I wish to commend Leo Igwe for his tireless efforts to end these cruel, criminal and senseless practices. The world and Africa in general need more Leo Igwe’s to condemn and end ritualistic murders on the continent (webmaster FVDK).
Nothing like ‘money rituals’, ritual killers are killing in vain – Nigerian human rights advocate Leo Igwe
The leader of the Nigerian human rights group reacts to the recently reported arrest of suspected ritualists in the Boluwaji area of Ibadan, Oyo State.
Published: September 24, 2021 By: SaharaReporters, New York
The Nigerian Humanist Movement has urged Nigerians to stop believing they can get rich or become wealthy through the killing of fellow citizens for money rituals.
NHM, a group that advocates the principles of humanism, urged Nigerians to understand that the notion of ritual money and wealth is completely baseless and invalid.
The rights group was reacting to the recently reported arrest of suspected ritualists in the Boluwaji area of Ibadan, Oyo State.
Reports emerged during the week that members of the Western Nigeria Security Network, codenamed Operation Amotekun had arrested suspected ritualists, who were in possession of the body parts of a 73-year-old man.
The suspects, during interrogations, had told operatives of the security outfit that a Muslim cleric, whom they identified as Alfa Salam Salam, asked them to get some human body parts for rituals.
But in an interview with SaharaReporters on Thursday, NHM, through its National Director, Leo Igwe, said irrational conceptions of how to make money or become wealthy and successful often lead to killing of innocent people in vain.
“I don’t think there is any way the claim ritual money is validated, at least in a way that can be confirmed by a third party.
“For example, if you want to make money using human body parts. Do you want to make it in naira, or dollars or pounds or euros? Actually, if it is true that you really want to make money through rituals, why are Nigerians not making money in these foreign currencies that I mentioned that have more value than naira if we are to go by that. That’s number one.
“Number two. We know very well that the Central Bank or an affiliated bank agency is responsible for printing currencies and they come with specific numbers. In other words, if we have to account for the money these people say they are making through rituals, where are they getting the numbers that tally with what is in circulation?
“Let assume you go and bring it from the vault of First Bank, what happens to that branch where the money disappears from? What happens to the Branch Manager? Are they not going to account for it? If that’s the case, you know how many branch managers of banks would be crying out every day that money has disappeared?
“We have not heard from any of these commercial banks that they are looking for money. Now, even if it disappears, how are we not going to probe the way that it was stolen?”
Igwe further argued there is a possibility of people stealing public money and hanging it around a money ritual that does not exist.
“My point is that let’s put all these superstitions aside and accept that some people actually steal to make money and tie it around money rituals. People can actually make money by conniving with bank officials in a way we don’t know and start flaunting it that they did money rituals. It doesn’t make sense!
“So what am I trying to say? It doesn’t make sense at all. It is important for us to begin to openly challenge this claim. The reason is that our young people are dying. Honestly, I’m in pain. I’m not joking. When I see how young men are killing their fathers, mothers, and relatives in the name of rituals for money, I cry because it is an illusion.
“It is baseless and does not exist anywhere. Instead of providing them with evidence-based ways of making money, they will tell them to go and bring the heads of their family members,” he added.
Warning: the following article contains graphic details, the reader may find the article shocking.
The following article from Eric Naki, the Political Eitor of The Citizen, a South African online news magazine, contains several frank observations which are worth specifically mentioning here.
First, Naki, citing an expert on ritual murders, Dr Alunamutwe Rannditsheni, from Limpopo province, tells us that ritual murders are a worldwide phenomenon, occurring not only in Africa or Sub-Saharan Africa. I am very happy with this expert-observation even though it results in mixed feelings because of its sad contents. I have also mentioned it in my introduction to this website on ritual killing, witchcraft and superstition in African countries (‘Why publish this site‘).
