Father Cyril Imohiosen, a Nigerian priest who is a SMA Father and a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida, followed in the footsteps of his predecessors when speaking at a catholic Mass with Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito marking Black History Month at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Riviera Beach, lashing out against ritual killing and witchcraft practices in Tanzania.
Father Imohiosen is to be commended for raising his voice against these cruel practices in Tanzania. I proves once more that an increasing number of people no longer accept the excrescences of superstition based on ignorance and tolerated – sometimes even encouraged – by powerful people who benefit from it. (webmaster FVDK)
Christians must be ‘light in the darkness’ – speaking out against ritual killing in Tanzania
RIVIERA BEACH | At a Feb. 4, 2023, Mass with Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito marking Black History Month at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Riviera Beach, a visiting priest presented a call to action for those thirsting for rights, justice and peace.
Father Cyril Imohiosen, a Nigerian priest who is a member of the Society of African Missions and a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, urged parishioners in his homily to reach out to neighbors and be a positive influence in their communities and workplaces.
Speaking about his challenging experiences as a missionary in Tanzania, Father Imohiosen recalled incidences of ritual killing and elderly women being accused of witchcraft in order to steal their possessions.
“As a missionary, I had to speak out against this,” he said. “I had to shelter and protect these poor women and children from extortion, injustice, … Just as Martin Luther King never remained silent, the prophet invites us to speak out. Dear friends, are you speaking against all these or are you a perpetrator encouraging them? What is your relationship like with the people that live in your neighborhood? How sensitive are you to them? As we celebrate our love, our togetherness and our heritage as a people, let us listen to the voice of the prophet today.”
In the day’s first reading (Is 58:7-10), the prophet Isaiah tells the people of Israel to share their bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and homeless, and remove persecution from their midst.
“As he speaks to the Israelites, he speaks to each of us today,” Father Imohiosen said. “He invites us to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. He invites us to live a life of justice. He invites us to live a life of love. He invites us to live a life of forgiveness and righteousness in whatever situation we find ourselves in. Regardless of where we come from, our race, our inclination, etc., we are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Connecting the Gospel reading (Mt 5:13-16) to societal needs, he encouraged all to be salt and light in the world.
“The presence of Christians in the world must be like light in the darkness,” Father Imohiosen said. “The light allows others to witness the acts of justice and love that followers of Christ perform. Just as a few grains of salt can make a big difference in food, so also a few faithful Christians can make a big difference in the world with their shining lights.”
For more information on St. Francis of Assisi Parish, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary March 18-19, visit https://stfrancisofassisi1948.org, on Facebook at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church – Riviera Beach, FL or call 561-842-2482.
The following article was chosen because of what can be read between the lines. The author of the article dwells on the pros and cons of social media warning for the dangers which especially threaten children. Towards the end of the article we read a shocking acknowledgement:
Of course, such a statement is in legal terms no proof of a crime, but the well-informed reader and many Zimbabweans will know the truth behind these lines.
For this reason I have decided to share the article with you. After all, the newspaper publishing the article is well-known and respected, one of Zimbabwe’s leading newspapers, and the author, Elliott Ziwira a senior journalist. (webmaster FVDK)
Social media parenting leaves children exposed
Published: January 28, 2023 By: Elliott Ziwira, Senior writer – The Herald, Zimbabwe
The reader is invited to click the link below (‘Source’) to read the whole article.
As stated elsewhere on this site, human sacrifices are of all ages and all places. In principle, this site focuses on ritualistic activities including killings and murders on the African continent but without pretending that these cruel and superstitious acts are only happening or being committed by Africans in African countries.
The article presented below amply illustrates the foregoing. It goes without saying that a topic such as ‘human sacrifices in historical perspective’ covers a vast area and cannot be treated in one short and simple article. Nevertheless, I have thought it useful and informative to include the following article on this site.
Warning: some readers may find the following text shocking because of its graphic contents. (webmaster FVDK).
Countless Centuries of Human Sacrifice
Live Science recently published a list of 25 cultures that employed human sacrifice “from prehistory to the 21st century.”
In the history of religion, uncountable centuries of human sacrifice present a gory stunner.
It’s astounding that parents around the world sent their children and unwed daughters to be stabbed, burned, skinned, strangled, beheaded, drowned, crushed, clubbed or otherwise killed to please absurd gods and goddesses now known to be imaginary. Men – especially prisoners of war – also were sacrificed.
Live Science recently published a list of 25 cultures that employed human sacrifice “from prehistory to the 21stcentury.” It included China, the city of Ur (in today’s Iraq), Mound 72 near St. Louis, the Incas of Peru, the Mayas of Mexico, the Philistines of the Mideast, Aztecs of Mexico, ancient Egypt, Stonehenge, medieval Japan, Hawaii, early Romans, ancient Greeks, the Moche tribe of Peru, the Dahomey of Africa, Celts of Europe, Nazca of Peru, Vikings, Carthage, Mongols, hunter-gatherers of early Europe, the Indus Valley, ancient Korea, India, Tanzania.
Encyclopedia Britannica says:
“Sacrifice is not a phenomenon that can be reduced to rational terms; it is fundamentally a religious act that has been of profound significance to individuals and social groups throughout history, a symbolic act that establishes a relationship between man and the sacred order. For many peoples of the world, throughout time, sacrifice has been the very heart of their religious life.”
Here’s a section from my book, Holy Horrors, reprinted with permission from Prometheus Books and Rowman & Littlefield:
Over the centuries, sacrifice had many varieties. In ancient Phoenicia, boys were burned to satisfy Adonis and other gods – and the fall of Carthage was blamed on the faithlessness of nobles who substituted children of slaves for their own on the altars. In ancient Gaul, the Druids allegedly put victims into large wicker figures of men and set them afire. In Tibet, Bon shamans performed ritual killing. In Africa, the Ashanti offered about 100 victims each September to assure a good yam harvest. In Borneo, builders of pile-houses drove the first pile through the body of a maiden to satisfy the earth goddess.
The golden age of sacrifice came with the highly organized theocracies of Central America. After the Mayans amalgamated with fierce neighbor tribes in the 11th century, ritual killings proliferated to appease the plumed serpent Kukulcan (later called Quetzacoatl by the Aztecs) and sundry other gods. Maidens were drowned in sacred wells, and other victims were beheaded, shot with arrows, or had their hearts cut out.
In Peru, pre-Inca tribes killed children in “houses of the moon.” Beginning in the 1200s, the Incas built a complex theocracy dominated by priests who read daily magical signs and offered sacrifices to many gods. At major ceremonies, up to 200 children were burned as offerings. Mothers brought their darlings dressed in finery and flowers to be put to death. Special “chosen women” – comely virgins without blemish – sometimes were removed from their temple duties and strangled. Local rulers sent choice daughters to the capital at Cuzco as chosen women. Later they were sent back to be buried alive.
