On November 13 I posted on this website a report on the notoriety of Kayunga District in Uganda when it comes to child sacrifices and ritualistic murders. In this posting I mentioned the case of Allan Ssembatya – then a six-year old small boy – who was cut with a machete and left fighting for his life in a forest. The offence was committed in Busolo Village, Kayunga District, in 2009. Luckily, Allan was found alive. Two men were arrested for attempted murder; recently they were sentenced to 40 years in prison. Both Allan Ssembatya and the the convicts, Awali Kivumbi and Paul Ngaswireki (see photo), were residents of Busolo in Kayunga Sub-county, Kayunga District.
Thirteen years after the incident took place justice was delivered. Hail to the Uganda judicial system! Nevertheless the foregoing, ‘prevention is better than cure’: all efforts should be made to prevent these crimes through proper education and the eradication of superstition. (webmaster VDK)
Warning: some readers may find the following report disturbing.
Two get 40 years in jail over ‘child sacrifice’
Published: September 20, 2022 By: Fred Muzaale – Monitor, Uganda
Court has sentenced two men to 40 years imprisonment each after they were found guilty of attempting to behead a six-year-old boy for ritual sacrifice.
Chief Magistrate Sarah Tusiime yesterday sentenced Paul Ngaswireki and Awali Kivumbi, after evidence linked them to attempting to murder Allan Ssembatya who was cut with a panga (machete) and left fighting for his life in a forest.
He was only discovered by his grandparents while in a coma.
“In light of the above evidence, submissions and the law, the prosecution has provided its case beyond a reasonable doubt that A1 and A2 are guilty of the offense of attempted murder of Ssembatya Allan contrary to Section 204 of the Penal Code Act,” held magistrate Tusiime.
The prosecution led by Mr Edward Muhumuza states that the offence was committed in 2009 in Busolo Village.
Ssembatya is now 19 years and in Senior One.
At the time of the incident, Ssembatya was six years old and in Primary Two at Busaale Church of Uganda Primary School, Kayunga.
In her ruling, the magistrate held that the conduct of the two convicts before, during and after the commission of the act was wanting.
The magistrates explained that Kivumbi, had been a good neighbour and even visited Ssembatya’s family quite often in hospital.
“It makes one believe that the frequent visits by A2 (Kivumbi) were to monitor the health of the victim or to conceal their participation. Such conduct is enough to prove that indeed there was malice aforethought,” held Ms Tusiime.
The magistrate also observed that the body parts damaged were the neck, head, skull, shoulder and testis.
The victim and the convicts were all residents of Busolo in Kayunga Sub-county, Kayunga District.
The convict was in their first trial acquitted for lack of evidence. However, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) appealed, leading to yesterday’s verdict.
Present at court were the father of the victim and a number of anti-child sacrifice activists from Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, a non-governmental organisation.
The magistrate branded the case as purely one for “child sacrifice”.
Both convicts asked for lighter sentences.
“I have 12 children and two wives and I was their breadwinner. I now don’t know what my family is up to,” Kivumbi said.
Mr Peter Sewakiryanga, the executive director of Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, said he had relocated Ssembatya’s family for their safety.
“My belief is that now we have a precedence that, however long it takes to get justice, when there is will by the community, justice can be delivered,” Mr Sewakiryanga said.
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.
A former ULIMO commander stands trial in France accused of war crimes, human rights violations, murder and cannibalism.
For shortness sake reference is made to Civitas Maxima’s monitoring of the arrest and trial of Kunti Kamara, a former ULIMO commander who was arrested in France in 2018. Kunti Kamara is accused of war crimes and human rights violations including torture, rape, murder and cannibalism committed during Liberia’s first civil war (1989-1997) in Foya, Lofa County, Liberia. His trial started in Paris/France on October 10.
Kunti Kamara is not the first or only rebel commander who’s being accused of ritual murder and cannibalism. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission mentions in its 2009 Final Report that hundreds of Liberians were murdered for ritual purposes during the two civil wars. In his book The Mask of Anarchy (1999), the late Stephen Ellis accuses the leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) who started Liberia’s first civil war, Charles Taylor, of drinking human blood during a juju ritual. Also Gibril Massaquoi, a RUF commander in neighboring Sierra Leone and a key-witness in the SCSL trial of warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor, was accused of murder for ritual purposes, but acquitted in April (2022). (webmaster FVDK).