Secondly, reportedly, kidnappings, human trafficking, and ritual murders, often referred to as ‘muti murders’, are well-known crimes in nearly all 16 member-states of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). This is shocking. The combined population living in the 16 SADC-countries totals about 300 million people.
Lastly, the well-informed author confirms the ghastly details of the way muti murders are committed. Organs or other body parts are extracted live from the poor and helpless victims, not seldom children. The reality is sometimes too hard to describe and too revolting to imagine.
Ritual murders, human trafficking, kidnappings, and associated fear and torture are a plague in many African countries and must stop immediately. To the governments which have a sacred obligation to protect their citizens I would say: ‘If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.’ (webmaster FVDK).
Muti murders: ‘Genitals only work if cut from live victims’
Published: May 20, 2021 By: The Citizen, South Africa – Eric Naki
Victims were lured with promises of jobs, but when they arrived at the destination, they would be abducted and taken away to have their body parts cut off.
An expert on ritual murders, Dr Alunamutwe Rannditsheni, from Limpopo, said ritual killings were a worldwide phenomenon and not only an African problem.
Almost all of the SADC countries experienced ritual killing-related kidnappings and human trafficking.
A 2008 investigation by the Human Rights League in Mozambique found such murders were rife in the country. It found people were trafficked between countries with the purpose to remove parts to be trafficked separately.
The league, which interviewed survivors, eye-witnesses, families of victims and civil society in Mozambique and South Africa, found body parts were forcibly removed from children and adults, causing death or severe disability.
“Throughout the report, informants share personal experiences, which confirm that body parts are taken across the border between South Africa and Mozambique.”
A custom’s official in Sofala province, Mozambique, said: “They say the treatments with genital organs only work if they are taken from a person alive.”
In some instances in Mozambique, victims were beheaded before the parts were removed.
“The murderer cut her throat like she was a goat. He cut her head just like that and removed her genital organs, leaving all the rest,” the report quoted a police officer at Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique as saying.
In another case, a female stall holder at Ressano Garcia on the border with South Africa was fingered for ritual murders.
“The police searched and found that she was carrying genital organs of adult men … I don’t know how many exactly, it was several. But they were from adult men, I saw them myself,” an officer said.
Cases of muti killings were also reported in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, Malawi and Tanzania. People living with albinism were the main targets in Tanzania.
Community leader and businessman Phumudzo Mukhwati alleged the ritual murder gangs had spread to provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North West and Gauteng.
Victims were lured with promises of jobs, but when they arrived at the destination, they would be abducted and taken away to have their body parts cut off in Limpopo or a neighbouring country.
Yesterday I posted an article on the sentencing to life imprisonment of four people found guilty of ritual murder in Limpopo Province, South Africa. It is not the first time that the rule of law was applied by prosecuting and sentencing a ritual murderer in Limpopo Province, a region which unfortunately is notorious for the occurrence of muti murders. In October 2015, a Mocambican man who had been apprehended in possession of body parts was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Limpopo High Court at Makhado (webmaster FVDK).
Life sentence for ritual murderer
Published: October 29, 2015 By: Letaba Herald, Matome Maila
A Mocambican man who was found in possession of body parts last year was sentenced to life imprisonment during a sitting of the Limpopo High Court at Makhado last Tuesday.
Nkovani Samson Majoko (36), originally from Mocambique, but residing a Xiphuraphuleni Settlement in Malamulele, outside Giyani was arrested in June last year after he was found in possession of a bag containing two hands and male sexual organs
The court heard that he lured the victim, John Miyambo (35), from Mocambique to South Africa with the promise of a job and then killed him and cut off the body parts to sell as muti.
He was arrested after information was received of a man trying to sell body parts in the Malamulele area.
He was found guilty on a charge of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
It is not known with certainty how many people in Africa are affected by OCA, which stands for ‘Oculocutaneous albinism’ (see below). It maybe a quarter of a million, it may be more. What we do know is the plight of persons with albinism. The lack of melanin which brings this condition with it, results in unhealthy effects of ultraviolet radiation exposure. Moreover, widespread superstition causes many wicked people to believe that albino body parts bring wealth and/or power. As a result, persons with albinism are chased, kidnapped, murdered.
