Inside the thriving human body parts market (report from Zimbabwe)

The following article, published by the Sunday Mail in Zimbabwe in late December 2019, is strictly speaking not about ritual killing or a specific ritualistic murder case. However, it has everything to do with the subject: superstition and the use of rituals using human body parts. It is a shocking account of a thriving market for human body parts. The interviews, and apparently also the investigations, have taken place in Zimbabwe, yet there is no reason not to believe that similar practices may be reported from other countries.

As the articles also concludes: ‘In Zimbabwe and other parts of the world, trading in human body parts is illegal.’ Hence, it is up to the government(s) to maintain the law (webmaster FVDK).

Inside the thriving human body parts market

Published: December 29, 2019
By: Sunday Mail, Zimbabwe – Emmanuel Kafe and Simbarashe Manhenda 

Human body parts, according to sources and a pathologist, can also be harvested during post-mortems.

HUMAN body parts, mostly fingers, internal organs and private parts, are being sold by syndicates made up of mortuary attendants and security guards, investigations carried out by The Sunday Mail Society have revealed.

Information gathered revealed that the syndicates are conniving to harvest the body parts from mortuaries without the knowledge of the deceased’s families.

Investigations revealed that the body parts are much sought after and literally cost an arm and leg.

Water used to clean corpses, which is believed to be used in the preparation of juju used in housebreaking, is also in great demand.

As a result of the high demand, the water and body parts are only being sold in foreign currency.

The Sunday Mail Society’s investigations revealed that there is a ready and thriving market for the human body parts and water.

Among those that are acquiring the parts from the morgues are traditional healers, prophets, sex workers, criminals and businesspeople.

Apparently, acquiring human body parts can be as easy as ordering pizza.

A phone call and a little bargaining is all that it takes. After agreeing on a fee, the deal is sealed.

From the interactions with those involved in the illegal and unusual trade, it is clear that the syndicates are making a killing.

After getting a tip-off from a security guard who was once part of the human body parts’ cartel, The Sunday Mail Society crew went underground and pretended to be genuine buyers.

Following the tip-off, we approached one of the security guards manning the premises of a well-established funeral parlour in Harare.

Posing as traditional healers, we enquired from him how we could get certain human body parts.

We also asked about the prices.

The security guard, whom we were later told is paid a “commission” by the mortuary attendants for linking them with buyers, did not even attempt to exercise caution.

Without hesitation, the security guard gladly gave us the mortuary attendant’s contact details, saying his colleague would gladly help us.

After contacting the mortuary attendant, who was expecting our call, a meeting was promptly arranged.

The meeting took place at a local eatery.

From our deliberations with the mortuary attendant, we gathered that human private parts can be sold for as much as US$ 500.

Internal organs such as the heart were pegged at more than US$ 1 500.

The mortuary attendant, who remained composed and relaxed as if he was negotiating the sale of a heifer, explained how the body parts are harvested.

“The parts are mostly removed when the bodies are cleaned in preparation for burial,” he explained, adding that harvesting external body parts was often a challenge since relatives usually inspected the bodies of their departed loved ones.

“However, there is no risk in harvesting internal organs such as the heart and lungs since relatives of the deceased rarely inspect those parts of the body. Those ones are easier to get,” said our source.

In addition, he also said bones and teeth could be “easily obtained’”

But despite that, external organs such as the eyes, breasts and private parts were in great demand.

Also in demand is the water left after washing corpses.

Criminals, among them armed robbers and burglars, are believed to use the water as juju or to induce heavy sleep among house occupants.

According to sources, the water is mixed with juju to produce a concoction which criminals believe will protect them during their escapades

A 500ml bottle of the water was being sold for US$ 200.

It is widely believed that if the water is sprinkled on the door of a targeted house, the victim will fall into a deep slumber, resulting in the robbers ransacking their homes.

Mbuya Alice Nhemachena, a traditional healer, said the water was in great demand.

“The water can be used to make it easier for burglars to steal. Criminal elements can fork out a fortune to get hold of this water. It can also be used to make love potions,” Mbuya Nhemachena said.

Sekuru Friday Chisanyu, another traditional healer, said stealing and selling human body parts is a form witchcraft.

“Some traditional healers tell their clients to bring ‘a warm heart, freshly pulled out of a person’. People who engage such traditional healers want easy money and will end up engaging in ritual murders,” Sekuru Chisanyu said.

“But some people approach us saying they are now being tormented by avenging spirits after buying human body parts,” he said.

So who are the victims in this macabre scam?

According to sources, accident victims are the most common victims of human body parts’ theft.

For accident victims, relatives normally cannot tell whether missing body parts was lost during or after the accident.