“I would never eat human heart” – Kunti Kamara denies accusation before a French War Crimes court
Published: October 18, 2022 By: Prue Clarke, Front Page Africa – Monrovia, Liberia
PARIS, France – The former Ulimo commander Kunti Kamara, on trial here for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Liberia’s civil wars, had his first chance to make a substantive response to the allegations made against him in the first five days of this trial.
Under questioning from the judges, civilian lawyers and prosecution lawyers Kamara denied all the accusations that victims have made against him of torture, rape, murder of civilians and “barbarism” in the town of Foya in Lofa County, Liberia between 1993 and 1994.
Kamara told the nine-person jury and four alternates that the accusations of cannibalism – that he roasted and ate the heart of a civilian who had allegedly reported his crimes to international observers – made him sick.
“Since I was arrested nothing bothered me in the trial like what they’re talking about now. Eating human beings,” Kamara said. “Even if I spend 100 years in jail I will not admit to eating a human being’s heart. Each time I hear it I want to vomit.”
“Since I was born until today I never eat pork,” said Kamara a Muslim. “Why should I eat human being heart? I have nothing to say. I am innocent. I don’t know them today. I don’t know them tomorrow.”
Kamara denied that he had ever knew anyone who had said they ate human heart including in rituals of the Poro, a traditional African society.
“Since I was small that is a rumor in the ear,” he said of Poro human sacrifice and consumption of human flesh. “But I never met anyone who said they ate heart.”
Kamara insisted that the Ulimo committed no atrocities against civilians in the four-month period he was with them in Foya though he conceded Ulimo may have committed atrocities elsewhere during the war.
He said Ulimo in Foya was under the ultimate command of Ulimo Commander Dekau. Kamara said his mandate was only as battalion commander in charge of platoons “on the frontlines”. He denied any leadership role in the town over civilians.
Kamara acknowledged Ulimo fighters that victims have identified in this trial “Ugly Boy”, “Fine Boy” and Alieu Kosiah, convicted of war crimes in Switzerland in 2021, were all with him in Foya but Kamara claimed he hardly ever saw them.
Kamara blamed the accusations that have brought him to trial here were part of a “plot” orchestrated by “a clique” led by Fayah Williams, the late deputy director at Global Justice and Research Project, the Liberian justice activists.
Late in the evening Massa Washington, the former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, gave a powerful testimony that could prove decisive in the trial.
It was designed to answer questions that jurors may have had about whether they should be passing judgement on a Liberian for crimes committed 30 years ago in a country a long way away. That was a question French journalists were asking eachother on the sidelines of the trial.
“These trials are important because they give them people of Liberia justice,” an emotional Washington told the jury. “They give us hope that one day we’ll be able to get justice with our own judges, our own prosecutors, on our own soil. In the meantime we are grateful that some of the people who committed these gross violations of human rights who are in this country, in the US, in every country in the world where they find them they can try to bring them to justice. In the absence of our government addressing accountability these trials are the Liberian people have.”
Washington thanked the jury.
“It sends a message that we belong to the universal human race,” Washington said. “It says that the world has not forgotten Liberia. It says that we all share that common human dignity. We have the same needs. We feel the same pain. We thank you for the opportunity to tell some of these stories. I hope this has provided an important clarification for why this trial is important.”
Washington told some of the horrors she had personally witnessed as a journalist in Monrovia during the first civil war. The jury was riveted by her testimony which made clear that the testimony they were hearing from witnesses here was just a fraction of the myriad atrocities that had been committed during the war. She told of rapes of girls as young as five and of elderly women. She said her work with women made it clear to her than many of the elderly women had not come forward to the TRC hearings because of the stigma.
She told the story of an 82-year-old woman who told her she was made a war wife.
“’I was raped all the time by boys who could have been my grandchildren,’” Massa quoted the woman as saying. “Her story is just one story that represents thousands of stories. The rebels were so bad that when people were on checkpoints trying to get away from the fighting the rebels were raping the wives in front of the husbands. They even forced sons to have sex with mothers in front of the family to destroy the men. They took the young girls away.”
Earlier in the day the fifth victim to testify against Kamara detailed the alleged torture, killing and cannibalism of a schoolteacher in Foya that all victims have claimed was directed by the defendant.
He also talked more broadly of the suffering of people in Lofa during Ulimo’s occupation of the town. His telling of the experience of the women he had planned to marry was a harrowing example of the broader suffering of the people.
“M. was my girlfriend and Ugly Boy took her as a sex slave,” the victim told the Paris court talking of the now deceased perpetrator that many victims have alleged was Kamara’s lieutenant who followed his orders to commit many of the crimes. The court has ordered press to withhold victims’ names for their security.