The article below contains many examples of these gruesome practices which occur in many African countries. The author, Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor of the Liberian newspaper, The Daily Observer , is to be commend for drawing attention to these outdated and cruel practices which constitute a serious violation of the human rights of people with albinism and have no place in a modern society.
Warning: the following article contains graphic details of cruel ritualistic activities (webmaster FVDK).
Africa’s Shameful Acts of Racism: The Plight of Persons with Albinism (PLWA) in Africa
Published: December 2, 2019 By: Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor, The Daily Observer (Liberia), Webmaster Admin
Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior to another, and that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics. On the African Continent, we have seen the impact of colonialism and its attributes of racism and discrimination.
The former Apartheid system in South Africa and its institutionalized racial segregation was an extreme expression of European treatments of Africans. The miserable treatment of people living with Albinism by fellow Africans is not only unfortunate, it is shameful.
The condition known as ‘Oculocutaneous albinism’ (OCA) is a genetically inherited autosomal recessive condition and OCA2, tyrosine-positive albinism, is the most prevalent type found throughout Africa. Due to the lack of melanin, people with albinism are more susceptible to the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation exposure.
The National Institutes of Health reported that about 200,000 Americans are affected; and around the world, it is between one in 17,000 and one in 20,000 people are people living with albinism. However, it is prevalence in parts of Africa, but it is far higher than the global average. People living with Albinism makeup about one in 4,000 people in South Africa and perhaps one in 5,000 in Nigeria. According to a 2006 review published in the journal BMC Public Health, the prevalence in Tanzania is one in 1,400, but this estimate is based on incomplete data. Since Tanzania’s total population is more than 40 million that would suggest an albinism community of about 30,000. A census is underway, however, and the Albinism Association of Tanzania believes the total figure could be more than 150,000.
People living with Albinism suffered in the hands of fellow Africans
The human rights organization Amnesty International quoted the Malawian police’s description of the gruesome murder of Mr. Machinjiri: “About four men trafficked him to Mozambique and killed him. The men chopped off both his arms and legs and removed his bones. Then they buried the rest of his body in a shallow grave.”
There are superstitions in some parts of Africa that albino body parts bring wealth, power or sexual conquest, and that having sex with a person living with the condition of albinism cures HIV and AIDS. Attackers sell albino body parts to witch doctors for thousands of dollars, according to Amnesty International. In Tanzania, some 75 people living with albinism were reported killed between 2000 and 2016.
Also, there have been reports of people living with albinism killings in South Africa; although such crimes are less common there than in Malawi, Tanzania and Burundi. Last February, a South African court sentenced a traditional healer to life in prison for murdering a 20-year-old woman living with albinism.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN agency that deals with human rights issues reported in 2016 that hunters of people living with albinism sell an entire human corpse for up to $75,000, while an arm or a leg could fetch about $2,000”.
In many African countries, it is sad and shameful the atrocious manner in which people living with albinism are treated; their lives are compounded by “exclusion, stigmatization, and denial of basic rights such as the right to education and health,” according to Amnesty International. People living with Albinism continue to experience social isolation and stigma which includes name-calling, mockery, and exclusion from certain community activities.
It is reported in Zambia that at least ten people living with albinism are murdered in ritual killings every year. Some believe their body parts bring wealth or luck. Those born with the genetic condition are calling for an end to this madness. There are more than 25,000 people living with the condition in Zambia.
According to the Albinism Foundation of Zambia (AFZ), Executive Director John Chiti, more than 25,000 persons with albinism in Zambia are currently in need of sunscreen lotion.