Dr Edwin Muguti, a former Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, said it was possible for one to steal human body parts during a post-mortem.

“It is possible for pathologists, mortuary attendants and security guards to illegally harvest body parts. Such laws as the Human Tissue Act and the Anatomy Act were enacted to deter such practices,” Dr Muguti said.

But Mr Talent Nharara, the operations manager at Foundation Funeral Services, said he was yet to come across such criminal cases.

“I have heard about such things, but I am yet to come across such cases. However, it might be possible for body parts to be harvested during embalming and when the corpse is being washed. The fact that people always talk about this means that such things might be happening,” Mr Nharara said.

The human body is usually washed, embalmed and dressed up in preparation for either burial or cremation.

But according to Mr Nharara, the water used in cleaning corpses is disposed of in a manner which makes it almost impossible for one to collect it for sale.

“The water is disposed of using special drainage pipes. Like I said before, I am yet to come across people who siphon such fluids, but that does not mean that the fluids are not being siphoned off,” added Mr Nharara.

He was, however, not at liberty to reveal exactly how the water is disposed of.

Mr Taka Svosve, Zimbabwe Association of Funeral Assurers’ (Zafa) general manager, said there was much speculation regarding the harvesting of human body parts. “From our investigations, nothing of that sort is happening. Some fraudsters might actually be selling ordinary water, which they claim to have come from mortuaries.”

“Our people are professionals and we make sure that such acts are detected. Just like any other professionals, those that work in morgues adhere to stipulated rules,” Mr Svosve said, adding that there was need for the public to be educated about the role of morticians and undertakers so that society can get to understand how they work.

Zimbabwe Republic Police national spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said no such reports hadbeen made to the police.

“I cannot comment on that one at the moment. There is need for investigations and verification,” Ass Comm Nyathi said.

In Zimbabwe and other parts of the world, trading in human body parts is illegal.

Source: Inside the thriving human body parts market

Africa Map

‘Ritual killings have always happened in Zambia towards elections’ – says MMD president Dr Nevers Mumba

Sometimes even I am surprised, astonished, flabbergasted. I read about ritualistic killings, witchcraft and superstition nearly every day, but what I just read is mind-boggling.

Read below what Zambia’s MMD president Dr Nevers Mumba recently said (webmaster FVDK).

Zambia can be shipwrecked, Nevers warns pastors
Published: February 1, 2020
By: The Mast (Zambia) – Tobias Phiri 

RITUAL killings have always happened in Zambia towards elections, says MMD president Dr Nevers Mumba.

And Mumba says very few politicians operate without the use of charms, black magic.

He says he “knew the day would come when the Church’s relevance was going to be exaggerated because once these issues begin and people begin to kill for blood that they get into power or remain in power then it goes beyond politics. It’s now the spirit world as much as you [pastors] do and if you do not provide the necessary answers, Zambia can be ship wrecked.”

Speaking during a pastors’ conference in Lusaka’s Chawama township on Thursday, Mumba said it was the Church’s responsibility to pray for the country.

“We have issues going on in Chingola right now, people are being killed, sacrifice for blood and it is true. The Lord spoke to me many years ago that as we come close to any election in this country, those aspiring for power are going to be required to provide amounts of blood in order for them to win their elections. This is not a secret, it’s not [only] happening today, it happens always. Only that it has not been highlighted but I want you to understand that there is witchcraft in politics. Ever since I joined politics what I found is amazing,” he said.

“Very few [politicians] walk free. What they have wrapped around their waists, around their necks and their fingers, you may think its mere clothing but it’s what they use to survive and to win elections. That is why I say when the Church moves in and these things start falling off that is when Zambia shall be saved.”

And commenting on Nigerian prophet Andrew Ejimandu popularly known as Seer 1, Mumba asked Zambians to remain calm as nothing would happen. He urged the people to pray for their leaders.

“What is happening in our country should not scare anybody, its nothing. Zambia is firm on our Christian principles. Someone may ask, ‘what about what Seer is saying?’ None of that moves us, the only people who should be concerned are those who are seeking ‘power’ from him,” Mumba said.

“Pray for leaders whether in opposition or in government. Don’t say you can’t pray for that president because you don’t love him, pray because you love the Word of God [and] that you are the defender of Zambia. If you don’t pray for that president he will make a decision tomorrow that is going to make your children die along the way. I take time to pray for President [Edgar] Lungu myself as often as I can because the bible commands so – ‘pray for those in authority’.”

Mumba said: “If you turn to social media, you will be amazed by the intensity of debate on spiritual matters that affect our country today”.