The ultimate murder religion was that of the Aztecs, which demanded about 20,000 victims per year. The chief deity was the sun, which might disappear, priests warned, without daily sustenance of hearts and blood. Multitudes of victims, mostly prisoners of war, were held on stone altars by clergy who ripped out their hearts with obsidian knives. Flesh from their arms was eaten ritually, and their skulls were preserved on racks holding as many as 10,000 heads. Raids called “wars of the flowers” were conducted to seize plentiful sacrifice candidates.
Priests also killed many Aztecs. Weeping children were sacrificed so that their tears might induce the rain god to water the crops. To please the maize goddess, dancing virgins were seized, decapitated, and skinned – and their skins were worn by priests in continued dancing.
In 1487, when the great Aztec temple in Tenochtitlan was dedicated, eight teams of priests worked four days sacrificing 20,000 prisoners, the entire manpower of three captured tribes….
In the Far East, five different types of human sacrifice were halted by British rulers in the 1800s. One was the yearly meriah by the Khonds of Bengal, who cut a victim into small pieces and buried the fragments in many fields to assure a good harvest. Another was a weekly rite by certain followers of the bloodthirsty Hindu goddess Kali who sacrificed a male child every Friday evening at a shrine in Tanjore, India.
A third was the Hindu code of suttee, which required a widow to leap onto her dead husband’s funeral pyre, willingly or unwillingly. The British banned it in 1829, but it persisted. (When Brahmans of Sind protested that suttee was their holy custom, Governor Charles Napier replied: “My nation also has a custom When men burn women alive, we hang them. Let us all act according to national customs.”)
In Burma, the Buddhist king moved the capital to Mandalay in 1854 and sanctified the new city walls by burying scores of “spotless” men alive in vats under the gates and bastions. In 1861, two of the vats were discovered to be empty – whereupon royal astrologers declared that 500 men, women, boys and girls must be killed and buried at once, or the capital must be abandoned. About 100 actually were buried before British authorities stopped the ceremonies.
The worst holy slaughter halted by the British was the infamous Thuggee strangling in India. For generations, certain secretive followers of Kali, the goddess of destruction, had been ritually dispatching an estimated 20,000 victims a year. The toll since the 1500s was estimated as high as two million. Thug theology held that Brahma the Creator produced lives faster than Shiva the Destroyer could end them, so Shiva’s wife Kali commanded believers to hunt humans and garrote them with sashes.
Thugs usually preyed upon travelers in unpopulated places. Victims were seized, strangled, ceremonially gashed, and buried, then the Thugs ate a ritual meal over the burial spot. (They also plundered the victim’s possessions – another motive for their religious fervor.) British officers finally broke Thuggee by ferreting out 3,689 cultists and hanging or imprisoning them, or branding them with “Thug” as a public warning. At a trial in 1840, one Thug was accused of strangling 931 people.
Other sacrifices lingered. In the 1800s an Ashanti king in Africa, wishing to make his new palace impregnable, sacrificed 200 girls and mixed their blood in the mortar of the walls. In 1838 a Pawnee American Indian girl was cut to pieces to fertilize newly sown crops. During the late 1800s, bodies of sacrificed children occasionally were found at Kali shrines in India.
Among those thousands of priests, I wonder if any realized that their gods were purely imaginary. Whether they did or not, their careers consisted of senseless, pointless, horrifying murder.
The article below is not specifically describing the actual situation in one or more African countries. The article is brief and superficial. The reason why I decided to post it here is that it illustrates the fact that ritualistic killings, human sacrifices, and the belief that sacrificing a human being in a ritual with the objective to please the gods or the ancestors are as old as mankind and have occurred or are still occurring all over the world.
It goes without saying that although these age-old practices occur world-wide, they have no place in the 3rd millennium of mankind. (webmaster FVDK)
SOME OF THE DEADLIEST HUMAN SACRIFICES IN HISTORY
Published: December 12, 2022 By: Oluwatomiwa Ogunniyi – Guardian, Nigeria
In the past, human sacrifices were prevalent all over the world. The manner in which they were carried out was dreadful and not for the faint-hearted. We have compiled a list of some of the deadliest human sacrifices in history; you wouldn’t believe some of them!
Persecution of People with albinism
Albinism is a genetically inherited condition that is very rare and it affects approximately one in every 20,000 people worldwide. Though rare in the western world, albinism is fairly common in sub-Saharan Africa, most likely, as a result of consanguineous alliances. Even though albinism occurs in both males and females and is not specific to any race or ethnic group, many still believe that it is a punishment from God or a result of hard luck.
Some Africans still believe that certain parts of an albino’s body have magical powers. This belief has led to many witch doctors and those seeking ingredients for their rituals to kill them. As a result, thousands of people with albinism have been killed and dismembered, and their graves of dug up and desecrated. The scary thing is that this practice is still common in Africa today.
The Lafkenches Tribe Sacrifice
In the year 1960, the strongest earthquake and tsunami ever recorded on the moment magnitude scale hit Chile, thereby, killing thousands of people and destroying many homes and properties in the process. This earthquake became known as the great Chilean earthquake and it led to widespread fear of the possible cause. The people came to the conclusion that the god of the sea was angry with them and so they decided to offer a sacrifice.
They chose a five-year-old child and sacrificed him in a horrifying manner: he had his legs and arms and was stuck into the sand of the beach like a stake and the beach carried him away so that the waters would be calmed. The culprits were arrested and charged but they were released after two years.
The Mayan Sinkhole Sacrifices
During the pre-Columbian era, the Mayans are known to have carried out all manner of ritual sacrifices, as they believed that human sacrifice was the ritual offering of nourishment to the gods. And one manner of sacrifice practised was the sinkhole, where they deposited valuables and human bodies into the cenote as a form of sacrifice to the rain god Chaac.
They also believed that the sinkholes and cenotes were portals to the underworld and they would appease dead spirits by offering human sacrifices to them. Explorers have discovered many sinkholes including the Sacred Cenote, a water-filled sinkhole at the pre-Columbian Maya archaeological site on Peninsula. Archaeological investigations have removed thousands of objects from the bottom of the cenote, including artefacts made from gold, jadeite, copal, wood, rubber and cloth, as well as thousands of human skeletons.
The Child Sacrifice in Carthage
Child sacrifices were very common in ancient cultures maybe because they believed that children possessed innocent souls and therefore were acceptable as forms of sacrifices to gods.
The Carthaginians would have a sacrificial fire pit where children would be thrown into by their parents. The practice became very repulsive to the Carthaginian parents who became tired of killing their own children. In response, they decided to buy children from neighbouring poor tribes, or care for their servant’s children who would then be offered as sacrifices. And during calamities like war, drought or famine, the priests demanded that even the youth be offered as a sacrifice. The sacrifices were carried out on a moonlit night, the children would be killed generously and their bodies would be tossed into the fiery pit amidst singing and dancing.
