“It is time we put an end to these barbaric practices.”
What can I add to this cry for the rule of law, to respect human life, and to act. Governments can no longer ignore these barbaric practices based on superstition, poverty and ignorance, and fed by greed. The numerous examples of ritual murders given in this Op-Ed are frightening: all over the country though I’ve pointed at the widespread occurrence of ritual murders in Nigeria in previous postings (webmaster FVDK).
The Illusion of money-making rituals in Nigeria – Editorial
Published: February 20, 2023 By: Editorial – This Day, Nigeria
Ritual killing remains largely a crime driven by ignorance and poverty
The recent arrest of two teenagers by operatives of the Edo State Security Vigilante Network has once again brought into sharp focus the bizarre practice of money rituals. The young men were apprehended following a tipoff by the female herbalist from whom they sought help in their desperate bid for wealth through diabolical means. But they are not alone. Just recently, some young men were reported to have stormed a health centre in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti state capital, asking for day-old babies. The unanswered question remains: What do they want to do with day-old babies? We can hazard a guess. They must belong to the growing group of desperadoes murdering innocent people, particularly women, children and sometimes the physically challenged, for ritual purposes.
These murderers, sometimes called headhunters, can go to any extent in the search of body parts for money-making rituals. And they are all over the country. Not long ago, there was a shocking discovery of three human heads inside a hotel room in the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra State. The three heads said to have been kept inside polythene bags were reportedly discovered by police officers following a raid on the hotel. Eleven persons suspected to be kidnappers or ritualists were arrested but typically, nothing was ever heard again about the case. At about the same time, the police in Kagura in Rafi Local government area of Niger State arrested four people in connection with the alleged murder of a 13-year-old son of an Islamic scholar. They reportedly lured the young boy to a secluded area where they removed his intestines and other vital organs after he had been murdered.
So rampant is this crime that in cosmopolitan cities like Lagos, Ibadan, Benin City and Kano, cases of ritual murders have now become commonplace. Indeed, incidence of ritual killings is said to account for many missing people in the country. But illiteracy is also a great factor in this crime. Even though the belief lacks common sense, many people indulge in these bestial acts for the purpose of making “instant wealth”, what some have aptly dubbed “blood money”. Yet, it is difficult to prove that these sacrifices, done at the instruction of some crafty traditional medicine practitioners and witch doctors, can catapult people from penury into instant wealth. At least, for now, there is no single person that can be named to have become rich because of human sacrifices, except the characters in some Nollywood movies. So, to that extent, ritual killing remains largely a crime driven by ignorance and poverty.
Meanwhile, the old image of the country as a citadel of humanitarianism, peacefulness, fraternity, cultural and moral renaissance seems blurred. There is disorderliness and chaos everywhere. Amid the moral confusion, it is difficult for many young Nigerians to understand that work comes before wealth. The estrangement from pristine values now finds dramatic expression in crass materialism, inordinate ambition to get rich quick at all costs. But on the prevalence of money rituals, this is also a law-and-order failure. Indeed, the increasing cases of abduction and killing of many innocent men, women and children is a poignant reminder that the police and the other security agencies have not sent a forceful message on what awaits the perpetrators of such a most heinous crime. The largely indifferent treatment of those caught has encouraged the commitment of more crime.
This is an issue that the relevant authorities must deal with and very quickly. There is also an urgent need for enlightenment campaigns to put a lie to the erroneous belief that money can grow out of the body parts of murdered people. It is time we put an end to these barbaric practices.
Warning: the story below contains graphic details which may upset the reader.
A 24-year-old lady from Warri, Delta State, has escaped from a den of ritual killers after being lured with a fake lucrative job offer abroad. After spending nine months in the bush where her abductors impregnated her she managed to escape. Other women who also had been kidnapped were not so lucky. After being raped, some women died of hunger and diseases, some were ritually murdered by their abductors who also used their babies for ritualistic purposes.
The article makes no mention of any arrest. Abductions are rife in Nigeria, both for purposes of demanding a ransom and for ritualistic purposes. According to the article, citing the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, an estimated 750,000 to one million persons are trafficked annually in Nigeria. Some 75% of those trafficked are taken across the states, 23% within states while 2% are moved outside the country, mostly to places in Europe and in Asia. Un unknown number of them is killed for ritual purposes in Nigeria (‘money rituals’). (webmaster FVDK).
Nigerian Woman Lured With Fake Italian Job Ends Up In Ritualists’ Den In Ondo, Impregnated By Abductors
Published: November 30, 2021 By: Sahara Reporters, New York
Mercy was made to believe that the salary was good and that they could pay for the travel expenses when they reached Italy and had started earning.
A 24-year-old lady simply identified as Mercy, who is based in Warri, Delta State, has escaped from a den of ritual killers after being lured with a fake lucrative job offer in Italy.
SaharaReporters learnt that the victim, who lost her father as a baby and was abandoned by her mother at 11 months, was told by a friend that there was a woman in Lagos State ready to sponsor them to Italy to work as sales attendants in stores and stewards for rich clients.
Mercy was made to believe that the salary was good and that they could pay for the travel expenses when they reached Italy and had started earning.