“I knew the day would come when the Church’s relevance was going to be exaggerated because once these issues begin and people begin to kill for blood that they get into power or remain in power then it goes beyond politics. It’s now the spirit world as much as you [pastors] do and if you do not provide the necessary answers, Zambia can be ship wrecked,” he warned.

Mumba said the MMD under his leadership was going to turn around fortunes of the country. 

“There are two forces that rule in every nation, the physical and the spiritual. I am not just in politics for political power, I am a double sim which is extremely dangerous. That is why spirits will fight me more than any other politician because I’m saying let us change the atmosphere. The atmosphere of Zambia must be changed and we are going to do it in Jesus’ name,” said Mumba.

Source: Zambia can be shipwrecked, Nevers warns pastors

Zambia: Copperbelt Police Commissioner Charity Katanga sheds light on Chingola ritual killings

I try to do my work – presenting on this site articles and news about alleged and ‘crystal-clear’ cases of ritualistic murders as well as accusations of witchcraft – as good and objective as possible, but yesterday I was flabbergasted reading that Copperbelt Police Commissioner Charity Katanga had said that suspected ritual killers turn into cats when police visit their houses.

Of course, police people are in a way ordinary people, with all their weaknesses and subjectivity, but wouldn’t it be ‘normal’ and re-assuring if police do not believe in witches? Isn’t the belief in the power of witches and superstition something one would not expect in dealing with the police who – instead – should fight against these practices that lead to ritual killings, mob justice, the discrimination and unfair treatment of innocent children and adults, often women, and – thus – the violation of their basic human rights?

Moreover, the article reproduced below resulted in 18 comments (at the time of writing this post), two comments I want to share with you.

One reader commented, Quote: “Government should now realize that witchcraft do exit, moreover we have plenty witch-doctors in Zambia let them prove there competency by catching these guys.” Unquote.
The second reacted, Quote: “Okay, now the Government has seen that people are wizards and witches in some parts of the Country called Zambia. The people who are doing these ritual killings are wizards and witches nothing else. Thanks!” Unquote

It seems to me that educators in Zambia still have a lot of work to do, fighting superstition and ignorance (webmaster FVDK).

Copperbelt Police Commissioner Charity Katanga

Katanga Sheds Light on Chingola Ritual Killings
Published: January 27, 2020
By: Zambia Reports – Chris Phiri

Copperbelt Police Commissioner Charity Katanga yesterday told Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo that other interests cannot be ruled out in the alleged ritual killings in Chingola where residents have been rioting in anger.

Ms Katanga said the suspected ‘ritual killers’ are turning into cats when police visit any house they are called in.

She has, however, maintained that there are no ritual killings but criminals who are just troubling people.

“The police receive calls from the public, we rush to check what is on the ground. Like we have a case, one suspect entered the ceiling board and later just saw a cat coming out and later it disappeared. Most of the cases are of gassing the people in their homes. We can’t rule out other interest groups. They have a common cause fighting for the same. If there were ritual murders, they would have finished everyone, but they are just troubling people. Just the other day, we tried to fire at the cat, but it started reducing and disappeared,” Ms Katanga explained to Mr Kampyongo.

Mr Kampyongo later said the police are on top of things and very soon, the happenings in Chingola will come to an end.

Mr Kampyongo has been on the Copperbelt with Deputy Inspector General of Police Bonny Kapeso and Chingola Member of Parliament Chali Chilombo.

Chingola remains under heavy police presence to keep vigil.

Source: Katanga Sheds Light on Chingola Ritual Killings

Kenya: elderly Nyamira woman killed over witchcraft in what has been viewed as a ritual killing

Superstition, witchcraft, fear, mob justice, murder, ritual killing – what is the common denominator?
Yes, ignorance. Lack of education. Which does not mean that well educated people are not involved in ritualistic murders. Bu that’s another story (webmaster FVDK).

Elderly Nyamira woman killed over witchcraft
Published: January 26, 2020
By: Standard, Kenya – James Ongwae

Police in Nyamira are investigating the killing of an elderly woman in what has been viewed as a ritual killing. 

County Commissioner Amos Mariba said he had ordered the immediate arrest and bringing to book of all the people believed to have been behind the killing of Agnes Kwamboka Nyagwachi,60, at Bundo in Bogichora, Nyamira South.

Mariba said the body of the woman was found in a eucalyptus farm, about 50 meters away from her house.

“The body was lying on the ground and beside it were things which have led us to believe that it was a killing related to witchcraft or some form of rituals and currently we are narrowing down on possible perpetrators of the cold blood murder,” Mariba said.

The County Commissioner said some of the things which were retrieved beside the body included two dead rats, two brooms, two stones, one white pair of shorts, a full dress, two empty sacks, a black track tracksuit alongside a red pen.