The Killing of Twins in Nigeria
This is another form of child sacrifice as the killing of twins was a cultural practice among some ethnic groups in Nigeria. Back then, multiple births were seen as an abomination against the earth deity and giving birth to twins was considered a bad omen that could bring devastation or calamity upon society. Twin babies were believed not to be humans but evil.
In 1876, Mary Slessor, a Scottish missionary assigned to Calabar, gradually worked towards changing the cultural belief that twins were evil. However, by 1915, following intervention by the British government, twins and their mothers were fully integrated into their communities.
Yesterday’s posting inspired me to draw once more attention to the plight of people with albinism in the southern African country of Malawi. The CNN article which I present below dates from June 2016. Aljazeerah published a similar article in 2017 which I posted on June 15, 2022. In a way the CNN and the Aljazeerah articles are about the same though the latter is much more comprehensive and detailed.
Let the CNN article below speak for itself. It describes a horrendous and scandalous situation, a grim reality. I’ve said it too often on this site. All people have a right to live without fear, it’s a fundamental human right, and each state has an obligation to protect its citizens and to uphold the rule of law and hold perpetrators accountable for their misdeeds.
Warning: some people may find the following article shocking because of its graphic contents (webmaster FVDK).
Hunting for humans: Malawian albinos murdered for their bones
Published: June 7, 2016 By: Dominique van Heerden – CNN
CNN — For Agness Jonathan, every day is a gamble with her children’s lives.
Simple questions like whether they should go to school carry an unimaginable risk of death and dismemberment to satisfy a barbaric demand.
This is because her daughters are living with albinism, a genetic condition resulting in little or no pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes. And this makes them a target.
It is children like Agness’ who, according to a newly released Amnesty International report, are being hunted like animals in Malawi where their bones are sold in the belief the body parts bring wealth, happiness and good luck.
The report chronicles the day-to-day lives of those living with the condition, and details the extent of a recent surge in killings of albinos living in the landlocked country in southern Africa.
The bloodiest month was April this year, when Amnesty says four people were murdered, including a baby.
One of the victims was 17-year-old Davis Fletcher Machinjiri, who left his home to watch a soccer game with a friend, but never returned.
The Malawian police say he was abducted by “about four men who trafficked him to Mozambique and killed him.” Describing his gruesome death, they say “the men chopped off both his arms and legs and removed bones. They then buried the rest of his body in a shallow grave.”
Since 2014 at least 18 albinos have been killed, another five have been abducted and are still missing.
And if it weren’t for alert locals, Agness’ youngest daughter Chakuputsa would be one of them.
She was grabbed by three men while her mother was out working the fields. Agness describes how villagers chased after the men who eventually dumped the child in the bushes nearby. It turned out one of the attackers was a relative, someone, Agness tells Amnesty, she had considered like a brother. This, the community says, is all too common.
Attackers are known to sell body parts to witchdoctors in Malawi and neighboring Mozambique, hoping to make quick money.
Amnesty says “thousands of people with albinism are at severe risk of abduction and killing by individuals and criminal gangs,” while the United Nations warns that Malawi’s albinos are at risk of “total extinction.”
Grace Mazzah, a board member of the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi, is always aware of the price on her head.
Nzhelele is located in the region of Limpopo, one of 9 primary administrative regions in South Africa. Reportedly, ritualistic murders – in Southern Africa called muti murders -occur frequently in the Limpopo region although presumably not all murders are reported or discovered. Also see my May 28, 2021 posting entitled South Africa: ‘Enough with muti killings’.
Recently, the mutilated body of an 11-year-old girl, Pfunzo Makuya, was found floating in a local dam nearly a week after she had gone missing from Phadzima Dzumbathoho. Earlier this year there was a public outcry after the disappearance of several children and the discovery of three bodies floating in the water since the beginning of this year. One well-known case concerned the disappearance of a 10-year-old girl, Fiona Matodzi, in the Vhembe area, in August. She was never found and her family fears a muti killing.
The police has started an investigation and asked the general public to cooperate and provide all information which could lead to the culprits. (webmaster FVDK)
A ritual killer on the loose?
Published: November 18, 2022 By: Elmon Tshikhudo – Zoutnet, South Africa
Could vicious ritual killers be stalking innocent people in villages around the Nzhelele region? This has become the most asked question in that area lately, especially following the disappearance and subsequent discovery of the mutilated body of an 11-year-old girl that was found floating in a local dam.
The girl, Pfunzo Makuya of Phadzima Dzumbathoho, was last seen on Wednesday afternoon, 9 November, between 16:00 and 17:00, after her mother sent her to the local shoemaker. According to a reliable source who spoke to this newspaper, the girl never reached the shoemaker, who runs his business not far from her home.
On Monday, 14 November, nearly a week after the girl had gone missing, local fishermen who were out fishing found her body floating in the dam. One of her hands had been cut off and in places, pieces of flesh had been carved from her body.
Naturally, this led the community to strong suspicions that she had been ritually murdered. Community leader Mr Richard Ramabulana said the disappearance of people who were later found dead had become a source of great concern in the area. “Since the beginning of the year we have had three cases and the worst part of it is that they were all later found floating in the water. As a community, we will work with the police to fast-track this investigation and our call to the residents is to give as much information to the police as possible,” he said.
The parents of the dead girl were still very traumatised and requested to be given space before making a statement.
Over recent months, many outcries have been made by communities over the disappearance of children in the Vhembe area. One of the most notable cases was that of the missing Fiona Matodzi. The 10-year-old girl was allegedly kidnapped on her way home from the local Dzindi Primary School. The incident happened at Itsani on 11 August this year, and no trace of her has been found since then.
Acting Vhembe police spokesperson Sergeant Vuledzani Dathi confirmed the recent incident and said a case of murder had been opened. He said the body would be subjected to an autopsy that would determine the cause of death. Those with information about the case should contact Detective Sergeant Ronald Kwinda at 071 677 1766 or call the Crime Stop number on 08600 10111.
Many of my postings on this site refer to reported or suspected ritual murder cases in West Africa. However, this phenomenon dating from ancient times also exists in other regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Superstition and the greed for power, wealth or good health constitute the main driving forces behind the crimes of ritual murder, human sacrifice and/or ritual cannibalism.
In East Africa ritualistic murders are rife in Uganda. As mentioned below, according to the 2013 Child Sacrifice and Mutilations Report, one child is killed for rituals every week. A mind blowing statistic. Within Uganda the Kayunga District has earned the dubious reputation of being one of the most notorious killing places. Read the breath taking article below; the reader is warned as it contains graphic details.
Uganda is one of an increasing number of SSA countries where human sacrifice and ritualistic murders have become crimes which carry the death penalty. Many countries and international initiatives have outlawed the capital punishment, but several African countries take a different course, notably to contain and/or eradicate ritual murders. The big question is whether the death penalty, which is not always executed, will bring us closer to a society where people no longer fear falling victim to ritual killers. Or should we look for another approach the eradicate this scourge of ignorance and superstition?
