civil war (1989 – 1997) testified and confessed before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he committed numerous ritualistic murders and ate body parts of his victims.
A former warlord who calls himself General Butt Naked and who fought against former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, confessed in 2008 to taking part in human sacrifices that included the killing of a child and “plucking out the heart, which was divided into pieces for us to eat.”
In 2005, the leader of Liberia’s transitional government, Gyude Bryant, pledged to hang anyone found guilt of ritual killing.
Dispatched to Maryland County by President Johnson Sirleaf to calm residents’ fears earlier this year, Justice Minister Christiana Tah acknowledged that “there are still lots of unresolved cases of this nature,” according to a report in the daily New Democrat.
In a case from the 1970s known as the Maryland Murders, seven people, including Fulton Yancy’s older brother Allen Yancy, a member of the House of Representatives, were hanged for killing a fisherman (see picture above). The following year Defense Minister Gray D. Allison was convicted of killing a police officer whose body was discovered on the Bong Mines railroad, apparently used in a ritual sacrifice. The government at the time displayed blood drained in gallons believed to be that of the dead man.
Dan Morias, one of those accused of the 2009 killing of a pregnant woman, is planning to run for senator in the upcoming legislative elections in October. He has maintained that the charges against him are politically motivated. He must be cleared of the charges to be eligible to run for office.
Morias is listed in the TRC report for alleged abuses committed while he served as Minister of Internal Affairs for the Charles Taylor regime. When reached by GlobalPost, Morias said he could not comment on the case as it would be “prejudicial,” but insisted that the evidence against him — namely the testimony of a witch doctor — was “weak.”
Earlier this year, President Johnson Sirleaf warned Maryland County citizens against seeking retribution for the killings with a traditional practice called “sassywood” or “trial by ordeal.”
The government insists that trial by ordeal is illegal and Johnson Sirleaf banned the practice in April 2007. Since then traditional leaders have been pleading with the government to allow them to practice the act which they believe is the only way justice can be served in cases like these.
“Sassywood” is the insertion of an accused person’s extremity into hot oil or the placing of a heated metal on a suspect’s body. If the suspect is burned then it is concluded that he or she is guilty but if there is no burn then the suspect is deemed innocent and set free. Those found guilty are killed.
The police are working to stamp out both the ritual killings and the “sassywood” practices, said George Bardue, spokesman for the Liberia National Police: “The police are doing everything possible to make sure that these things do not happen.”
Emily Schmall is a multimedia journalist now based in Monrovia, Liberia, where she serves as country director for New Narratives, a journalism mentorship project for women. Wade Williams is a New Narratives fellow and an editor at FrontPage Africa, Liberia’s most widely circulated newspaper.