Mariba said the deceased’s husband Peter Nyagwachi reported to authorities that his wife was picked from her house Sunday morning at around 3 am by a group of people known to him on suspicion that she was a witch.

James Orutwa, a clan elder at Bundo Village said he heard people wailing from the scene where the body was recovered and went there only to find out that the woman had long died.

“From a close look, the body bore multiple injuries on the left side of the head and superficial wound on the left leg.

Mariba said police had swung into action and all that was possible was being done to ensure anyone who participated in the killing faces the law.

This is not the first incident of such a ritual killing.

Two years ago, another woman from Bonyamatuta village was also killed on suspicion that she was a witch.

Source: Elderly Nyamira woman killed over witchcraft

Related article:

Sixty year old woman killed in Nyamira over witchcraft
Published: January 26, 20202
By: KDRTV, Kenya – Cynthia Mutinda

A 60 year old woman by the name of Agnes Wamboka Nyagwachi was found dead at Bundo Bogichora, Nyamira South over what id believed to be a killing ritual. Her body was found on the ground in a eucalyptus farm which is located about fifty meters from her house.

”The body was lying on the ground and beside it were things which have led us to believe that it was a killing related to witchcraft or some form of rituals and currently we are narrowing down on a possible perpetrators of the cold blood murder,”County commissioner Amos Mariba said.

Amos revealed that two dead rats,two brooms, two stones, one white pair of shorts, a full dress, two empty sacks, a black tracksuit and a red pen were some of the things retrieved besides Agnes’ body.

Investigations of the killing are currently being carried out by the police in Nyamira.

The court commission has ordered for the arrest of all the people that are believed to be behind the demise of Agnes Kwamboka Nyagwachi.

Peter Nyagwachi, the deceased husband told the authorities that a group of people known to him came to their home on Sunday morning around 3 am and picked his wife on a suspicion that Agnes was a witch.

James Orotwa, a clan elder at Bundo village said that he heard deafening screams coming from the eucalyptus farm and upon arrival at the scene found  the woman long dead.

He revealed that the body bore multiple injuries on the left side of the head with a superficial wound on her left leg.

This is however was not the first time that such an incident has occurred. Two years ago, another woman in Bunyamatuta village was murdered on suspicion that she too practiced witchcraft.

Mariba promised that the police are working hard to ensure that the culprits who participated in the killing of Agnes face the law.

Source: Sixty year old woman killed in Nyamira over witchcraft

Nyamira County, Kenya

Liberia: Police and Gender Ministry rescue 29 children accused of witchcraft in Nimba County

Lack of education and superstition go hand in hand. Compliments for the LNP and the Gender Ministry for this timely action! In 2007 President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made primary school education compulsory and free (by the way, not for the first time in Liberia’s history…), what happened to the law? (webmaster FVDK)

Rescued children

Published: January 17, 2020
By: The Bush Chicken, Sualeh Ziamo   

GANTA, Nimba – The Liberia National Police and authorities of the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection have rescued 29 children who were taken to a church for deliverance after being accused of practicing witchcraft.

The Gender Ministry’s supervisor assigned in Nimba, Victor Zeegban, told The Bush Chicken that the children were taken to the Fire for Fire Deliverance Church in Ganta for spiritual cleansing, on suspicion that they were involved in witchcraft activities.

Zeegban said his office had received a tip from community dwellers about the kids being mistreated at the center and abandoned by relatives who took them there.

“After receiving the tipoff, we dispatched our social workers to the church to see for themselves and they came back and reported to us that the kids were actually abandoned by their parents and guardians,” he said.

“Through our fact-finding visits, we even got to know that some of the kids were taken there at the age of one and have spent over three years in the church’s yard.”

He also confirmed that the children were being mistreated and found in appalling conditions, with no access to medication when they fell sick. According to him, one of the children died in May last year.

“I saw with my own eyes one of the children’s hands [being] tied with [a] rope on grounds that he was possessed [by] a strong spirit from the dark world,” Zeegban explained.

He also disclosed that the Gender Ministry was relocating the children to a safe home in Sanniquellie, where they will remain until they are possibly reunited with their families. Zeegban assured that the children would be supported by partners of the ministry.

Meanwhile, the commander of the police’s Women and Children Protection Section in Ganta, Jenkins Mangou, has praised members of the community for the important role they played in the children’s rescue.

Source: Police and Gender Ministry Rescue 29 Children Accused of Witchcraft in Nimba

Uganda: man admits ritual murder, becomes state witness

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, 2018We 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.