In an interview with Africa Renewal, Ms. Ero, said that the albinism situation in Africa, “is a tragedy.” She referred to the 7,000 to 10,000 people living with albinism in Malawi and thousands of others in Tanzania, Mozambique and other countries as “an endangered people”, facing a “risk of extinction if nothing is done.” Tanzanians call people living with albinism zeru,zeru, meaning “ghosts.”
Prevailing Superstitious Mindsets
Superstitious mindsets in some African countries continue to seek murdered for body parts, including infants and babies. Most of the attacks have taken place in Tanzania. Murders and attempted attacks, though in smaller numbers, have also been documented in Burundi, Kenya, Swaziland, Guinea, Nigeria, South Africa, Congo, Zambia, Namibia, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso.
The Converson.com conducted research and looked at media reports published between 2008 and 2011 on albinism and murders in Tanzania. It published a data set of 563 media reports in both English and Swahili from Tanzanian national newspapers.
The data showed that the Tanzanian press portrayed and explained violent attacks against persons with albinism in four ways. They were:
“When I was at primary school, people used to laugh at me, tease me – some didn’t even like to touch me, saying that if they touched me they would get this color. People used to abuse me on the road when I took the buses to school. They would run after me – crowds of kids following me – shouting ‘zeru, zeru’. (zeru, zeru, is a derogatory term).
The Conversation.com has identified the following recommendations.
There is an urgent need to address the violence faced by this vulnerable group. Public health awareness is an important first step.
Adequate health services for skin and vision disabilities should be prioritized.
Putting out messages that counter the stigma against people living with Albinism is also important, as is access to education.
Interventions must consider Albinism’ human rights. For example, putting children with albinism in camps may protect their right to life and security,but it restricts their rights to freedom of movement, and family life.
In addition, African Governments should seriously advocate against harmful practices against people living with albinism. State parties should take all appropriate measures and offer support and assistance to victims of harmful practices, including legal sanctions, education, and advocacy campaign to eliminate harmful practices perpetrated on persons with albinism, such as witchcrafts, abandonment concealment, ritual killings, etc.
One thing for sure, the people living with Albinism did not create themselves; they were created in the same way you and I were created by the God who doesn’t make a MISTAKE. Their birth process is the same as you and me! Their mothers’ carried them for nine (9) months in their wombs before giving birth to them.
Who are we – be it an individual or government to decide that they should not live because they are different? Did God ask he needs our HELP to make His decision? The Almighty God does not need the assistance of mortal humans to run his affairs. The actions of those individuals perpetuating violence against persons suffering from albinism are no different than King Leopold II of Belgium, Adolph Hitler of Germany, Napoleon Bonaparte of France, and White racists today.
In Genesis 1:31(NIV): “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…” God himself said it was Good, NOT bad. God doesn’t create anything UGLY! So, why individuals, including governments, are killing these innocent people? In addition, 1 Thessalonians 5:22 instructs us to “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Accordingly, the GENOCIDE against these poor innocent people must be STOPPED!
Now, take a closer look at the beautiful tapestry of the people living with Albinism provided here. The question that readily comes to mind is any of you better looking than the people living with Albinism provided in these photos? I DOUBT IT! Therefore, let the persecution and killing of people living with Albinism STOP before the wrath of God descends upon us.
As Africans, it is embarrassing to read or hear that other Africans are discriminated against due to their race. Racism is contrary to God’s plan for humanity. The divisions we face today in contemporary Western nations are due to Race, the color of one’s skin or ethnic background. And obviously, this perception is not part of God’s plan.
In the words of Maya Angelou: “We, the black people, the most displaced, the poorest, the most maligned and scourged, we had the glorious task of reclaiming the soul and saving the honor of the country. We, the most hated, must take hate into our hands and by the miracle of love, turn loathing into love. We, the most feared and apprehensive must take the fear and by love, change it into hope. We, who die daily in large and small ways, must take the demon death and turn it into life.”