Published: November 11, 2022 By: Fred Muzaale – Monitor, Uganda
What you need to know:
Police say most victims of human sacrifices are children because they are easier to abduct and seen as “pure” and of “higher ritual value.”
Last year, President Museveni passed the Prevention and Prohibition of Human Sacrifice Bill 2021, which criminalises the act of human sacrifice.
On a hot Monday afternoon at Kayunga Court premises in Kayunga District, Allan Ssembatya walks with his head lowered.
Visibly not in a good mood, he is in the company of a man and a woman. The two grown-ups are his mother and father.
The 19-year-old Ssembatya’s forehead bares a big scar that he sustained after he was cut with a machete by two men during an attempted ritual murder incident in 2009. He was by then 6 years old. Fortunately, Ssembatya, now in Senior One, survived, but lost both of his testicles. Because of the cut inflicted on his head, he now has persistent headaches and nightmares.
A resident of Busolo Village in Kayunga Sub-county, Ssembatya spent one month in a coma after the incident.
“Doctors who examined him after the attack said he would not be able to bear children. This is purely a case of human sacrifice,” Ms Sarah Tumusiime, the Kayunga Chief Magistrate, revealed during a court session last month.
She sentenced the convicts; Paul Ngaswireki and Awali Kivumbi, both residents of Busolo Village, who were found guilty of committing the offence, to 40 years each in prison.
According to Ssembatya’s father, his son was attacked by the two men when he had gone to the garden to harvest a jackfruit. He was later left fighting for his life in a forest.
Ssembatya’s case is the latest among such incidents, but Kayunga District has had numerous human sacrifice-related incidents.
In March 2020, a 60-year-old man in Kakoola Village, Kitimbwa Sub-county, was beheaded and his head taken by unknown assailants.
The torso was later recovered from a bush. Two witch doctors were arrested in connection with this incident although the whereabouts of the human skull is still unknown.
Additionally, a traditional healer in Kisoga Village, Nazigo Sub-county, was arrested in 2018 after five bodies were found buried in his shrine. He was sentenced to life imprisonment by Mukono High Court.
Last year, a father in Bbaale Sub-county was arrested after he allegedly killed two of his children over ritual sacrifice. He confessed to the act claiming he was promised Shs2m.
Ms Beatrice Ajwang, the Kayunga District officer-in-charge of the Criminal Investigations Department, said most of the suspects arrested in connection with such acts are “traditional healers and people who want to get rich quickly”.
Ms Ajwang said most victims of human sacrifices are children, apparently because they are easier to abduct and seen as “pure” and of “higher ritual value.”
Without disclosing statistical figures of how many cases of human sacrifice had been recorded in the district, Ms Ajwang confirms that “Kayunga is a hotbed of ritual sacrifice”.
She said out of more than 300 traditional healers operating in the district, their preliminary investigations reveal that half of the number are quacks.
“Kayunga is a unique area, you will find many households having shrines on top of being multi-ethnic. This could be a major contributor to these acts,” Kayunga chairperson Andrew Muwonge said.
Ms Ajwang said despite enacting laws to crack down on those engaging in human sacrifices, the practice has continued.
The law Last year, President Museveni passed the Prevention and Prohibition of Human Sacrifice Bill 2021, which criminalises the act of human sacrifice.
The legislation was moved as a private member’s Bill by former Ayivu County legislator Bernard Atiku with the intent of addressing the growing vice of human sacrifice.
According to the new law, any person who mutilates or causes the death of another person for the purpose of performing or furthering a ritual commits an offence and will be punished by the death penalty upon conviction.
“Worse still, it is a big challenge investigating human sacrifice cases because on some occasions it is carried out by parents themselves on their children while in some other cases people are not willing to give information that could be of help to arrest and prosecute offenders,” Ms Ajwanga said, adding: “We appeal to religious leaders to help us instill morals in our people. As police, we have tried to sensitise them against this vice.’’
Ms Sylvia Namutebi, aka Maama Fiina, the national chairperson of Uganda Traditional Healer’s Association, dismisses claims that the acts are committed by people who practice her trade.
“No genuine traditional healer can sacrifice a human being. These are masqueraders hiding in our job. It is our duty to ensure we [genuine healers] weed out such bad people,” Ms Namutebi said.
She said with the help of genuine healers, they have arrested and prosecuted such ‘wrong elements’, noting that she is on a country-wide tour to sensitise traditional healers on professional ethics.
Mr Peter Mawerere, the Kayunga deputy Resident District Commissioner, blamed the vice on ignorance, greed, and poverty. He noted that many people sacrifice human beings because they think it will make them wealthier.
“It is surprising that many people go to traditional healers when they fall sick, even when their ailments can be treated by qualified medical personnel,” he said.
“We have tasked the leadership of traditional healers to fight the acts, which we highly believe are perpetuated by some of their members,” he added.
Rev Fr Maurice Kigoye, the parish priest of Kangulumira Parish in Kangulumira Sub-county, said: “It [human sacrifice] is really an inhuman act. How can you think that when you kill a person and drink their blood, you can get rich? As religious leaders, we have tried to lure them [culprits] to turn to God and get saved,” Fr Kigoye said.
NGO role Mr Peter Sewakiryanga, the executive director of Kyampisi Child Care Ministries (KCM), said his organisation receives a number of human sacrifice cases from Kayunga District every month.
“We work with probation officers, police, and other agencies who bring to our attention such cases,” he said.
Mr Sewakiryanga added that in a bid to ensure the culprits are arrested and prosecuted, his organisation facilitates investigations carried out by police officers.
“Many such cases die at the investigation stage, but with our support, a number of the suspects have been prosecuted and convicted like the recent one of Ssembatya. Court sentenced the convicts to 40 years each in jail,” he said.
He explains that KCM also offers treatment, counselling, and psychosocial support to survivors of ritual sacrifice.
“We have in some cases relocated families of the victims for their safety, built them houses and offered education to survivors,” Mr Sewakiryanga said.
According to the 2013 Child Sacrifice and Mutilations Report, one child is killed for rituals every week.
The report indicates that people carry out human sacrifices to seek wealth, among others.
Unfortunately, ritual murder are no exception in Africa’s oldest republic. Experience teaches us that ritualistic murders in Liberia are on the increase during elections campaigns and when important political appointments are expected – which though does not exclude other circumstances explaining a rise in ritual killings. In the past four to five years, ritual murders have been reported in at least seven of Liberia’s fifteen counties including Montserrado, Bomi, Bong, Nimba, Grand Bassa, Grand Kru and Maryland counties. However, the absence of discoveries of mutilated bodies or reports of ritual murders should not be interpreted as the absence of these criminal and outdated superstitious practices. By definition, occult practices and ritualistic murders take place in secret.