Source: Man admits ritual murder, becomes state witness

Liberia: Maryland police arrest eight suspects for murdering three for witchcraft

If one had hoped that the trial of the seven accused in the Sinoe murder case (the ‘Johnny Town Murder Case’ – see my previous postings on this subject) would have acted as a deterrent, unfortunately, reality is different. On September 5, another case has been revealed, this time in Maryland County, in the eastern part of the country, near Ivory Coast.
One the one hand, the Liberian police is to be commended for its swift action and upholding the law; on the other hand, one wonders if and when mob justice, trail by ordeal (sassy wood trials) and the belief in witchcraft wil ever end in Liberia.

Warning: the article below contains some graphic details (webmaster FVDK).

Featured photo by Franklin Nehyalor

Published: September 5, 2019
By: Franklin Nehyalor – The Bush Chicken

HARPER, Maryland – Police in Harper, Maryland are currently investigating eight persons in Rock Town, Barrobo District for allegedly killing three people.

According to the commander of the Maryland Police Detachment, Jacob Comehn, 14 persons were accused of murdering Town Chief Isaac Weah Sadyee, Isaac Gortoe, and an 18-year-old identified as David Nugbo.

Comehn told journalists that he had received a call the morning of Monday, September 2 from Rock Town Community about the murders. The following day, he said his officers went to the location and arrested 8 of the 14 suspects. Six persons are still on the run.

Those arrested were John Tewah, Moses Chea, Sam Gbaquee, Chea Karmune, Deagba Toe, David Weah, Solomon Weah, and Cyrus Doe. All were males and ranged in ages from 33 to 50.

Comehn said the three persons murdered had been accused of witchcraft. He said the accused had been brought in the middle of town for questioning, where they reportedly confessed openly that they had planned to kill some Rock Town residents through witchcraft.

The police commander did not say whether the men were tortured before their confession, but he noted that they were murdered with cutlasses and other sharp objects.

Comehn described the deceased bodies as bearing signs of having undergone excruciating pain. Saydee’s two hands were cut and his two eyes were plucked, while Gortoe was chopped with cutlasses on his neck and the 18-year-old Nugbo had cutlass marks on his forehead and chest.

Prior to the killing, Comehn said the 14 suspects had asked women of the town to go indoors for the “country devil” to be released.

The case is eerily reminiscent of an ongoing trial in Buchanan, where seven men are being tried for gang-raping three women and murdering one of them after they were accused of being witches.

In that case, a defendant testified that the three women were turned over to the traditional society because they had been accused of witchcraft. A “country devil” had also been called to come take the women away and the town crier had asked all those around to go indoors. The defendant then explained that the body parts were extracted from the murder victim. The seven defendants were found guilty and are awaiting sentencing once they exhaust the appeal process.

Meanwhile, the Maryland police commander is calling on the public to assist in locating the remaining suspects. They are Toeson Hinneh, Jacob Doe, Varsco Weah, Prince Doe, Dargba Toe, and Amos Bahway.

“We in this part of the country remain committed to saving lives and properties as part of our duties in helping the government of Liberia in dealing with crimes,” Comehn said.

The eight suspects are in police custody and undergoing thorough investigation in Harper, Maryland. After police investigation, Comehn said the eight suspects will be charged and sent to court.

The three victims were buried on Wednesday by family members.

Source: Maryland Police Arrest Eight Suspects for Murdering Three for Witchcraft

“Johnny’s Town Murder Trial: Finally, Justice Is Done!” – Liberia

Last week, one of Liberia’s leading newspapers, the Daily Observer, published an enthusiastic article, lauding the judiciary system in Liberia, following the jury’s conclusion that 7 defendants in the Sinoe murder case (‘the Johnny Town Murder Trial’) were found guilty of murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation. The article focuses on harmful traditional practices in Liberia, such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), forcible initiation into secret societies, trial by ordeal (particularly the use of sassywood), accusations of witchcraft, and ritualistic killings. The authors conclude that the verdict rendered in the Johnny’s Town Case is a landmark example. 

The article provides a useful summary of the case, its background and significance, and is therefore highly recommended. I fully agree with the main conclusion: 
“This landmark verdict has brought great relief to survivors and their families and set the right precedence that would possibly deter would-be perpetrators of harmful traditional practices in Liberia.”
(webmaster FVDK).

Published: September 3, 2019
By: National Institute for Public Opinion (NIPO) and Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI) – published by the Daily Observer 

The Case 

Late last year, three young Liberian women in Johnny Town, Kpayan District, Sinoe County, were accused by a group of community dwellers of kidnapping a three-month-old child for witchcraft rituals. Angeline Saydee, Florence Tarkleh and Willete Nyewallah were subjected to trial by ordeal and abused, tortured and gang raped. One of the women, Willete, was killed. Another was hospitalized and later discharged. Stories surrounding the third woman, who happens to be the mother of the missing child, are quite conflicting.