Desperate for a new life away from Warri where she endured an abusive relationship that produced a son, the 24-year-old lady did not inform her guardian, Maureen, before leaving for Lagos State in October 2020 with her friend, who was also lured and tricked to believe the trip was real.
Their journey to Italy was to start immediately after they arrived in Lagos and met with the sponsor of their trip.
But things took a different turn when Mercy and her friend, who is now deceased, finally linked up with team members of the woman that was to take them to Europe in a house around Surulere, a Lagos suburb.
“Mercy and her friend were given laced juice to drink when they arrived at the place they were to meet with the person, who promised to take them to Italy. They became unconscious for hours and only realised that they were in danger when they found themselves in a forest.
“Mercy summoned the courage to ask the men who had guns to take them out of the place but they beat her so much that she fainted,” Eriyo told SaharaReporters on Tuesday.
The days that followed that period were hellish for Mercy and the other ladies, who found themselves in the forest and at the receiving end of the cruelty dished out by the gun-wielding men.
Apart from being subjected to several hours of rape daily, the victims of the abduction and ritual killing network were made to endure hunger for several days.
They were only given two slices of bread once in three days and made to drink from a dirty pond inside the forest.
Mercy and many of the victims fell sick at various times while in captivity with some of them dying in the process.
“Many of the young ladies lured by this syndicate died of hunger and diseases from the dirty water they drank while in the forest.
“Their body parts were sold to ritualists who constantly demanded such. A lady who got pregnant and delivered there died but the baby survived. The gang used the innocent child for rituals along with the mother’s body.
“The place was a forest of death where no victim ever came out alive. The area was fortified and watched by members of this syndicate who all had sophisticated guns with them,” Eriyo added.
After spending around nine months inside this den, Mercy, her late friend and two others summoned the courage to escape from the place despite the presence of the gun-wielding men in various sections of the forest.
One day, after those guarding the place, were excessively high on drugs and alcohol and had dozed off, a handful of the victims escaped from the place.
They walked for three days inside the forest before getting to an expressway where a truck driver transporting food items to Lagos reluctantly carried them in his vehicle to the city.
The friend, who introduced the Italy trip to Mercy, did not make it out of the forest – she died while they were escaping from the place.
“Mercy is still in shock over everything she went through inside that forest. She returned to Warri last Thursday and gave birth by Caesarean section on Sunday.
“She was impregnated by her captors, who took turns to rape her and other ladies in the bush. Others like her who got pregnant in that forest and delivered there had their babies collected from them for ritual purposes.
“The trauma and pain are still fresh for her because many times she screams from her sleep, afraid that those people in the forest would come back to take her. The situation is affecting her mentally.
“She needs a lot of help to overcome the pain. I am trying my best to support her in ways I can but she needs great help.
“She is still in the hospital after giving birth by CS. Her health is of great concern to us because she has high blood pressure at the moment. She needs urgent assistance and intervention in various forms,” Eriyo said.
Trafficking in persons in Nigeria has been a major issue for years with the government failing to tackle the situation to a halt despite public outcry.
While in the past ladies were mostly taken to Italy, Spain and other European countries for prostitution, these days such persons after being lured by the syndicate in this illicit business, end up as sex slaves in Asian countries or killed for ritual purposes in Nigeria.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, an estimated 750,000 to one million persons are trafficked annually in Nigeria.
The organisation went on to say that over 75 per cent of those trafficked are taken across the states, 23 per cent within states while two per cent are moved outside the country.
The story presented below is not about ritual killing, or muti murders, as these crimes based on superstition and witchcraft are called in Southern Africa. It’s about the violent death of children including muti murder, however.
As stated in the article below, “According to official figures, around 1,000 children are murdered every year in South Africa, nearly three a day. But that statistic, horrific as it may be, may be an undercount.”.
The same applies for muti murders. The muti cases known are just the top of the iceberg.
For this reason I have decided to include the following article which was originally published by Associated Press (webmaster FVDK).
In South Africa, child homicides show violence ‘entrenched’
Published: December 22, 2020 By: KSAT.com / Associated Press – Gerald Imray And Bram Janssen
CAPE TOWN – At night, Amanda Zitho worries her little boy is shivering and cold in his coffin and yearns to take him a blanket. She knows Wandi’s dead and gone and it’s senseless, but that doesn’t stop the ache.
Wandi was 5 when he was killed in April, allegedly strangled with a rope by a Johannesburg neighbor — another dead child in a land where there are too many.
According to official figures, around 1,000 children are murdered every year in South Africa, nearly three a day. But that statistic, horrific as it is, may be an undercount.
Shanaaz Mathews thinks many more children are victims of homicides that are not investigated properly, not prosecuted or completely missed by authorities. The official figures are “just the tip of the iceberg,” said Mathews, the director of the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town and probably the country’s leading expert on child homicides.
In a country where more than 50 people are murdered every day, children are not special and are not spared.
“Violence has become entrenched” in the psyche of South Africa, Mathews said.
“How do we break that cycle?” she asked.
In 2014, she embarked on a research project to uncover the real extent of those child deaths. She did it by getting forensic pathologists to put the dead bodies of hundreds of newborn babies, infants, toddlers and teenagers on examination tables to determine exactly how they died.