“This was another blow to me,” the victim told the court. ”I really planned to marry her. The first time I saw her after the war, it was painful, but it had happened. She was not at fault. I saw her but the stigma was too heavy. I could no longer take her as a wife. By tradition anyone who takes a wife after that is easily rejected from society. In addition, because of her time as a sex slave, she conceived. I am feeling it for her now because her situation is too deplorable.”
The trial continues Tuesday with more testimonies from victims about the murder of a woman in Lofa.
This story is a collaboration with New Narratives as part of the West Africa Justice Reporting Project.
Liberia: “You are Kundi. You killed my sister” A third victim identifies Kamara as perpetrator in War Crimes Trial
Published: October 19, 2022 By: Anthony Stephens and Prue Clarke with New Narratives, Front Page Africa – Monrovia,
PARIS, France – On Tuesday a third victim identified Kunti Kamara, on trial for torture, cannibalism and crimes against humanity in the Paris Court, as “Co Kundi” the rebel commander who allegedly committed atrocities in Foya, Lofa County, Liberia.
The man was one of four plaintiffs who have brought the case against Kamara here in Paris, France where Kamara was living when he was arrested in 2019 after French investigators built a case against him.
“You are Kundi,” the man said turning to look at Kamara directly, barely containing his obvious emotion and rage. The plaintiff pointed at Kamara who was sitting behind his lawyers in a protective glass case. “I know you very well. You the one that killed my sister.”
The now elderly man told the court Kamara arrived at his house in Foya in late 1993 after the man’s sister’s baby had died. He alleged Kamara gave the family $L100 for their pain.
Soon after that Kamara allegedly ordered the victim’s sick and half naked sister – the mother of the child – dragged from the house. He accused her of witchcraft. The victim said Kamara and his troops had taken over the house for themselves and already had his wife, son and mother in custody at the time. Kamara did not know the man, who was standing with a crowd, was a member of the family.
The victim was overcome with tears as told the court that he had watched as Kamara put three bullets in his sister’s head.
Within months the man’s mother was also dead from illness. The victim blamed Kunti for the grief the murder of his sister had caused her.
“She cried every day,” he said. “So she became sick from not seeing my sister.”
The lawyer for the civil parties asked the victim if he had anything to say to Kamara but he took the opportunity to issue a warning to the judges instead.
“I’m very happy to see all the officers to take care of Kundi,” he said pointing to the court officers who accompany the defendant at all times. “This government should not leave Kundi to come back to Liberia.”
Kamara rejected all the allegations as he has done consistently throughout this trial.
“I’m just shocked,” an agitated Kamara told the president of the court Thierry Fusina. “I don’t know him. These people, it’s my first time to see them in my life. I don’t know them! They are lying on me. I’m not a criminal.”
Earlier in the day another witness to the alleged murder of the sick woman accused of witchcraft gave evidence that appeared to contradict testimony that he gave to an earlier investigating judge in the case.
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.
Ghana’s reputation abroad is one of a stable democracy, with a relative healthy economy, albeit plagued by problems which are characteristic for a developing economy: low incomes, lack of jobs, shortage of capital, to name but a few.
However, there is another Ghana, a traditional Ghana, where people believe in the power of ‘juju’, in superstition, and where criminal people do not hesitate to attack their fellow countrymen for the purposes of ritualistic activities, even if this means that the victims die in the hands of their torturers and murderers.
The four cases cited below illustrate this. The ritualistic murders took place in various parts of the country.
In the past I have given ample attention to the Kasoa case which occurred to the west of the country’s capital Accra (Greater Accra region). All murder cases are tragic but the Kasoa case even more because of the background of the young murderers. The Abesim murder which made two victims, two boys of 12 and 15 years old, took place in the Brong Ahafo Region. The Mankassim murder case is situated in Ghana’s Central Region (Ashanti Region), between Cape Coast and Winneba. I will report more on this case in the next few days. Finally, the gruesome ritualistic murder in Wa, in the Upper West Region.
Tthe reader is warned that the graphic details of the murder(s) may be shocking. (webmaster FVDK)
Four recent ritual murder cases: Abesim, Kasoa, Mankessim, Wa
The following article contains two interesting aspects to which I would like to draw the readers’ attention.
First, I was struck by the public declaration of Chief Zoe, Ma Wrote Musa, to continue certain traditional practices of the ancestors, including the practicing of FGM, female genital mutilation. My interpretation of these remarks is that traditional values and behavior are still undisputed in Liberia, at least at the highest level.