It is said that Willete, who was killed in this incident, was few months pregnant prior to her unfortunate death. All the accused women fervently denied involvement in witchcraft and in the disappearance of the child. These women experienced unimaginable abuse. They were stripped naked before public glare and paraded from one corner of the town to another; thereafter, they were taken into the bush and subjected to trial by ordeal and to other violent crimes. Before these young women were abducted, tortured and one killed, they were living peaceful lives with their families and loved ones.

The young men accused of these crimes allegedly committed these inhumane acts under the orders of some traditional leaders, including a female traditionalist who allegedly subjected the women to trial by ordeal.

Harmful Traditional Practices in Liberia 

Trial by ordeal is a harmful traditional practice in which suspects are subjected to torture and other forms of inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. The practice is usually done in extremely brutal manner and is intended to have suspects forcefully (and likely falsely) confessing guilt. The pain that comes with trial by ordeal is often raw and severe and can force people to confess guilt even if they were not the actual doers of the act for which ,they were accused. This practice has been outlawed by the Government of Liberia but it still persists.

An UNMIL and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights assessment of Harmful Traditional Practices in Liberia found that some traditional and cultural practices common to many Liberian ethnic communities have a significantly negative impact on the enjoyment of fundamental human rights. These include FGM, forcible initiation into secret societies, trial by ordeal (particularly the use of sassywood), accusations of witchcraft, and ritualistic killings. The assessment found that “these practices have particularly affected certain groups such as women, children, elderly persons, persons with disabilities, as well as the poorest Liberians” ( UNMIL and OHCHR 2015-An Assessment of Human Rights Issues Emanating from Traditional Practices in Liberia p.2).

This high prevalence is fundamentally why we believe that all must be done to step up the fight against harmful traditional practices. A critical starting point was ensuring the rule of law with particular focus on increasing access to justice for women and girls. We submit here that the verdict rendered in the Johnny’s Town Case is a landmark example!

Civil Society Supports the Survivors 

Immediately after these vicious crimes committed against Angeline Saydee, Florence Tarkleh and Willete Nyewallah came to light, the National Institute for Public Opinion (NIPO) coordinated county-level advocacy actions with the active involvement of the Sinoe County Women Platform and the Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI). Soon after, the case captured national and international attention. The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection got involved, as did some concerned Liberian women and women’s organizations.

At national level, advocacy actions were coordinated by the Women NGO Secretariat of Liberia (WONGOSOL) in close collaboration with NIPO and FCI. As part of these actions, the coalition presented its position statement to the National Legislature, calling on the Government of Liberia to provide reparation for survivors, relocate and resettle survivors and transfer the case to neutral location to avoid “local interference” or “manipulation”. Copies of this statement were presented to key embassies near Monrovia including the American and British Embassies. Subsequently, ten arrests were made and the case was transferred from the 3rd Judicial Circuit Court in Sinoe County to the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County. The case was scheduled to be heard during the August Term of Court.

Trial Proceedings 

The August Term of Court opened on August 12th, 2019 and the Johnny’s Town Murder Case was the first on the docket. Seven persons indicted for murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy and criminal facilitation faced a jury trial with fifteen jurors handing down the verdict. Initially, ten persons were arrested, indicted and taken to court in relation to this case. Three were nolle prosequoi, (the legal term for dropping charges against an accused for lack of evidence). Final arguments in the case were heard on Friday, August 30. Immediately thereafter, the jury unanimously handed down a guilty verdict against all seven indictees.

Sinoe County Women Platform

Prior to the opening of the August Term of Court, NIPO and FCI jointly sponsored ten members of the Sinoe County Women Platform to Grand Bassa County to continue advocacy actions and witness legal proceedings. The sponsorship covered the travel, accommodation and feeding of the ten-member team. They arrived in Grand Bassa County on the 10th of August and were met on arrival by NIPO and FCI. Advocacy in Grand Bassa was coordinated and executed alongside the Grand Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA).

The women gathered before the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court holding placards with inscriptions such as “No Excuse for Abuse” and “They Deserve Justice”, and called for a speedy and fair trial. They were assured that there was no need for protest actions because the case was the first on the docket.  This position was reinforced by the president of the Grand Bassa County Bar Association who spoke with the women and assured them that the Bar would do everything necessary to ensure that justice is served in a timely manner.