Child death reviews are common in developed countries but had never been done in South Africa before Mathews’ project. As she feared, the findings were grim.
Over a year, the pathologists examined the corpses of 711 children at two mortuaries in Cape Town and Durban and concluded that more than 15% of them died as a result of homicides. For context, Britain’s official child death review last year found 1% of its child deaths were homicides. Mathews’ research showed homicide was the second most common cause of death for children in those two precincts.
“And the numbers are not going down,” she said. “If anything, they are going up.”
There are two patterns in South Africa. Teenagers are being swallowed up in the country’s desperately high rate of violent street crime. But also, large numbers of young children aged 5 and under are victims of deadly violence meted out not by an offender with a gun or a knife on a street corner, but by mothers and fathers, relatives and friends, in kitchens and living rooms, around dinner tables and in front of TVs.
Fatal child abuse is where the justice system often fails and cases are “falling through the cracks,” Mathews said.
There was, she says, the case of a 9-month-old child who had seizures after being dropped off at day care. Though rushed to the hospital, the child died.
Doctors found severe head injuries and told the mother to go to the police, but no one followed up. The mother never reported the death. When investigators tried to revive the case nearly two years later, the baby had long been buried and the evidence was cold.
Joan van Niekerk, a child protection expert, recounts numerous cases tainted by police ineptitude and corruption.
“I sometimes go through stages when I am more angry with the system than I am with the perpetrators and that’s not good,” she said. She said justice for children in South Africa is unacceptably “hard to achieve.”
And failures of justice sometimes lead to more deaths.
The neighbor originally charged with killing Wandi Zitho was released and the case provisionally dropped because the police didn’t deliver enough evidence, possibly because of a backlog in analyzing forensic evidence, according to one policeman working the case. Months later, the woman was arrested again and charged with murdering two other children.
Then there was the case of Tazne van Wyk.
Tazne was 8 when her body was found in February dumped in a drain near a highway nearly two weeks after she disappeared. She had been abducted, raped and murdered, police said.
Tazne’s parents blame the correctional system for paroling the man charged with their daughter’s murder despite a history of violent offenses against children. He’d already violated his parole once. They also fault police for failing to act on a tip that might have saved Tazne in the hours after her disappearance.
The case was high profile. The Minister of Police spoke at Tazne’s funeral and admitted errors. “We have failed this child,” he conceded, pointing at Tazne’s small white coffin, trimmed in gold. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the van Wyk home and promised meaningful action.
Nine months later, Tazne’s parents feel it was all lip service.
“How many children after Tazne have already passed away? Have been kidnapped? Have been murdered? Still nothing is happening,” said her mother, Carmen van Wyk.
She sheds no tears. Instead, anger bubbles inside her and her community. Houses connected with the suspect and members of his family were set on fire in the wake of Tazne’s killing.
It’s not just on the police to stop the abuse, said Marc Hardwick, who was a policeman for 15 years, 10 of them as a detective in a child protection unit.
He recalls one case, from 20 years ago. A 6-year-old girl was beaten to death by her father because she was watching cartoons and, distracted as any 6-year-old would be, wasn’t listening to him.
When they arrested the father and took him away — he was later sentenced to life in prison — the victim’s 9-year-old cousin approached Hardwick and said: “I think you stopped my bad dreams today.”
Clearly, children in that household had been living a nightmare, and the other adults had remained silent, said Hardwick: “The reality is that child abuse is not a topic people want to talk about.”
A Gambian businessman, Sillibah Samateh, testifying before the nation’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission has accused former Gambia dictator-president Yahya Jammeh of sacrificing babies for ritualistic purposes. Is it a lie, a phantasy or the truth?
The fact that I have decided to include here Mr. Samateh’s testimony before Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) is no approval of his allegations and accusations implicating the former dictator who was chased out of his country in January 2017. Jammeh was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea where he now lives, with the millions he stole before boarding the plane that brought him to the republic whose president is Africa’s longest ruling president, Teodoro Obiang. Equatorial Guinea has one of the worst human rights records in the world.
Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh – his full name being Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh – seized power in a military coup in 1994 and ruled the tiny West African republic with an iron fist during more than 20 years. Thousands of his opponents died or disappeared during his dictatorship. He has been accused of numerous human rights violations, murders, killing migrants, shooting students, arbitrary arrests, suppression of the press, corruption, rape, witch hunting campaigns – the list of accusations and crimes is even much longer. From this point of view the allegations made by Mr. Samateh gain some credibility, but – as I have repeatedly said in this place – ‘nobody is guilty unless found guilty by an independent, impartial judge after a public, transparent trial‘.
Therefor, I present the allegations without comments. I don’t say they are true, I don’t say they are not true. I only say that the accusations have to been proven (webmaster FVDK).
Gambia: Exiled Gambian dictator accused of stealing babies from hospitals for ritualistic purposes; Jammeh’s supporters reject accusations
Published: December 9, 2020 By: Freedom Newspaper
A Gambian businessman has accused the former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh of sacrificing newborn babies for ritualistic purposes. He says the babies were taken from hospitals and sacrificed. Sillaba Samateh made the allegations before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) on Tuesday. As Pa Nderry Mbai reports from Raleigh, North Carolina, Jammeh’s supporters are denying the allegations.