In the article below reference is made to a prominent person who held a very senior position in the Weah Administration and who allegedly is said to be implied in the reported case of two young boys who were murdered for ritual activities. It should be underlined here that this is not the position of the webmaster of this site (FVDK). Moreover, I uphold the principle that no one is guilty unless found guilty by an independent judge after an impartial, public trial.
The original article shown here includes a number of links referring to other, previously published articles containing relevant and related information. I have decided to also include these articles in this posting in order to avoid the (future) situation that the original articles are no longer available or accessible after they have lost been lost in cyberspace, unfortunately not an uncommon phenomenon.
All articles together sketch a reality in Liberia which is rarely shown but which exists. No use to deny or to ignore it. A reality of traditional practices and beliefs, a reality of cultural history including respect for the ancestors. Notwithstanding the foregoing, it goes without saying that a ‘war on ignorance and superstition’ is a must in Africa’s oldest republic, which was created in 1847 by African Americans.
…. When the National Police could not solve a double homicide in their rural community, the people of Beo Bonlay Town, Nimba County, employed the most unconventional means.
It was a breakthrough in a double-murder case that would have been written off as an anomaly except that, in the context of numerous unsolved gruesome murders across Liberia in recent years, police investigations have consistently come up with the same results as they did in this one — “no evidence” or “no foul play” — case closed.
But the people of Beo Bonlay Town, District # 6, Nimba County, would not take ‘no’ for an answer. In an unprecedented move, they summoned their tribal devils to confirm their hunch and solve what they believed were the murders of two innocent boys who had gone missing and later turned up dead in separate locations.
It all started on June 9, when the two boys, Handsome-boy Mahn, 9 and Zayglay David, 4, went missing after they returned from the farm in the afternoon.
Hours after their disappearance, the community launched an immediate manhunt for the children. Unfortunately they were found dead with their bodies dumped in two separate wells about 20 minutes apart.
The deaths of the two children sent shockwaves of fear and concern among citizens of the district, especially when the first batch of investigators from the Tappita Police Detail, led by the detail commander and the 15-man coroner jury, ruled that there was no foul-play.
But reports reaching the Daily Observer said an initial examination of the corpses showed that the boys’ necks had been broken. There was also an alleged ‘erasing mark’ on the coroner jury’s report, but this is yet to be verified.
“The devil”, it is said, “is in the details.” Or is it?
Unconvinced by the “no foul-play” conclusions of the coroner jury and the police, the citizens this time brought out their tribal devils to search for the perpetrators. It was during the search that seven men were arrested on July 16, and turned over to police in Sanniquellie for interrogation.
Even after the tribal devils arrested the suspects, the police (again) claimed that due to lack of scientific evidence, they could not charge the alleged perpetrators. This caused the case to drag on until September, when the Crime Services Department (CSD) sent another batch of officers, backed by former Ganta Police Commander, Adolphus Zorh, to conduct the investigation.
Commander Zorh’s team was able to establish the facts and determine that two of the seven men be released because police could not find any evidence to charge them. The other five men arrested by tribal devils were charged by police and sent to court.
According to the CSD, Sanniquellie Detachment, Liberia National Police, the five men were charged with “murder, criminal facilitation and criminal conspiracy” and sent to the Sanniquellie Magisterial Court for preliminary investigation.
Following their arrest by the tribal devils in the beginning, one of the suspects, Prince Karney, age 41, immediately confessed that they were given the amount of US$1,200 for the murderous operation.
He said he then hired one Zayee Winpea, 43, to kill the two children for the amount of US$300 and gave US$150 to Nenkerwon Mahn, an 18-year-old uncle of the kids, to serve as a watchman while the killing was carried out.
The oldest among the suspects, 45-year-old Morris Gonwon, was also promised US$150 for his role in the killing, which was not spelled out. Two of the seven suspects, George Sumah and Lawrence Sumah, were hired to take the victims’ blood to Monrovia, while another suspect, Harrison Sumah, was the one who lured the kids with candy before grabbing them.
During the CSD final investigation, Morris Gonwon and George Sumah were released on grounds that there was not enough evidence to prosecute them. The five persons charged and sent to court are Prince Karney, Harrison Sumah, Lawrence Freeman, Nenkerwon Mahn, and Zayee Winpea.
Prince Karney is said to be the Youth leader of Boe Bonlay and coordinator for the “Friends of Jackson Paye”, a political canvassing group. Jackson Paye is a former Deputy Minister of National Defense who has expressed his desire to contest for the Nimba County District #6 representative seat in 2023.
The murder suspects alleged that the former deputy minister facilitated the killing by giving them the US$1,200 for the operation — to get the children’s blood, allegedly for ritual purposes.
However, Jackson Paye on Truth FM on Thursday, June 22, 2022 denied having any connection to the killings, describing the acts as barbaric, inhumane and uncivilized. He explained that the “Friends of Paye” want the law to take its course, ensuring the alleged perpetrators face the full weight of the law.
It is not clear whether the tribal devils ever got to the heart of the matter to determine exactly who ordered the men to kill the two children. We may never know.
However, in cases where communities in Liberia have invoked tribal justice systems to supersede statutory law — especially in the absence of forensic evidence — statutory systems tend to give way. Especially in rural communities, law enforcement personnel dare not interfere with matters involving tribal devils.
In the recent past, such has been the case in instances where communities have risen up to express their dissatisfaction when their expectations of government have been egregiously dashed.
In November 2021, Lofa County, a powerful sect of the Poro Society, the Ngaimu, staged a protest, blocking the bridge that connects Bong and Lofa counties, to oppose the delay by the Supreme Court to decide whether Senator-elect Brownie Samukai should take his Lofa County senatorial seat, which had been unoccupied due to a disability imposed on him by the Court for nearly a year.
In response, the Deputy Inspector General for Operations of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Marvin Sackor, threatened necessary actions against any country devil protest. Yet, no move was made on the part of the police.
A month earlier, October 18, 2021, members of the secret Poro Society shut down ArcelorMittal Liberia’s operations in Yekepa, Nimba County for more than 48 hours at both Mount Tokadeh and Mount Gangra, over claims that AML failed to live up to its previous amended mineral development agreement (MDA) with the government.
For ArcelorMittal Liberia, this was not the first time. Barely six weeks earlier, on September 27, 2021, the Poro masters temporarily besieged the operation areas of AML, halting operations for 8 hours.
But tribal or traditional devils are only one extreme of traditional justice systems. Liberia recognizes a whole regime of what it calls “trial by ordeal”, a method by which suspects are made to undergo an often dangerous test to determine their innocence or guilt. However, while the United Nations has called on Liberia to abolish all forms of trial by ordeal, only the most harmful aspects of this system of justice have been abolished.