This case significantly helped the Platform to expand its network and amplify their voices at the regional level. Thanks to collaboration with the Grand Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA). The women continuously recommitted themselves to continuing their advocacy until the case was brought to a logical end.

Lorraine G. Mennon is the chairperson for the Platform. She committed to providing leadership in planning, organizing and implementing continuous advocacy actions and coordinating activities of the Platform until perpetrators were brought to book. She described the unanimous guilty verdict as a magnificent precedence and prayed that the state takes similar action against other people indicted for harmful traditional practices and violence against women and girls across Liberia. Madam Mennon informed NIPO and FCI that they will keep the Platform proactive, indicating that smaller community awareness actions will be organized and implemented to inform local women and girls about the effects of harmful traditional practices, expand knowledge and information about the Platform and create linkages with towns and villages with the view of monitoring, documenting, reporting and advocating against these bad cultural practices.

NIPO’s Lawyer joined the Prosecution Team

On Monday, August 12th, NIPO’s lawyer, Atty. Freeman, joined the prosecution team and promised to put his legal and research expertise to the disposal of the government towards winning the case. He promised to play active role in the cross examination of defense witnesses but later restricted his role to liaising with and motivating state lawyers. He told NIPO that after examining all the pieces of evidence against the accused, proof was evident and presumption great for their conviction. Atty. Freeman was hired and is paid by NIPO’s access to justice project, funded by UNDP-Liberia through Oxfam.

Conclusion

The Johnny’s Town Trial was a landmark case involving harmful traditional practices which inflicted serious injuries on two of three young Liberian women. This inhumane and criminal act led to the gruesome death of one of the victims and the hospitalization of another. Due to sustained advocacy actions at both the county and national levels, ten arrests were made, the case transferred to a neutral location and the survivors relocated. Legal proceedings in the case began in this August Term of Court. NIPO, FCI, Sinoe Women’s Platform and other women’s groups including the Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA), were very unwavering in supporting the survivors’ protection and access to justice in this case.

NIPO and FCI’s advocacy around this case was supported by Oxfam with funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.  The project, called “Funding Leadership Opportunities for Women” or FLOW, has the goals of promoting women’s rights to be heard and to live free from violence. The FLOW Project has successfully run in Liberia since 2016.

The lawyer hired by NIPO to support the State’s case is paid by the UNDP through Oxfam. This project is called “Strengthening Access to Justice for Women and Girls in Sinoe and Grand Gedeh.”

Due process was necessary to rendering justice against harmful traditional practices, protecting women and girls from the dangers of the practice, punishing perpetrators for wrongful actions and finding redress for victims and survivors. This landmark verdict has brought great relief to survivors and their families and set the right precedence that would possibly deter would-be perpetrators of harmful traditional practices in Liberia.

Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of Oxfam, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, or the UNDP.

Source: Johnny’s Town Murder Trial: Finally, Justice Is Done!

Liberia: Court to sentence 7 defendants found guilty in Sinoe County murder case

The article below – published by Liberia’s leading newspaper FrontPageAfrica – reports that on August 30, the Trial Jury of the Grand Bassa County Circuit Court unanimously found seven defendants guilty in the Sinoe murder case. This is not consistent with an earlier article, published by The Bush Chicken – another well  known Liberian newspaper – which reported that 10 of the 12 jurors voted for a guilty verdict, while 2 abstained (see my September 2 posting). 

Judge Joe Barkon of the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County is to hand down final ruling in the Sinoe County murder case on Monday, September 9.

To be continued (webmaster FVDK). 

A photo of the women who were claimed to be witches

Published: September 3, 2019
By: Kennedy L. Yangian – FrontPageAfrica

Monrovia – Court sources at the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County, have disclosed that Judge Joe Barkon is to hand down final ruling in the Sinoe County gang rape and murder case, on Monday, September 9.

The judge’s ruling will be followed by the sentencing of the seven defendants found guilty of murder and gang rape in

Trial Jury of the Grand Bassa County Circuit Court Friday, August 30, unanimously found the defendants guilty in the murder and gang-rape case.

This comes after more than two weeks of legal battle between government lawyers, led by Cllr. Wesseh Alphonsus Wesseh, Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation, and Defense lawyers, led by Cllr. Paul Philip Jarvan.

Judge Barkon reserved ruling into the case last Friday, August 30, in line with the law that provides for time in sentencing of Defendants who are found guilty.

 The seven guilty defendants are Moses Solo, Ellis Karpeh, Sylvester Chardy, Swen Kelgbeh, Teah Gmanwolou, Victor Solo and Pyne Nyene. They will be sentenced for Murder, Gang Rape, aggravated Assault, Criminal Conspiracy and Facilitation.