Published: February 22, 2018 By: Amnesty International
DISCRIMINATION – PEOPLE WITH ALBINISM
An estimated 30,000 people with albinism experienced discrimination and were ostracized; many lived in fear of their lives. Incidents of persecution increased; at least 13 people with albinism were known to have been killed although figures are likely to have been greater. (italics added by the webmaster FVDK). The killings were fuelled by superstition or myths about the magical powers of people with albinism. Most killings took place in the central and northern provinces, the country’s poorest regions.
A seven-year-old boy with albinism was murdered on 31 January by four unidentified men who broke into his house and abducted him while the family slept, in Ngaúma district, Niassa province. On 28 May, a group of unidentified assailants abducted a three-year-old boy from his mother in Angónia district, Tete province. On 13 September, a 17-year-old youth was killed for his body parts and organs in Benga area, Moatize district, in Tete province. The attackers removed his brain, hair, and arm bones. None of those responsible for the killings were arrested or brought to justice by the end of the year.
Despite public outcry, the government did little to address the problem. A strategy was designed to stop the killings; however, this was not implemented, allegedly because of a lack of resources.
A 10-year-old albino boy was reportedly kidnapped from his home in the early hours of Monday in northern Mozambique.
According to BBC, the boy’s father, Pires Ernesto, alleged that the kidnappers dug a hole in the wall of his house in the city of Lichinga in Niassa province and went straight to the bedroom where his four children were sleeping.
Ernesto said that only his albino son was abducted.
Police said the matter was under investigation.
A report by AFP said that albinos in Mozambique were often hunted for their body parts, which were used as charms and magical potions in the belief that they brought wealth and good luck.
More than 100 attacks against albinos in Mozambique have been reported since 2014, according to the United Nations. (bold letter type and italics added by the webmaster FVDK)
Related article: How an albino boy was snatched from his bedroom in Niassa, Mozambique
Published: July 11, 2018 By DW (Deutsche Welle)
A 10-year-old albino child was abducted at dawn on Monday (July 9) at his parents’ residence in the city of Lichinga. This is the first abduction of an albino this year in Niassa. The case is already in the hands of the criminal investigation police SERNIC.
Just after the country had reported a year free of abductions or murder of albinos, kidnappers infiltrated the boy’s home through a hole in the wall of the room where the child slept with his siblings.
Pires Ernesto, father of the minor, who was working on a night shift at the time of the abduction, sadly told DW :” My brother Carlito called to tell me that my son had disappeared , when I asked him how it happened, he said they had made a hole in the wall and had taken the child out of the room, and said that they were informing the neighbours about what happened, and when I returned to the house at 1 a.m. I did not actually find the child. ”
According to BBC, Pires Ernesto, alleged that the kidnappers dug a hole in the wall of his house in the city of Lichinga in Niassa province and went straight to the bedroom where his four children were sleeping. Ernesto said that only his albino son was abducted.
The kidnapping of albinos that have occurred in Mozambique are mostly related to superstitious beliefs. It is believed that certain body parts of albinos possess magic powers and, because of this, many end up being killed or mutilated.
Resurgence of abduction causes concern
Trindade Guilherme, a representative of the association ‘Amor à Vida’ [Love of Life] in Niassa province, views the re-occurrence of albino kidnappings as a great concern and calls upon the authorities to be swifter in investigations so that the perpetrators are found and punished.
“It is sad, that there were a lot of kidnappings in the past and suddenly it was over, but this morning in the ‘Niassa I’ neighbourhood there was a kidnapping and we became worried again. We ask the police to re-double their investigative efforts so that we can live with more tranquility, ” he says.
After the incident was reported to the police by the minor’s relatives, the authorities went to the scene, said Alves Mate, a spokesman for the Niassa corporation. He assured that the police are investigating the matter, but did not give further details.
The spokesman for the police in Niassa said:”As soon as the police received the information about this incident, the utmost attention was paid to the case and it was immediately referred to SERNIC (National Criminal Investigation Service), since this is a matter that is not only for the responsibility of the PRM”,
Alves Mate reminded us that “the investigations take a while but, at this moment, our police are already working together with SERNIC to solve this abduction case.”