Speaking before an interpreter businessman Sillaba Samateh claimed that he learned about Jammeh’s alleged babies’ ritual while he was under detention at the National Intelligence Agency in Banjul. Samateh said he himself was being used to transport the stolen babies into the office of the late NIA Director General Numo Kujabi.
The two former security officers Samateh named in his testimony Nfanli Jabang and Numo Kujabi have died.
“You know the seriousness of this accusations. That the President of this country, was taking babies from hospitals and take them to prison to Kanilai for human sacrifice,” Lead Counsel Essa Faal told Mr. Samateh.
Samateh still stands by his story. He says Jammeh was allegedly killing babies for ritual purposes.
Samateh was held at the NIA on drug trafficking related charges. He later jumped bail and fled to Holland.
He claimed that while at the NIA, he was often asked to pick up dead bodies and put them in body bags.
Dodou Jah is the Deputy Spokesman for the former ruling APRC party.
“If these allegations were true, where are the parents of those kids, they have relatives, knowing for example, my wife is pregnant, goes to the hospital to deliver, we are expecting a baby. Even if my wife happens to pass away, but the baby belongs to the family, if the family doesn’t see it, the hospital is responsible. And these are issues that cannot go under the carpet, the media would be in the epicenter of it and this news is going to spread, but how come no such story ever emerged,” Mr. Jah said.
Jah says Samateh’s claims should be treated with pinch of salt. He added that witnesses should testify the truth and stop making baseless allegations against Yahya Jammeh.
“Not I don’t trust the TRRC, but some of the revelations I don’t know what to believe and the lead counsel is proving to them that they are lying. A witness comes to the TRRC and the lead counsel is telling them you are lying, but people want me to believe what they are saying. You know until somebody said it is red, another said it is black, I am asking who do I have to believe,” Mr. Jah remarked.
Samsudeen Sarr is the former Gambian Ambassador to the United Nations. Sarr is also a sympathizer of the APRC party.
“If thing of that nature as gruesome that is, would have been talked about everywhere in this country. So, I have serious doubts as to the credibility of the story of Sillaba Samateh,” Sarr remarked.
Sarr says Sillaba’s reputation is questionable. He is not convinced that Samateh was being truthful to the Commission.
“His reputation in this country has not been very good. You that, you know better than I do, Sillaba’s name it was not associated with good things in the past and since the change of government, he has been trying to sanitize his name and join the Barrow government,” Sarr added.
Lead Counsel Essa Faal says given the seriousness of Samateh’s allegations; it is important for the Commission’s Investigation team to investigate the matter.
Samateh was in tears while giving evidence. He claimed that one of the NIA officers Omar Cham had even threatened to rape his wife while they were being held there.
In another development, a former NIA detainee, who wished not to be named has dismissed Sillaba’s claims. He has accused Samateh of lying to the TRRC.
“We were detained at the same location at the NIA. No babies were brought to the NIA for ritual sacrifices. That was a figment of Sillaba’s own imagination. I am calling you, because I feel that he was untruthful to the Commission,” he said.
“As you rightly pointed out in your radio show, Numo Kujabi and Nfanli Jabang are not alive to substantiate his allegations. He is using the death to sell a false story,” the caller added.
The ritualistic infanticide practiced by the Kara, Banna and Hamar tribes of southern Ethiopia is as old as their cultures. The Kara, Banna and Hamar are not the only ethnic groups in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) that kill ‘cursed’ or ‘mingi’ infants. Also in e.g. Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin and Nigeria tribal elders decide that the well-being of their clan or ethnic group is best served by the killing of young, innocent and often defenseless life – and I am certain that infanticide is practiced in more SSA countries.
As with other ritualistic killings (murders!), superstition ‘is the root of all evil’. Ignorance, superstition, AND the lack of law enforcement keeps this ugly practice alive. Let’s all work hard to eradicate these practices from society. Today is 2020. We’re living in the 3rd millennium!
I highly recommend the article below. CNN is to be commended for its publication! (webmaster FVDK)
Is the tide turning against the killing of ‘cursed’ infants in Ethiopia?
Published: November 5, 2011 By: CNN – Matthew D. LaPlante
His top teeth came in before his bottom teeth. That is how elders of the Kara tribe determined that a healthy baby boy needed to be killed.
The child was “mingi” — cursed, according to their ancient superstitions. With every breath, they believed, the boy was beckoning an evil spirit into their village.
Murderous though it was, the decision to kill the boy was the easy part. It was the sacrifice of one infant for the good of the entire tribe — a rite that some of the elders had witnessed hundreds of times throughout their lives in Ethiopia’s remote Omo River Valley.
The tribe’s leaders were less certain of what they should do about the boy’s twin brother, who had died of sickness shortly after birth. After some debate, including a pensive examination of a goat’s intestines, they decided the dead child must have been mingi, too.
So they dug up the corpse, bound it to the living boy, paddled a canoe into the center of the Omo River and threw them both into the murky brown water.
That was five years ago — a time before many outside of this isolated basin had ever heard of mingi.
Today, nudged out of acquiescence by a slow-growing global condemnation of the ritualistic infanticide practiced by the Kara, Banna and Hamar tribes of southern Ethiopia, regional government officials have begun to take action — threatening prison for those complicit in mingi killings.