Published: November 26, 2021 By: Marcus Malaya – Daily Observer, Liberia
A protest against the Supreme Court of Liberia has resulted in the shut-down of the border crossing point between Bong and Lofa Counties – leaving several business people stranded along the way.
The protest, which is being led by the powerful sect of the Poro Society, the Ngaimu, is intended to oppose the delay by the Supreme Court to decide the fate of the Lofa County senatorial seat, which has been unoccupied due to the disability imposed on Senator-elect Brownie Samukai by the Court.
The protesters, who are all men and led by the fearsome, Ngaimu – the traditional name of head of the Poro Society in that part of Liberia – have blocked the road, halting the movement of people and goods between the two counties, while those who are not members of the society have remained indoors since the morning hours of Thursday, November 25.
“Ngaimu has set a roadblock in the village of Beyan Town on the Lofa side of the border. The action of Ngaimu is in protest of the Court and the Government of Liberia’s failure to announce the Senate seat of Lofa County vacant since the Senator-elect Samukai has not been able to take the seat due to his disability by the Supreme Court,” disclosed eyewitnesses at the scene of the protest.
The protesters, however, vowed to keep the road closed until the Court ruled on the matter – deciding if the senate will be declared vacant or not. And security personnel, some of whom are not members of the society, have also been dared to remove the roadblock, setup by Ngaimu.
The fear of the Ngaimu has also prevented the women from going out to tend to their farms, since it is forbidden for a woman to lay eyes on it – as doing so comes with consequences, traditionalists claim.
The eyewitness accounts revealed that there are more than three “Ngaimus” currently at the St. Paul Bridge in Beyan Town and there are more “Ngaimus” coming to join the others currently at the bridge.
The Supreme Court months ago denied Samukai’s request for the high court to reverse the judgment of the Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice, which found him and two others guilty of misapplying over US$1 million in pension funds stored up in a bank account for members of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) when he served as Defense Minister.
The disability includes the payment of US$173,276.05 as some portion of his share of money illegally withdrawn from the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) pension funds, for which he was found guilty of misapplication of entrusted property, theft of property, and other criminal offenses by Criminal Court ‘C’ with such ruling confirmed by the Supreme.
While Samukai made a payment of US$173,276.05, his two deputies Joseph F. Johnson, former Deputy Minister for Administration, and J. Nyumah Dorkor, former Comptroller, did not despite being found guilty jointly.
Samukai, together with Johnson and Dorkor, were to pay the amount of US$573,832.68 within a six-month period to avoid imprisonment, according to the Supreme Court mandate to the Criminal Court ‘C’. It was out of the amount of US$573,832.68 that Samukai alone managed to pay the US$173,276.05, which his followers believed is the portion of his share of the money.
The Court then ordered the National Election Commission not to certify him until the disability imposed on him as a result of his conviction for felony is removed. The Court argued that from a review of the records, Samukai and his two deputies were jointly charged with the commission of the crimes for which they were brought down guilty.
The Supreme Court added that the restitution is a part of the sentence, as such; Samukai and the two others are to restitute the amount withdrawn from the AFL Pension Account without the permission or authorization of the soldiers.
History of the case
Samukai, then former Defense Minister, together with Johnson and Dorkor without any authorization, withdrew the amount US$1,147,665.35 from the pension fund belonging to soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL).
The three men were later declared guilty of multiple crimes including misuse of private funds and subsequently sentenced to two years in prison each, and also ordered to restitute the money within a year by the Criminal Court ‘C’. The judgment was later modified by the Supreme Court after Samukai and the others appealed against it to the high court.
In the modification, the Supreme Court said it was suspending their prison term on grounds that, if they were to pay fifty percent (50) of the judgment amount of the US$1,147,665.35, which is $573,832.68, within six months period, which expired by August, 26, they would avoid Imprisonment.
The Deputy Inspector General for Operations of the Liberia National Police (LNP), Marvin Sackor has threatened necessary actions against any country devil protest.
He said if people are disenchanted, they should make use of the legal means rather than staying in protest to undermine the peace of the country.
“It is unfortunate and unfair that some of our people are using the tradition to undermine the peace and security of this country. Let me say this, article 17 of our constitution gives citizens the right to peacefully assemble and petition their government. So if you, as a citizen of this country, will use whatever political means or any disenchantment to undermine the peace of this country, I can assure the public that the Liberia National Police will use whatever force necessary to contain that situation,” he warned.
Since the staging of a protest by members of the poro society in Lofa county to call on the attention of the Supreme Court to decide the fate of Senator-elect Brownie Samukai, traditional leaders have been accused of allowing politicians to influence them.
The group of men led by their powerful poro master, Ngainmu, on November 30, blocked the entrance of the St. Paul bridge that connects Bomi and Lofa counties to pressure the court to reopen the case of Senator-elect Samukai.
Sackor added that if traditional people have any disenchantment in the country, they should use legal means to get redress instead of blocking roads to cause chaos among citizens.
“There is no exception to the rule of law; our traditional people need to understand that this country is governed by law,” Sackor declared. “ Anyone – I am very clear here – that thinks that they have any other power to undermine the Constitution, trust me, the Liberia National Police will use every legal means to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. So, I am appealing to our traditional people in Lofa. Handle your situation through the legal means. Any attempt to block the St. Paul Bridge, we are under obligation to make sure that the Constitution is intact.”
Nathaniel F. McGill, Minister of State, also accused politicians of masterminding the protest and branding it as a disgrace to Liberian culture.
“I was watching Facebook live and I saw a country devil protesting. This has never happened in our country, it is a shame and whoever did that must be disgraceful,” said Minister McGill.
Addressing the Ministry of information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) regular press briefing in Monrovia, Sackor reminded traditional leaders that they are not above the law and, therefore, any attempt to block roads, the police will not hesitate to act.
Meanwhile, the deputy inspector general has revealed that due to the increasing wave of criminal activities in the country, there will be restrictions imposed on motorcyclists.
He said a police investigation has shown that criminals are transported by motorcyclists so the Police have commenced the implementation of the no-go-zones for motorcyclists ahead of the festive season in Liberia, to avoid the transportation of criminals.
Steel giant ArcelorMittal was forced yesterday to shut down its Yekepa operations after members of the secret poro society made an unannounced visit to protest against alleged neglect by the company.
The strike action, which is highly unprecedented for members of the highly respected Poro Society in Liberia, comes amid rising tension in the company’s operating areas weeks after it had signed an amended mineral development agreement with the government of Liberia.
The agreement, which now awaits ratification from lawmakers, has been met with rejection by mines communities in Nimba County, where the company operates, over claims that AML failed to live up to its previous amended mineral development agreement (MDA) with the government.
Poro Society members, led by the Poro Master, shut down AML operations for more than 48 hours at both Mount Tokadeh and Mount Gangra and might likely last for 14 days, according to an insider close to the Poro masters.