Secondly, almost causal the Chief Zoe mentions ritual killings. Shocking, it’s a public acknowledgement that these age-old practices still occur in this West African country. I found it shocking – which it is not really, in the sense that everyone in Liberia knows of the existence of these crimes, based on greed, superstition and the disrespect of the rule of law and of the human rights of the victims – including the government. (FVDK)
Liberia: “We’ll Continue the Sande Bush Practice of Our Ancestors” – Zoes in Margibi Vow
“We will continue the Sande Bush practice of our ancestors in Liberia. We inherited this practice, and in no way, we are willing to end it. And, if the government and others want to force us, we will traditionally resist. If they want us to leave our ancestors’ practice, let them be equally prepared to let go other practices such as same-sex, the UBF, the Free Masons and ritualistic killings, etc,” said Chief Zoe, Ma Wroto Musa.
Published: August 30, 2022 By: Mae Azango – Front Page Africa
MONROVIA – Hundreds of Liberian school-aged girls and young women stand the risks of being initiated into the Sande Society, also known as the bush school, because, traditional leaders of Margibi County pledged to continue their ancestors’ traditional heritage.
Chief Zoe, Ma Wroto Musa, Chief Samuel Kollie and other traditional leaders in Weala Margibi County vowed to continue Sande activities admit the three-year suspension on the practice.
“We will continue the Sande Bush practice of our ancestors in Liberia. We inherited this practice, and in no way, we are willing to end it. And, if the government and others want to force us, we will traditionally resist. If they want us to leave our ancestors’ practice, let them be equally prepared to let go other practices such as same-sex, the UBF, the Free Masons and ritualistic killings, etc,” said Chief Zoe, Ma Wroto Musa.
Speaking in Weala Margibi County, during a recent town hall in meeting, organized by HeForShe Crusaders Liberia, the West Point Women for Health and Development Organization and Community Healthcare Initiative, the zoes, along with over 20 traditional leaders, said even though they are knowledgeable of the three years suspension on FGM activity in Liberia, but they will continue until same-sex and UBF is abolished as well.
During the ongoing dialogue, in affirmation of their support, all the invited traditional participants raised their hands in support of FGM continuation in Liberia.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is the umbrella entity responsible for regulations of all traditional affairs, is unaware of the violation by many traditional leaders. When contacted regarding the wave of FGM activities going on after the three-year ban placed on the practice, Assistant Minister for Culture and Customs, Joseph B. Jangar, said he is surprised and shock at the same time such activities but promised to follow up with superintendents of the various counties that are said to be violating the three-year moratorium.
“The zoes and traditional leaders are all aware of the three-year suspension and not one of those zoes operating the bush schools will be able to show you any certificate from the Ministry of Internal Affairs because we are aware of the ban,” said Minister Jangar.
It can be recalled that in late February 2022, Chief Zanzan Karwor, Chairman of the National Traditional Council of Liberia, announced a three-year suspension of the practice of female genital mutilation in Liberia. The three-year ban which started with immediate effect came amidst campaigns by human rights groups for a total ban on the practice. But it seems since the declaration was made, many traditional leaders are openly violating the ban.
“FGM/C is not only a human rights violation, but undermines the peace and security of each and every female. Access to bodily autonomy is a right to every woman, end FGM and its not cultural but harmful suppression,” Saye Tamba F. Johnson, National HeForShe Crusaders Liberia. Johnson said Margibi County is the second county that has challenged the three-year suspension of FGM. The first was Grand Cape Mount in February of 2022. However, Lofa, Gborpolu, Grand Bassa, Bong, Montesrrado and Rivercess Counties are reportedly still carrying out the act, too.
According to this newspaper’s Nimba County Correspondent, two zoes in that county paid dearly for disobedience to the three-year ban when they were arrested in Sanniquellie, Nimba County, for forcing over 8000 school-going aged girls into the Sande Bush. The girls, who had gone to prepare for 2022/2023 school year, were all captured and forced into the Bush School by the two traditional leaders. And the report added that the practices are presently taking place in the 19 administrative districts in Nimba County.
HeForShe Crusaders Liberia, Lofa County Coordinator Boakai Yamah reported on the increase of FGM activities and listed towns and villages that are carrying out the practice during the three-year suspension.
“I reported earlier from Lofa County, on the increase in the numbers of Sande Bushes in operation across the county. Here are the names and locations where Sande Bush activities are ongoing.