Meanwhile, a small band of Banna Christians has taken it upon itself to give sanctuary to the mingi children of their tribe; an enlightenment among some young and educated tribesmen of the Kara has spawned an orphanage for the condemned; and global Samaritans, drawn by the plights of these defenseless children, have offered money and adoptive homes.
The combined efforts have saved scores of children.
But none of the interventions has brought an end to the deep fear that stokes the slaughter. And so it is estimated by some government officials, rescue workers and village elders that hundreds of children are still being killed each year, by drowning, suffocation and deliberate starvation.
‘All the people’ Bona Shapo steers a dugout canoe through crocodile-infested waters, guiding the craft ashore where the Omo River bends at the bottom of a crumbling precipice near the tiny stick-and-thatch village of Korcho.
The sun is setting into the ravine. Across the river, a troop of colobus monkeys whoops and howls, stirring a flock of gangly marabou storks from their perches on a stand of flat-topped acacia trees.
“This is where they do it,” says Bona, who stood upon these same muddy banks on the day the twin boys were thrown into the river. “Sometimes they take the babies out in a boat. Other times, they just take them to the edge of the water and throw them in.”
The mingi rites of the Kara are slightly different from those of the Banna, which are, in turn, different from the Hamar. But common among all is a profound fear of what might happen if the killings were to stop.
There has been little academic scholarship on the subject, but some observers have speculated that it might have started many generations ago as a way to purge people who are more likely to become a burden or who cannot contribute to the propagation of their people. That might explain why children who break a tooth or injure their genitals are among those singled out for death. Others are killed because they are born out of wedlock or to married parents who have not completed a ceremony announcing their intention to have children — a brutal enforcement, perhaps, of the deep-rooted duty that members have to the tribe first, their family second.
As far as the Kara elders are concerned, these rules are as old and unyielding as the Omo River — and every bit as crucial to their survival. Allowing a mingi child to live among the Kara, they believe, could cause the rains to stop falling and the sun to grow hotter.
“If they have the mingi, there will be no water, no food, no cattle,” Bona says. “But when they throw the baby away, everything is good again.”
Elders bitterly recall times in which their sympathy for mingi children prevailed over their fear. They believe that heedlessness cost the tribe most of its cattle and many of its members. Today, Kara leaders say, a more respectful adherence to the brutal obligations of their beliefs has allowed their tribe to thrive.
“So yes, it is sad, but we are thinking about the village, the family, all the people,” Bona says. “We tell the parents, ‘don’t cry for your baby, because you will save everyone. You can always make another baby.’ ”
‘No other option’ She wasn’t permitted to nurse him, hold him or even see him. But Erma Ayeli still clings to an image of the baby she lost — fantasy though it may be.
“I think he must have been a beautiful boy,” Erma says as she rests on a pile of sticks, surrounded by a playful mob of younger children. “I wanted to keep him.”
Her chin sinks into the tornado of colorful beads draped around her neck.
Apparently sensing her sorrow, a young boy rests his half-shorn head playfully on her lap. Erma tugs at his ear, smiles and reclaims her composure.
She still mourns. But she does not question why her son was killed. “There was no other option,” she says.
Sex outside of the confines of marriage is acceptable among the Kara.
But if a woman becomes pregnant before participating in a marriage ceremony, her child is considered “kumbaso,” a mingi curse that occurs when parents fail to perform the appropriate series of rites before conceiving. Erma cannot marry, though, until her older sister has first been wed. Her hands fall to her swollen stomach; she is pregnant once again.
“It was an accident,” she laments as she rubs her bare waist. “I don’t want to lose this baby, too.”
There is a potion she can take; the village medicine man can mix a concoction of roots and herbs that will make her sick and might cause her body to reject her pregnancy, taking her baby’s life before others can take it from her.
Many women choose this path. Erma won’t. Because this time, at least, she has some reason to hope that her child might be spared a violent death. Far away from her village, she has heard, there is an orphanage for mingi babies. She has pleaded with village leaders to let her child go there.
Either way, though, she won’t be allowed to see her baby. Once again, she’ll be left to dream about what her child might look like. “This time, I think, I might have a girl,” Erma says. Again, her head hangs low. Again, the boy next to her drops his own head into her lap, glancing up with a wry smile.
This time, though, Erma doesn’t smile back. She gently strokes his smooth brown cheek.
‘This was our culture’ They have taken her tribal clothes. Her beads, her animal skins and her jewelry have been replaced by a tattered shirt and loose-fitting skirt. In that and most other visible regards, Mashi Lamo is indistinguishable from the other inmates at the Jinka Prison Institute.
Yet everyone in this ragtag penitentiary knows who she is. “The mingi mother,” says one guard, a woman whose crisply pressed khaki uniform seems to stand out in defiance of this dirty, dilapidated jail, cut into a hillside in the South Omo region’s administrative capital. “Yes, we all know what happened to her. It is very sad.”
It is not typical for Kara mothers to be asked to kill their own mingi children — and none are known to have done it of their own volition. In any case, fellow Kara say Mashi could not have killed her baby; she was far too weak after the birth to have done such a thing. It was other women who took the child away, they say.