In Mozambique, there are laws to protect people with albinism. However, authorities often fail to catch the kidnappers. There are few cases reported to the police and, on the other hand, police does not have all the necessary resources to hunt down the criminals.
Portuguese version: Moçambique: Recomeçam ações contra albinos no Niassa
Autoria Manuel David (Lichinga)
Uma criança albina foi raptada na madrugada desta segunda-feira (09.07.) na residência dos seus pais na cidade de Lichinga. Trata-se do primeiro rapto de um albino este ano no Niassa. O caso já está nas mãos do SERNIC.
Pouco depois de o país assinalar um ano sem raptos ou assassinatos de albinos, raptores infiltraram-se na casa dos pais do menino por um buraco feito na parede do quarto onde o menor dormia juntamente com outros irmãos.
Triste, Pires Ernesto, pai do menor, conta: “Quando cheguei do serviço, por volta de uma hora, o meu irmão Carlito chamou-me para me dizer que o meu filho tinha desaparecido e perguntei-lhe como é que isso tinha acontecido, pelo que me respondeu furaram a parede e tiraram a criança do quarto. Disse ainda que estavam a informar aos vizinhos [sobre o sucedido]. Quando regressei à casa na verdade não encontrei a criança”.
De recordar que os raptos de albinos que têm ocorrido em Moçambique estão na sua maioria relacionados com superstições. Acredita-se que determinadas partes do corpo dos albinos possuem poderes mágicos e por causa disso muitos acabam por ser mortos ou mutilados.
Ressurgimento de raptos causa preocupação
Trindade Guilherme, representante da associação Amor à Vida na província do Niassa, encara o ressurgimento dos raptos de albinos com uma grande preocupação e apela as autoridades para serem mais céleres nas investigações para que os autores sejam encontrados e punidos.
“É triste, anteriormente ocorriam muitos raptos e de repente tudo acabou. Já pensávamos que situações do género tinham acabado definitivamente. Mas esta manhã no Bairro de Niassa I houve um rapto e voltamos a ficar preocupados. Pedimos a polícia para que redobre os esforços de investigação para que se possa viver com mais tranquilidade”, lamenta.
Depois da ocorrência comunicada à polícia pelos familiares do menor, as autoridades deslocaram-se ao local como disse Alves Mate, porta-voz da corporação Niassa. Ele garantiu que a polícia está a investigar o assunto, mas não avançou detalhes.
“Logo que a Polícia recebeu a informação sobre esta ocorrência dedicou a máxima atenção ao caso que foi imediatamente encaminhado para o SERNIC (Serviço Nacional de Investigação Criminal), visto tratar-se de um assunto que não é da competência da Polícia”, esclarece o porta-voz da Polícia em Niassa.
Alves Mate lembra que “a investigação demora um certo tempo, mas neste momento a nossa Polícia já está a trabalhar juntamente com o SERNIC para desvendar mais este rapto.”
Em Moçambique, há leis que protegem as pessoas com albinismo. Mas, muitas vezes, as autoridades não conseguem apanhar os raptores. Por um lado, há poucas denúncias e faltam meios à Polícia.