2. Lawalazu Town, Lower Workor Clan, Voinjama District
3. Zawoadamai Town, Lower Workor Clan, Voinjama District
4. Borgondu Town, Quardu Gboni District
5. Korlelar Town, Quardu Gboni District
6. Kamolahun Town, Ngolahun Clan, Lukambeh District
7. Manena Town, Hembeh Clan, Lukambeh District
8. Lehuma Town, Wanwoma Clan, Wanhassa District.
However, for Lehunma Town all preparations have been put in place to take the children,” concluded Coordinator Yamah. Back to the Weala Meeting in Margibi, following the intense awareness on the importance of maintaining all positive attributes of the Sande Bush, making away with the circumcision aspect, the leaders and supporters disagreed. “Our leaders at the national level are seeking money and forgetting the values of our heritage. They are seeking their own personal interest and not us. They don’t consult us on issues; we only hear about them, which is a disservice to us. Hence, there is a need for you all to keep engaging us and let us know who are directly involved with the bush and speak out on what is possible,” said Chief Samuel Kollie.
Reports on ritual killings in Madagascar are rare – which should not be understood as being the same as the absence of ritualistic murders – but the position of people with albinism (PWA) on this large Indian Ocean island is fragile, as I reported earlier this year (see my April 3 and June 16 postings).
A recent attack on a child with albinism in Ikongo, about 50 miles southeast of the capital Antananarivo, angered a mob which subsequently tried to invade a police station where four suspects of the kidnapping were being held in custody. The consequences can be read below.
The rule of law is a good thing, mob justice cannot be tolerated, but questions can be asked about the conditions and reasons which prompted police officers to use their deadly weapons.
Apart from this question, we would like to know the outcome of the interrogations of the four suspects and – above all – which measures the government of President Andry Rajoelina is taking to improve and protect the position of people with albinism on this large island.
Madagascar is an island situated east of the African continent, in the Indian Ocean, separated from mainland Africa by the Mozambique Channel.
Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island and the world’s second largest island-country (after Indonesia). It has a population of nearly 30 million people (2022). (webmaster FVDK)
Cops shoot dead 14 people and wound 28 in Madagascar as they open fire on crowd trying to break into police station to kill four men accused of kidnapping albino child
A crowd of 500 angry villagers descended on the Ikongo police station
They were demanding officers hand over the four alleged kidnappers
When they refused to back down, police opened fire, killing 14 people
Police in Madagascar have shot dead at least 14 people and wounded 28 others after opening fire on a crowd of protesters angered at the kidnapping of an albino child.
A crowd of around 500 angry villagers armed with machetes and knives descended on the local police station in Ikongo calling for the release of the four suspects arrested yesterday, so they could be dealt with by the mob.The demonstrators then ‘tried to force their way in’ to the station, a police officer told AFP.
‘There were negotiations, the villagers insisted,’ the officer said over the phone, adding police fired smoke grenades and shots in the air in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
‘They continued to force their way through… We had no choice but to defend ourselves,’ the police officer said.
Local doctor Tango Oscar Toky said ‘nine people died on the spot’ and another five died later in hospital.
Nine of those injured were in a critical condition, he said.
‘The gendarmes… fired on the crowd,’ local lawmaker Jean-Brunelle Razafintsiandraofa in the southeastern town of Ikongo told AFP.
Some sub-Saharan African countries have suffered a wave of assaults against people with albinism, whose body parts are sought for witchcraft practices in the mistaken belief that they bring luck and wealth.
Because of the superstition, their body parts can be sold for thousands of dollars and they are often targeted in ritual killings.
Some believe that having sex with an albino woman can also cure AIDS.
The kidnapping took place last week, according to Razafintsiandraofa, an MP for the Ikongo district about 50 miles southeast of the capital Antananarivo.
No further details were immediately available.
Madagascar, a large Indian Ocean island country, is ranked among the poorest in the world.
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
First of all, the suspect, Oppong Kyekyeku, is facing a charge of preparation to commit a crime. Allegedly, the accused when facing financial difficulties consulted a spiritualist and agreed to offer his 11- year old daughter for a ritual. What struck me beyond the assumed superstition and the gruesome murder inevitably linked to the ritual is the fact that the suspect has been living in the Netherlands for many years before he relocated to Ghana a year ago.
Seemingly ‘normal people’ are capable of committing gruesome murders. It’s a known fact, but when again confronted with this reality, I find it quite shocking. (webmaster FVDK)
Case of businessman in alleged ritual murder sent to Attorney General for advice
Published: July 19, 2022 By: Modern Ghana
The case of Evans Oppong Kyekyeku who is accused of attempting to use his daughter for ritual purposes has been sent to the Attorney General ‘s Office for advice.