But when police arrived, Mashi took the blame. Within days, she had been sentenced to three years in prison. She had no attorney, and there was no trial.
She may be a prisoner today, but her past and future are inexorably Kara. Mashi can speak and understand only her native language. She’s never been to school. When she is finally released, there will be only one place to go.
And so, under the watchful eyes of several other Kara prisoners, Mashi stands by her story.
“What they say is false,” she says of those in her tribe who have proclaimed her innocence. “I did it all myself.”
But asked if she deserves to be in prison, the teenager sinks her face into her hands. “I hate it here,” she says.
“I wanted to keep my baby, but that was not allowed. This was our culture.”
A few feet away, another young prisoner — girlish in figure and demeanor — hides behind a corrugated metal wall and listens in. Prison guards say she is the only other person serving time here for a mingi killing, and they say she shares Mashi’s plight.
But she cannot bring herself to speak of what happened. “This one prefers to forget” the shipshape guard says.
Unevenly executed as it might be, the government’s effort to crack down on mingi killings has had an effect on the Kara. Combined with other interventions, the fear of prison might be helping to save some children.
But not all of them.
“Before, they did it in the open,” says Solomon Ayko, a gangly young Kara man who has witnessed several mingi killings. “Now, it just happens in secret.”
‘They are human’ The Kara don’t count the passing years as outsiders do, but by Ari Lale’s recollection, it happened about 15 years ago, when he was a young man, eager to prove himself to the rest of his tribe.
A kumbaso baby had been born. Leaders asked Ari to supervise the child’s execution.
“The baby was crying,” Ari says, “so we put sand in its mouth and he was still trying to cry but couldn’t anymore.”
Soon, the child was dead, and Ari escorted a group of women away from the village to throw the tiny boy’s body into the bush.
What became of the child’s remains? “The hyenas or other animals took it away,” Ari says with a shrug.
Today, Ari is the leader of Korcho village, and he counts his participation in the boy’s death as one of his proudest memories.
“All the families would thank me for throwing away that baby,” he says.
“If I had not done it, they would have been angry.” It is extremely uncommon for police officers to make the arduous trip from Jinka to any of the Kara villages, but Ari says he and other leaders are nonetheless wary of the threat of prison. At some point, he says, the government will want to make an example out of someone of his stature.
But Ari, who wears his hair taut under a hard, red clay bun in the way of his tribe’s warriors, has not stopped believing in the dark magic of mingi. And so he and others have found a different way to carry out the killings.
They will not drown or suffocate the children, as they once did.
But they have forbade anyone from the village to have contact with a cursed baby.
“If a mother was to give the baby her breast, she would also become mingi,” he says. “After the baby is born, we keep it alone in the house and we do not give it water or milk.”
Without nourishment, the infants quickly die, and there is little that can be done to prove that a baby wasn’t simply stillborn.
Ari appears to be pleased about this solution. Yet he balances his pride with a lament for the dead.
“They are human,” he says of the mingi children.
For all of the praise he got for carrying out that first killing, Ari says, he would have much preferred to let the child live, if only there had been another way.
For some, now there is.
‘A sickness in our culture’ Kara children die all the time.
Many succumb to disease. Others are killed by wild animals. And some are sacrificed in the name of mingi.
For Shoma Dore, that was simply part of life.
“This is something that came down from generation to generation,” Shoma says. “If a baby comes with the top teeth before the bottom teeth, it must be killed. If it comes without the ceremony, it must be thrown away. … I didn’t realize there was anything wrong with it.”
Not, that is, until Shoma left the tribe to attend school in his early teens. In Jinka, he says, he realized for the first time the evil that was being done by his tribe. And when he returned, two years later, he found that others among the Kara’s more educated youths had come to the same realization.
“There are many important and good parts of our culture — there is also a sickness in our culture, and we have to change ourselves,” says Aryo Dora, who decided a few years ago to go with Shoma and about 30 other young Kara to plead with tribal elders to stop the killings.
Their plan, developed with the assistance of a team of Westerners, was simple: If mingi children could be sent far away from the village, they would pose no risk to the tribe.
“Once we explained the plan, they agreed quite easily,” Shoma recalls.
And that is how the orphanage began.
It wasn’t long before Webshet Ababaw was drawn into the fight. The professional tour guide and driver was in Jinka when he received a call from the orphanage. Leaders there had received word that a kumbaso girl was about to be born in the Kara village of Labuk. They needed someone with a four-wheel-drive vehicle who wasn’t afraid to race across the axle-breaking savannah to get to the village in time to save her.
No one seemed inclined to help find the child when Webshet and an official from the orphanage arrived in the village, but they finally found the infant lying on the ground behind a stick hut. Her mouth was filled with dirt and sand, but she was alive and seemed to be in relatively good health, Webshet says.
Piecing together a newborn first-aid regimen from what he’d seen in the movies and in a high school health class, Webshet unstrung a lace from his shoe and tied it around the baby’s broken umbilical chord. When no one in the village would give him a blanket, he wrapped the shivering child in his jacket. And when no one would give him milk, he found a goat, crouched beside it, and took a small amount for the girl.