LEIA MAIS (= Read more)
Moçambique não regista há um ano casos de rapto ou assassinato de albinos
Dia Internacional para a Consciencialização do Albinismo, uma data instituída pelas Nações Unidas, celebrada este ano (13.06) sob o lema “brilhando a nossa luz para o Mundo”. (13.06.2018)
Moçambique: 4 anos depois, rapto de albino continua por esclarecer
Família de albino raptado há quatro anos queixa-se da inércia das autoridades na resolução do caso. Polícia diz que a investigação está agora nas mãos da Procuradoria. (06.06.2018)
Albinos beneficiam de consultas oftalmolóicas gratuitas, em Moçambique
Cerca de 100 albinos participaram de uma campanha para melhorar a visão e sensibilizar sobre os cuidados com os olhos. Ação foi encerrada este domingo (10.09), em Maputo. (10.09.2017)
Anistia Internacional denuncia nova onda de ataques a albinos no Malawi
Malawi registou nova onda de assassinatos e ataques dirigidos a pessoas com albinismo nos últimos meses, apoiados por um sistema judicial deficiente, denunciou a Amnistia Internacional (13.06.2017)
The Nigerian human rights advocate and humanist Leo Igwe wrote a very interesting article on the background of superstition in Mozambique. He explains the belief in superstition and the fact that Mozambicans resort to occult practices: “It’s all related (if not caused) by the lack of effective state interventions and leadership.” As he argues, “(…) in the absence of modernity, people in Mozambique and elsewhere in the region invoke magic and superstition to help process the existential challenges and uncertainties that they face in their everyday life. (…)“
I have a very high opinion of Leo Igwe. For ten years or more I’ve been reading his thoughts, experiences and views. He’s a well-known human rights activist. I would wish there are many many more Leo Igwe’s! Therefore his opinions matter.
Leo Igwe critically examines the modernity arguments, referring to scholars such as Peter Geschiere, Jean and John Comaroff. But how right are they? One could easily reverse the question. Is state intervention the critical factor? What if it did not exist? To what extent it would have been decisive?
In my opinion the real explanation for the phenomenon of superstition lies in the fact that the people concerned have not been educated in the proper sense.
Education, education and once more education! I cannot emphasize enough the importance of modern education. It’s the only long term solution for the problem of superstition. In the short term, the State should do its work: enforce the respect for the rule of law and hold those who are suspected of human rights violations and ritualistic murders accountable for their heinous crimes!
In Mozambique, murders of albinos, bald men, and other superstition-fueled crimes are common. Where do these ritual killings come from?
Recently, there have been reported incidents of harmful acts that are connected with traditional beliefs and practices across the region. For instance, some people attacked traders and fishermen for ‘tying the rain’. They alleged that the victims controlled rainfall in the area to benefit their businesses. The practice of rainmaking and unmaking in found in other African societies. Fortunately, the police intervened and warned the perpetrators against making such false accusations.
In another instance, ritualists killed five bald men in the district of Milange because their head supposedly contained gold. It is not clear how and when Mozambicans started associating bald heads with gold or magical wealth. Similar superstitious narratives have led to violence in other African cultures. For example, in Nigeria, those who believe that the hump contains some ‘precious mineral’ attack people with a hunchback.
Mozambique, however, has been particularly susceptible to ritual murders in recent years. People living with albinism (PLA) have been hunted down and killed in Mozambique for their body parts. The body parts of PLA are used to prepare magical substances that ostensibly bring wealth and good fortune. In September 2017, ritualists killed and removed the brain of a 17-year-old boy.
People Living with Albinism (PLA)
Mozambicans who suffer ailments or death impute witchcraft, and those who are accused of witchcraft are frequently attacked or killed. In 2011, at least 20 people were murdered for alleged involvement in witchcraft in Mozambique. Some of those arrested for attacking or lynching alleged witches were even schoolteachers. It has thereforebecome pertinent to explore how these manifestations of superstition and magical beliefs are related to the idea of modernity or the postcolonial context. Why has the spread of modernization not resulted in the disappearance of superstitious beliefs and practices in contemporary Mozambique?
A Reaction to modernity?
Some scholars such as Peter Geschiere, Jean and John Comaroff have designated the manifestations of occult beliefs in contemporary Africa as part of the dividends of Africa’s encounter with modernity. They have argued that modern changes have fractured Africa, and disrupted the lives of people within Africa. Ritual beliefs, and superstition-based practices, argue Geschiere and Comaroff, are ways that Africans make sense of these changes.