When the matter was called today, Monday July 18, 2022, before Ms Ama Adomako Kwakye, Chief Inspector Lawrence Kofi Anane, who held a brief of Chief Inspector Richard Amoah, prayed for a date as a duplicate docket had been sent to the Attorney General.
Defence Counsel said he had followed up at the AG Office adding that the State was finding it difficult to advise on his client’s case as there was no evidence against him (Oppong Kyekyeku).
The Court, therefore, adjourned the matter to August 1 and remanded Oppong Kyekyeku into Police custody.
Oppong Kyekyeku is facing a charge of preparation to commit crime to wit, murder.
The accused’s plea has been preserved by the Court.
The fact of the prosecution is that Kyekyeku is the father of the victim aged 11 years and he has been living in Holland for many years but relocated to Ghana a year ago.
In the month of May this year, Oppong Kyekyeku allegedly told a friend known as Kwame that he was facing financial difficulty and consulted a spiritualist.
The accused allegedly agreed to present his daughter for the ritual.
He was, however, picked up after he had allegedly managed to send the daughter for the ritual at Oyibi Kom in Accra.
Below follows a shocking account from Uganda. It is not the first time on this site that human sacrifices, ritual murders and ritualistic activities are being reported from this East African country.
The reported steep increase in the number of (reported and/or discovered!) human sacrifices is indeed extremely worrisome, the more so that we may assume that the discovered or reported cases of ritual killing are only the tip of an iceberg.
It’s a horrifying reality that mainly children are victim of these crimes which are above all based on superstition and (partly) caused by poverty. Partly caused, because according to reports not only poor people resort to human sacrifices to increase their well-being. Also (rich) businessmen do, as the 2014 case of the business tycoon Kato Kajubi demonstrates (see my posting dated May 7, 2021).
Whereas in 2019 22 ritualistic murders were recorded, this number rose to 45 in 2020, and to 65 last year (2021), resulting in the sad total figure of 132 human sacrifices which have been recorded.
Ritual killings must stop! (webmaster FVDK)
‘A big problem’: Uganda sees spike in human sacrifice incidents
Published: July 3, 2022 By: TRT News
Authorities say human sacrifices take place at advice of ‘witch doctors’ in superstition-hit rural areas to bring good luck.
Human sacrifices continue unabated in the remote and rural areas of the landlocked East African country of Uganda despite authorities enacting tough laws and threatening death sentences.
According to officials, 132 incidents of human sacrifices have been recorded in the last three years. The numbers have spiked from 22 sacrifices in 2019, 45 in 2020 and 65 in 2021.
Most victims of such “ritual sacrifices” are children, apparently because they are easier to abduct and seen as “pure” and so of “higher ritual value”.
Anadolu Agency quoted authorities as saying on Sunday that the sacrifices are being carried out by witch doctors or local traditional healers, dotting rural areas.
Admitting that human sacrifice is a big problem, Lucas Oweyesigire, the police spokesman for the Kampala region, said most such practices take place in rural areas.
The so-called leader of traditional healing and witch doctors, Mama Fina, has also condemned human sacrifice and described those recommending the sacrifice of human beings as “fake”.
Taking advice from witch doctors
Police spokesman Fred Enanga said only last month they “arrested a man identified as Musilimu Mbwire on suspicion of killing his two sons in human sacrifice.”
According to preliminary investigations, a rich man had paid Mbwire money and convinced him to sacrifice his two sons at the instructions of a witch doctor.
Superstitions lead people in rural areas to seek help from witch doctors, who in turn offer weird prescriptions, including human sacrifices to turn around their luck.
A more worrisome part of the superstition is to undertake human sacrifice to put the body at the foundation of a building to bring good luck.
Timothy Mukasa, a local leader in Kampala’s suburb of Kireka, said many multi-storey buildings in the town have been built on a human body.
“The witch doctors tell owners to put a human body at the foundation of the construction of the buildings,” he said.
In 2014, authorities apprehended and later sentenced a tycoon Kato Kajubi for sacrificing a child and then putting his body in the foundation of a building that he was about to construct.
David Musenze, a journalist who studied psychology, said there are not many qualified counsellors to attend to psychological and mental issues of people, which makes them take advice from witch doctors.
“People go to witch doctors to help them get jobs, be promoted at jobs, or kill their enemies, along with many other problems,” he said.