None of the Kara had helped him on that day, but as he raced back to Jinka, Webshet looked at the small bundle in the passenger seat beside him and smiled.
There she was, improbably cooing as he bumped along the rugged dirt road.”
At least someone decided to contact us,” he says. “That is the only reason why she was alive.”
Orphanage officials later named the baby Edalwit, which means “she is lucky.
“Today, more than 30 mingi children live together in a small single-story home in a quiet Jinka neighborhood. Aryo, who is co-director of the orphanage, won’t grant permission for outsiders to check on the children — a rule intended to protect the orphans from potential exploitation, he explains. But, he says, they are loved, cared for and schooled with the hope that one day, they will be allowed to return to their families.
“These children are the future leaders of their tribes,” Aryo says. “They are going to grow up big and strong. They are the ones who will end mingi.”
‘We did our best’ It is a bright May morning in Korcho. In the communal spaces between the round, grass-topped huts, dozens of women are on their knees, vigorously thrusting their body weight into stone hand mills, grinding sorghum into flour.
Zelle Tarbe, though, is working inside. It has been just six days since she gave birth to her baby boy. Her breasts are still swollen — full of milk that will not nourish her child. The shock of losing him is still plastered across her face.
Zelle, who is unmarried, knew she would have to give up the child, but it was harder than she expected. “I wanted to keep him with me,” she says.
But she is nonetheless feeling very fortunate, “because my son is alive.”
Zelle was able to spend a few short moments with her baby before orphanage officials spirited him away.
“He was so sweet and beautiful,” she says from the shadows of the hut as a friend butchers a goat and hangs its carcass on the wall beside her. “But I did not give him a name because he was mingi and could not stay with me.”
Already, though, she is dreaming of a day in which she might make the journey to see her boy.
“Someday, I hope, I can visit him in Jinka,” she says.
No one, least of all Zelle, would argue that the rescue mission isn’t preferable to death for mingi children. But the orphanage has nonetheless been a controversial solution. A Christian group that supported the effort for two years withdrew its backing this spring after accusing the orphanage’s director of stealing money donated by American benefactors.
Orphanage officials counter-accused the Americans — who had helped arrange the adoptions of four mingi babies — of stealing the children from their families. The adoptions were, in fact, all legal under Ethiopian law, which treats mingi children as abandoned. But the orphanage leaders have argued that the biological parents surrendered their babies under cultural duress and should have the right to reclaim those children if their situation were to change.
Either way, adoptions and orphanages don’t address the root causes of mingi. And even when it had the support of a determined and resourceful team of Westerners, the rescue and shelter system was able to save only a fraction of the endangered children.
“At one point, there were six women we knew about who were pregnant with mingi children,” recalls Jessie Benkert, one of the Americans who supported the rescue effort. “We only got one.”
Geography is as much an obstacle as tradition. The Kara tribe is separated into three main villages, and the only telephone able to reach the outside world is in the main village of Dus, an hours-long hike from the other communities. Hundreds of other Kara live deep within the bush and, tribe members say, are more likely to carry out mingi killings there without notice.
Getting from Jinka to any of the Kara villages in a four-wheel-drive vehicle is, in the best of situations, a half-day’s trip across soft savannah sands and muddy river beds. A light rain can delay the trip by days. And during the rainy season, which lasts for up to eight months each year, the route can be washed away entirely.
Tribal leaders in Korcho say about 20 mingi children have been born into their small village since the orphanage opened. Orphanage workers have arrived in time to save only about half of them, they say.
Last year, rescue mission leaders learned that a Kara woman had given birth to a mingi boy whom tribal elders had promptly attempted to kill by ripping out his umbilical cord. The wounds had quickly gone septic, and there was no time to send a car to retrieve the child. Evacuation by air was the only solution; chartering the aircraft cost $3,500.
“That was the sum of all the money we had,” said Levi Benkert, Jessie’s husband. “And we couldn’t be certain that, even if we did it, he was going to live.
“They did it anyway — and saved the boy. An online fundraising effort quickly recouped the costs of the evacuation, but rescue mission officials knew they couldn’t sustain those sorts of expenses. And, in any case, they’ve since been pushed out of the Omo River Valley by local government officials who have sided with the orphanage’s Ethiopian director.
“We did our best,” Levi Benkert says. “We saved as many children as we could. And we continue to pray for them every day.”
‘Out of fear’ The people of the Omo River Valley love their children.
That is what Andreas Kosubek has come to believe over six years of organizing medical mission trips into the Kara heartland.
“These people are really good people,” says the German missionary, who recently gained permission from tribal elders to build a home on Kara lands. “They are not doing this because they are evil, wild, dumb monsters. They’re doing it out of fear. They fear for the lives of others in the tribe.”
From Kosubek’s point of view, the fear will end only if the Kara come to believe in something stronger than mingi. In his way of thinking, that means introducing them to Christianity.
“But we cannot do that,” the 29-year-old evangelist says, “unless we approach them with humility and a dedication to service.”
And Kosubek says he has often failed in that regard.
Not long ago, a Kara man brought his sick daughter to Kosubek, who was on tribal lands to work on his home and not accompanied by anyone with medical training.
The toddler was breathing rapidly and not responding to her father’s words or touch.