The protest, which is the second in a month, is happening as county officials remain mute on the matter while they negotiate behind closed doors.
However, an elderly resident of one of mine communities has disclosed that the company, through its’ Community liaison manager, has begun negotiating with society members to cancel their protest and meet on the round table to discuss issues relating to their concerns.
In a statement, the AML confirmed the incident, saying, “on early Saturday morning, October 16, 2021, some individuals wearing ceremonial traditional costumes blocked the main access road to the mining site of ArcelorMittal Liberia in Yekepa, disrupting business operations of the company.”
“As a company that prioritizes safety and security, ArcelorMittal Liberia warns of the associated risks of unauthorized entry of individuals into an industrial environment and condemns such illegal action, said the statement from AML. “AML reaffirms its commitment to community engagement on issues around its operations as a means of finding a common ground.”
Meanwhile, AML said while they respect and continue to support traditional and cultural activities especially in their operational areas, they disagreed with disruptions and acts aimed at causing fear among its workforce are unwarranted and undermine close working relations.
On September 27, 2021 the Poro masters temporarily sieged the operation areas of AML, halting operation of 8 hours.
There has been tension in Nimba County since the Government and AML reached a new Mineral Development Agreement to extend the operation to 2036, where AML stands to invest about UD$ 800 million.
The deal has so far been rejected by mining communities due to claims of past abandonment and negligence of previous MDA.
The following article was originally published on November 1, 2007. It contains highly recommended reading for the readers of this site. It was decided to include it in this posting for two reasons. First, it was originally included in the Daily Observer article on the two slain boys in Nimba County (on top) and secondly, because it contains relevant background information on traditional beliefs and practices which still exist in Liberia despite being outlawed for reasons which will be clear after having read the article.
Liberia: Trial by ordeal makes the guilty burn but “undermines justice”
Published: November 1, 2007 By: OCHA Services – Relief Web
MONROVIA, 1 November 2007 (IRIN)
About 50 people in the village of Klay, northwestern Liberia, recently gathered to watch a man apply red-hot metal to the limbs of four youths accused of robbery.
The man dipped a machete in a concoction of water, palm oil and kola nuts, held it in fire for several minutes, and then placed it on the right legs of the four suspects. None of the youths – ages 16 to 26 – appeared to flinch. They were deemed not guilty.
This practice known as ‘sassywood’ is banned under national law, but is still regarded as a legitimate form of justice by many Liberians. A suspect is subjected to intense pain and judged on his or her reaction – if the hot metal burns the person’s leg, he or she is found guilty.
The UN has repeatedly warned that the practice is undermining efforts to improve human rights in Liberia as the country attempts to recover from 14 years of war.
Many legal specialists and human rights activists say relying on customs such as trial by ordeal – often harmful and even deadly – is down to the decrepit state of Liberia’s judicial system. And many say not enough is being done to restore the sector, left in tatters by the war.
Four years after the fighting ended, progress in rebuilding the judicial and corrections system is “very slow”, according to an August report by the UN Security Council. “The judicial system is constrained by limited infrastructure, shortage of qualified personnel, lack of capacity to process cases, poor management and lack of the necessary will to institute reforms.” The report said most people do not have access to legal counsel.
Legal advisers in Liberia say the absence of functioning courts in most rural areas is due in large part to lawyers’ reluctance to take judgeships there, as well as the lack of infrastructure for courts.
In the central Liberian town of Gbarnga in Bong County, 150km north of the capital Monrovia, residents told IRIN that trial by ordeal is the only means to adjudicate alleged crimes.
“If somebody is accused of stealing money, clothes, jewellery, food or other items, the best [way] to know who committed the act is to administer sassywood, which is fast – it takes less than 30 minutes to know who did the act,” Gbarnga resident Johnny Bono said.
Users of sassywood believe the person administering it and the instruments used have mystical powers. Practitioners are paid in money or goods – up to 2000 Liberian dollars (US$32) per ‘trial’ in the capital and about a third of that in rural areas. Sometimes payment is kola nuts and a pure-white chicken.
According to a rights activist in Nimba County, the problem is that many people will submit to sassywood because they do not know it has been outlawed.
“Sassywood is very common here and most people believe that it is the only means of knowing a guilty person,” said Dualo Lor of the church-based NGO Equip-Liberia in Nimba, 300km from Monrovia. “They are not even aware the practice is outlawed.”
He group recently prevented the application of sassywood on a 32-year-old man accused of theft. “We have been trying very hard [to educate] the people about the danger of sassywood, but they just have not stopped it.”
Some legal experts say it will be tough to stop if citizens do not feel they have a reliable justice system to take its place.
“The trial by ordeal in most parts of the country clearly shows that most people do not have confidence in the court system,” Anthony Valcke, Liberia country director of the American Bar Association in Africa, told IRIN. “If people had such confidence, they would not resort to trial by ordeal.”
“No amount of laws or government order can stop sassywood,” Yerkula Zaizay, a resident of Gbarnga, told IRIN. “It is a tradition that our forefathers left with us. This is better than going to court. My late grandfather taught me how to apply sassywood and it is part of my culture so it cannot be easily stopped.”
Gbarnga resident Bono said, “We cannot waste our time going to court. The sassywood is our courtroom. This is what our forefathers have been practising in the past and it has been working.”
Lawyer Augustine Toe, head of the Justice and Peace Commission, a Catholic human rights group, said: “Sassywood undermines the justice system of this country and the rights of an accused are not protected. Our constitution provides that anyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a [court of law].”
Liberia’s chief prosecutor, Tiawon Gongloe, told IRIN he had instructed all county prosecuting officers to arrest anyone carrying out trial by ordeal.
“We are aware sassywood is going on and this act is not only unlawful, but unconstitutional,” he said, noting that 12 people were arrested earlier this year in southeastern Liberia for having administered sassywood.
UN independent human rights expert, Charlotte Abaka, said the government had to do more. “The Liberian government should take concrete steps to enforce the ban on trial by ordeal,” she said, calling the practice a “grave” breach of human rights.
Recently, Edo State police did a horrific find when it discovered in Benin City a ritualist’s den with 20 mummified bodies: 15 dried male corpses, three female corpses and two children corpses. Benin City is the capital of Edo State. Click here for more information on the Edo or Benin people.
It is not known who the victims are and how long the corpses have been in the ritualist’s den.
In general, it’s a gruesome reality that many unidentified bodies of victims of ritual murders (‘money rituals’) in Nigeria may be linked to unexplained disappearances. Even worse, some people are not being reported as missing.
Hence the exact number of victims of ritualistic murders in Nigeria is unknown, but much higher than the number of reported cases. (webmaster FVDK)
Edo Police Command uncovers ritualist’s den, 20 corpses in Benin
Published: August 19, 2022 By: The Guardian, Nigeria
Edo State Police Command has uncovered a ritualist’s den with 20 mummified bodies, along Ekehuan Road area of Benin City.