The defendants were among 10 persons who were arrested by state security and indicted in Greenville City, Sinoe County in 2018 after they accused three ladies, Williete Nyenwlah, Angeline Saydee and Florence Tarklay, for being responsible for the disappearance of a four-year-old child in Johnny Town, Normorpoe District, Sinoe County on December 12, 2018.

The three women were stripped  naked and paraded publicly  in the town and then taken to the society bush where they were allegedly tortured  and  sexually abused  with the men  inserting  sticks  into their private parts resulting to the death of one them, Williete, who was buried secretly  in a swampland.

The case was to be heard in Greenville Sinoe County but state prosecutors requested for a change of venue to the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Grand Bassa County based on what the prosecutors termed as due to local prejudice. 

As the case was called for trial this August 2019 Term and before the reading of the indictment to the defendants, Cllr. Wesseh A. Wesseh, Assistant Justice Minister for Litigation, entered a plea of Nolle Prosequoi (free) in favor of three co-defendants, Anthony Karmon Marshall Gballa and Shelton Kelgbeh for lack of sufficient evidence to prosecute them while the rest of the defendants were arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the multiple charges.

During the trial, the state produced five general witnesses including the two survivors and three rebuttal witnesses. 

While on the witness stand, two of the five co-defendants, Moses Solo and Alex Karpeh, described themselves as the “devil’s spokesperson” and the town crier of Jonny Town, respectively, though they denied the allegations but admitted been present and member of the country society that took custody of the victims.

 The two co-defendants said the deceased died after she was questioned by the country devil, who shouted at her and she allegedly dropped dead after she was transformed into a dragon and that her left eye was removed and given to her father who according to the defendants turned her over to the society people or country devil.

However, the other five co-defendants denied been members of the secret society and that they were not in Johnny Town when the incident occurred and that they were  arrested based on mistaken identity by the Liberia National Police. 

Their testimonies prompted the state lawyers to introduce the father of the deceased as one of its three rebuttal witnesses who denied been the head of the Zoe people and that it was him who turned his daughter over to the country devil to be penalized for been a “witch.” 

During the final legal argument, state lawyers argued that the defendants were under obligation to have brought in witnesses to prove their defense that they were arrested based on mistaken identity; but they miserably fail to do same while the Defense lawyer, Cllr. Paul Jarvan, counter argued that the state did not prove its allegation against the defendants.

The other defendants, who claimed that they were not in the town of the incident, did not produce witnesses to testify that they were not in the town when the incident occurred.

Source: Liberia: Court to Sentence 7 Defendants Found Guilty in Sinoe County Murder, Rape Case

Liberia: Sinoe County ‘Witchcraft Case’ transferred to Grand Bassa County

Yesterday I posted an article Liberia: ‘Devils’ and ‘Deagons’ – defendant details victim’s death.  While searching the internet for more news concerning this case I stumbled upon this Front Page Africa article (dated June 12, 2019). It contains no specific new developments, but provides nonetheless some valuable information which I do not want to withhold the readers (webmaster FVDK).

Assistant Justice Minister Wesseh A. Wesseh

Published: June 12, 2019
By: Front Page Africa

Monrovia – The much-publicized “witchcraft case” in Sinoe County involving nine defendants – all men – has been transferred from Greenville to Buchanan, Grand Bassa County for trial.

The nine defendants are charged with murder, gang rape, aggravated assault, and criminal facilitation in connection with the humiliation of three ladies accused of witchcraft activities in that part of the country.

Assistant Justice Minister For Litigation at the Ministry of Justice, Wesseh Alphonsus Wesseh told FrontPAgeAfrica Tuesday, June 11, that the Government of Liberia has decided to prioritize the prosecution of the nine Defendants and assured the public that everything will be done to ensure the Defendants get a free, fair and transparent trial.

Cllr. Wesseh then frowned on individuals bent on engaging in “jungle justice,” stating that trial by ordeal was outlawed by the Supreme Court since 1916, adding that it has no place for “contemporary society like Liberia”.

Those nine Defendants from Sinoe County that were transferred over the weekend to the Buchanan Central Prison to face trial during the current May 2019 Term of Court are: Moses Solo Jr, Shelton Kelgbeh, Teah Gmawlue, Marshall Gbala, Anthony Karmoh: others are Tweh Keglbeh, Wilson Pyne, alias Swen Pyne, Victor Solo, and Sylvester T. Cherdy.

The defendants were indicted early this year by the Grand Jury of the 3rd Judicial Circuit Court sitting in the provincial capital, Greenville Sinoe County.

Source: Sinoe County ‘Witchcraft Case’ Transferred To Grand Bassa County