However, the modernity argument needs to be critically re-examined. First, how is accusing traders and farmers of holding the rain or killing PLA a way of making sense of modern changes? Does modernisation propel people to make witchcraft accusations and lynch alleged witches? How is the crisis wrought by modernisation (whatever that means) connected with magical imputations and ritualistic beliefs? Where is the logic in the argument that modernity is the raison d’etre of the growing visibility of occult beliefs in the region? Are modern phenomena not supposed to be oppositional to magic and superstition?
There is no doubt that modernisation has brought about significant change in African societies. The introduction of state bureaucracy, the school system, science and technology, neoliberal economics and the media has led to social, economic and political adjustments in postcolonial Africa. But occult beliefs and practices predate modernity in Africa. Africans have been using narratives of magic to make sense of their lives and social organisations before the introduction of state bureaucracy and other modern institutions. Modernisation has not led to the total disappearance of magical beliefs. So, is it justified to postulate that the manifestation of superstitions in postcolonial Africa is because of modernity?
In contemporary Africa, people make active use of both the magical and modern. Modernisation has provided Africans with an additional facility and resource in making sense of experiences. Where African people cannot use or access the modern, the magical is deployed. If the modern does not suffice, superstition is relied upon to supplement. People try to explain their misfortune using science and logic or by applying material and naturalistic resources. But where the material and natural are unhelpful and unsatisfactory, where they do not provide the answers and solutions, the supernatural and spiritual is used.
Superstition and magic are waxing strong and manifesting forcefully in places like Mozambique despite the modernisation process because there is some purpose that these ritualistic beliefs and practices are serving which modernity has not addressed.
In Mozambique, the state has failed in helping the citizens to meaningfully manage the shortage of rain and other existential uncertainties and anxieties. The required education or awareness is lacking. The state has not provided evidence-based information or response to the problem of limited rainfall especially to people in rural communities. According to a local source, elderly persons in the country languish in poverty: “They do not have access to basic health services, transportation and housing. Most elderly persons do not enjoy psychological and material well-being. They live in deplorable conditions, abandoned by relatives, accused of witchcraft and with little or no income”.
The state of Mozambique has been unable to put in place effective poverty alleviation programs for the citizens. There is no functioning social support system to cater for the poor, and the unemployed. So people try to make sense of their unfortunate situations using whatever they can lay their hands on whether they are material, immaterial or mixed. No incentives are extended to farmers and fishermen who are struggling to earn a living. They bear the brunt of poor harvest without state support or subsidy. Traders and others managing various businesses are left to cope with the harsh economic realities.
Due to the lack of effective state interventions and leadership in these critical areas, Africans resort to occult practices to make sense of their lives and experiences. In the absence of modernity, people in Mozambique and elsewhere in the region invoke magic and superstition to help process the existential challenges and uncertainties that they face in their everyday life.
The 17-year old albino boy was murdered on Wednesday in the Benga area of Tete province, Mozambique (picture not related to case).
Maputo – A 17-year-old albino boy was killed and his brain removed for what is believed to be use in witchcraft in Mozambique, local news reports said.
Albinos in Mozambique are often hunted for their body parts, which are used as charms and magical potions in the belief that they bring wealth and good luck.
“The criminals took the bones out of the arms and legs, the hair and broke the head to remove the brain,” a local official told Mozambican news agency AIM.
The body was found after the boy was killed on Wednesday in the Benga area of Tete province, AIM said.
Lurdes Ferreira, a police spokesman in the Tete province, said police are investigating the teenager’s kidnap and murder. “We have launched a search and arrest operation for those responsible for the macabre crime,” Ferreira said.
The murder comes four months after a failed attempt by two parents to sell their albino child in Moatize.
Tete, which borders Malawi, is believed to have a large market for albino organ trafficking.
There have been more than 100 attacks against albinos in Mozambique since 2014, according to the UN, with hunters persecuting them for everything from their toes to their faeces.