“She was the same age as my daughter and, you know, if my daughter had been sick like that, there is nothing I wouldn’t have done to save her,” Kosubek says, noting that he would have immediately evacuated his own daughter to a hospital. “But so many things crossed my mind: It’s difficult, it’s expensive.”
The girl later died, probably of simple pneumonia.
“I could have helped her,” Kosubek says. “And I am ashamed.”
Kosubek recognizes the need to end mingi killings, but he doesn’t feel entitled to condemn those deaths.”
Far more children are dying in other ways,” he says. “These are ways that we can address and prevent immediately if we just cared enough. Before we judge, we have to ask ourselves what we have done to help these children.
“In that question, he believes, is a model for truly bringing an end to the slaughter — through genuine selflessness and compassion.He’s seen it, firsthand, among the people of the nearby Banna tribe.
‘My children are also mingi’ In a smoke-filled mud hut in the village of Alduba, Kaiso Dobiar dips a ladle into a tar-black pot of coffee, filling her home with the aroma of the brew as she stirs the simmering liquid.
Kaiso is proud to be Banna, and she follows many of her tribe’s customs and beliefs. But she is also Christian and, wary of false idolatry, she and her husband refused to perform the rites mandated by tribal leaders before they conceived.
“So my children are also mingi, in that way of thinking,” says Kaiso, who is fostering two additional mingi children in her home.
A tiny girl crawls onto Kaiso’s lap, reaching over to help stir the pot. “This is Tarika,” Kaiso says. “She is 2 years old, and she is mingi.”
The girl was born without the appropriate Banna ceremonies, but her birth mother hid the child for six months. “Then the rains stopped for a short time,” Kaiso says. “The people rose up and said, ‘You must get rid of her. Throw her into the bush.’ But I said, ‘do not throw your child into the bush, give her to me.’ ”
Also sharing this small hut with Kaiso’s family is Tegist, another mingi child who guesses her age at 7 or 8 years. Kaiso says her foster daughters cannot play with other Banna children and must remain in her family’s small compound.
“They will have to stay here until they are older,” Kaiso says. “After that? God, he knows.”
Missionaries first came to the Banna decades ago, and the Christian church here is larger than any other among the tribes of this region. Still, their numbers are small; Banna’s Christians make up just 1 or 2 percent of the tribe’s population.
But their collective efforts have been enough to almost eliminate mingi killings within their tribe. With little money or other means of support, Banna’s Christians have accepted responsibility for nearly all of the tribe’s mingi children. Many, like Kaiso, are already caring for one or more mingi boys and girls. One family has taken in 17 foster children.
They do so at great potential risk to their own families. As she steps outside her home, the precariousness of Kaiso’s situation becomes clear.
“Kaiso, why are you protecting those children?” an angry neighbor screams from beyond a stick fence. “Tell us why!”
The Banna have not faced drought or a significant bout with deadly disease for many years. That, local Christians say, has kept much of their neighbors’ anger at bay.
But if the tribe’s fortunes were to change, its leaders would be swift to identify a culprit, Banna tribesman Andualem Turga says.
“What you need to understand is that, to these people, these babies are like an influenza,” he says. “If it is not stopped, it can kill many people. That is what they believe. … And when things go badly, the people believe this more than ever.”
Another foster mother, Uri Betu, tries not to think about such things. Her faith, she says, is clear on her responsibilities to the two mingi children who live in her home — and any others that need her care.
“For now, we do not worry,” Uri says as she watches her pair of 2-year-old foster daughters, Tariqua and Waiso, play in her yard.
ver time, Uri prays, the Banna will see that the presence of mingi children in their midst is unrelated to the patterns of rain and sun that sometimes cause their crops to fail.
Still, she laments, “there is a long way to go to change the beliefs we have had for so long.”
BLANTYRE (Malawi), March 12 — Police in Malawi said today they had arrested a man for trying to strangle to death a 16-year-old albino boy, with a rights group reporting six murders in the last three months.
The suspect had been on the run after he was caught trying to kill the 16-year-old at his home in February.
In the southern tea-growing district of Mulanje, police spokesman James Kadadzera said the man would soon appear in court on a charge of attempted murder.
As in other parts of Africa, albinos in Malawi are killed for their body parts, which are sold for witchcraft.
Six albinos have been killed in the impoverished southern African country since December, according to the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi.
Malawian albinos are “living in fear of being attacked or killed” because of the recent spate of murders, association director Boniface Massah said.
Belief in witchcraft runs deep in Malawi and albino body parts are often used in rituals. Even the bodies of dead albinos are sometimes exhumed and sold.
Earlier this week, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein denounced attacks against albinos as “stunningly vicious, with children in particular being targeted”.
Albinism is a hereditary genetic condition that causes a total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes.
Countries in east and west Africa are worst affected, and Tanzania near Malawi has one of the highest attack rates.
In Tanzania, body parts sell for around US$600 (RM2,100) and an entire corpse fetches US$75,000, according to the UN.
Today, Tanzanian police said over 200 people have been arrested as part of a nationwide crackdown on witchdoctors linked to a wave of albino attacks and murders.
Albinism in Tanzania affects one in 1,400 births, often as a result of inbreeding, experts say. — AFP