The State Commissioner of Police (CP), Abutu Yaro, said the Command unravelled the suspected ritual shrine on Wednesday, August 17 and arrested three suspected ritualists.
Yaro said the raid is in line with the Command’s operational mandate of curbing crime in the state.
He said: “Following credible information at the Command’s disposal that some corpses were discovered in a building along Asoro slope off Ekehuan Road, Uzebu Quarters, in Benin City, operatives of the Command immediately swung into action and mobilised to the scene.”
According to him, three suspects were arrested at the scene, namely: Chimaobi Okoewu ‘m’ and Oko Samuel ‘m’ both of Afikpo in Ebonyi and Gideon Sunday ‘m’ of Akwa-Ibom State, while other suspects fled.
Yaro said the police have launched an intensive manhunt to apprehend the fleeing suspects.
Among the corpses discovered at the scene of the crime, are 15 dried male corpses, three female corpses and two children corpses.
He noted that the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the State Command Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (CIID) has been directed to carry out a discreet investigation to unravel the circumstances surrounding the discovered corpses.
The commissioner urged members of the general public to be calm as the Command will continue to ensure the safety of all law-abiding citizens and those residing in Edo State.
The article below pays attention to the first study of its kind (at least, as far as I know) that gives us reliable and in-depth information on the scale of ritual murders in a West African country as well as details pertaining to the ‘how and why’ of ritual killings in this country, Ghana. The author, Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu, is a law and criminology researcher at Aberystwyth University and a lecturer at Arden University (all in the United Kingdom). He recognizes that the reported ritual murder cases which were analyzed, and which were all reported in three local Ghanaian media outlets in the 2013-2020 period, may be only the tip of the iceberg due to a number of factors which he explains in the study.
The author studied and analyzed 96 ritual murder cases (reported in the 2013-2020 period) involving approximately 116 victims including 62 children. This means an average of 16 ritual murders including 9 child victims each year – in Ghana only, a country with a population of about 30 million. Significantly, the study shows that ritual murders form approximately 1.6% of all the murders chronicled in the country annually.
The study is entitled ‘The Superstition that Dismembers the African Child: An Exploration of the Scale and Features of Juju-Driven Paedicide in Ghana’. The 42-page study, in volume 60 issue 1 of the ‘International Annals of Criminology’ by Cambridge University Press, has been published in open access for which the publishers are to be commended. It is available in both HTML and PDF formats at: https://doi.org/10.1017/cri.2022.2 or click here. (webmaster FVDK)
Over 16 ritual murders occur in Ghana each year, a recent study shows
Published: August 23, 2022 By: Vincent Tutu Bawuah – Modern Ghana
Juju-driven homicide or ritual murder has been the subject of many media reports in contemporary Ghana. However, very little is known about the prevalence/magnitude and features of this crime in the country, as national data sets on the ritual murder phenomenon are presently non-existent.
To help address the problem relating to the paucity of information on ritual murder, Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu (also known as Black Power), a law and criminology researcher at Aberystwyth University and a lecturer at Arden University (all in the United Kingdom), has conducted a dynamic study on juju and ritual paedicides/pedicides (i.e. killing children for ritual or occult purposes) in Ghana, the first of its kind in a West African setting.
The study sought to establish the scale and identify the primary features, motivations, and socio-cultural, religious and economic contexts of ‘ritual paedicide’ (a phrase coined by the researcher himself) in contemporary Ghana. It also examines the criminal justice system’s responses to such murders.
To realize the defined aim, an in-depth analysis of ritual homicide cases/reports publicized in three local Ghanaian media outlets (the Daily Graphic, Ghanaian Times, and Daily Guide) between September 2013 and August 2020 was carried out. Semi-structured interviews involving 20 participants were then conducted to gain additional insights into key aspects of the results of the media content analysis.
The following are some of the key findings of the study:
A total of 96 reports/articles on ritual murder were extracted from the websites of the three media outlets perused, and this involved approximately 116 victims. Out of the 116 victims, 62 were children. This means that at least 16.5 ritual murders involving approximately 9 child victims occur in Ghana each year. The study also indicates that ritual paedicide forms approximately 1.6% of all the murders chronicled in the country annually. The researcher however admits that the number of ritual paedicide cases identified in the selected media outlets may be only the tip of the iceberg due to a number of limitations highlighted in the study.
Most ritual paedicide victims (over 79%) are children of low socio-economic backgrounds in rural and semi-rural communities. There is no significant difference in the number of boys and girls murdered. Blood, the head, the limbs, and the private parts are the most sought-after body parts. Several reasons have been suggested for this trend. Ritual paedicide cases were more prevalent in the western part of Ghana than in other areas of the country. A reason for this development has been suggested in the study.
Poor parental supervision is a significant risk factor for ritual paedicide. Over 70% of the victims were kidnapped while playing outside their homes unsupervised, going to school or fetching water from a stream unaccompanied, or running errands for their parents or other family members. Though letting children under 10 years roam about unsupervised appears to be a normal practice in most African communities, the study cautions against it.
Most ritual murders involve multiple perpetrators, and a number of factors have been offered to explain this trend. Most perpetrators and prime suspects are males, aged between 20 and 39 years, mostly unemployed or financially handicapped. However, the study does not rule out the involvement of rich and educated people who are highly likely to hire others (ideally, poor or unemployed youth) to commit the barbaric crime rather than doing it themselves.
Unlike other forms of homicide, perpetrators of ritual paedicide are strangers nearly as often as being family members and acquaintances. Fathers, stepfathers, and uncles are the dominant culprits in cases where victims and perpetrators are related.
The most dominant motivation for ritual murder in Ghana is pecuniary gain. Among the key factors that account for the prevalence and persistence of ritual murders in the country are widespread unemployment and concomitant economic privations, obsession with juju, the increasing popularity of ‘cyber-criminality’ and the so-called Sakawa Boys, exposure of Ghanaian youth to African movies that portray juju and juju rituals as an efficient wealth-guaranteeing religious practice, illiteracy, and the emergence of a new ‘consumerist ethos’ that has engrossed the Ghanaian society and which is marked by the unrestrained quest for material success and the flamboyant display of luxury.
The majority of perpetrators are not apprehended or even identified by law enforcement agencies. There is evidence of police laxity in investigating and prosecuting cases of ritual pedicide in Ghana.
The study, entitled ‘The Superstition that Dismembers the African Child: An Exploration of the Scale and Features of Juju-Driven Paedicide in Ghana’, makes a significant contribution to the body of knowledge. It is highly significant as it breaks new ground and provides a foundation for further informed engagement with the ritual paedicide phenomenon in Africa.
The full study (a 42-page article) has been published (open access) in volume 60 issue 1 of the ‘International Annals of Criminology’ by Cambridge University Press. It could be accessed in both HTML and PDF formats at: https://doi.org/10.1017/cri.2022.2