Uganda: can increase in ritual murders be stopped by harsher punishment for murderers?

Perhaps it is time to debate whether there are situations that require the death penalty” – says Miriam Wangadya, chairperson Human Rights Commission Uganda.

The chairperson of the Human Rights Commission Uganda, Miriam Wangadya, is devastated and despairing. The gruesome ritualistic killing of innocent victims often young children is heartbreaking, she says. The mutilated bodies found are disgusting witnesses of a violent death.

She cites a number of well-known recent ritual murder cases including the ritual murder of a four-year old girl in Jinja district in 2021 and the ritualistic murder of two young girls, sisters, by their mother, also in Jinja district in 2023. Statistics release by Uganda National Police indicate that ritualistic sacrifices are on a steady increase from 22 cases in 2019, to 45 in 2020, to 46 in 2021 and 72 in 2022.

The chair of the Human Rights Commission Uganda makes a plea for harsher punishment.

Since Uganda observes a moratorium on the death penalty she suggests to have a national debate whether indeed there are situations which require the death penalty. The law must take its full force, she argues, and murderers who kill innocent and helpless children deserve the capital punishment. Punishment should match the crime. A stern message is to be sent out that murder in al its forms is totally unacceptable and is met with the strongest deterrent, she insists.

But will the capital punishment, ‘an eye for an eye’, really act as a deterrent for the greedy and ruthless criminals who are willing to sacrifice the life of a human being for more money, power, or prestige?
(FVDK)

Murderers of innocent children deserve harsher punishment

Published: April 9, 2024
By: New Vision, Uganda

Source: Murderers of innocent children deserve harsher punishment

Uganda: witchdoctor arrested over murder of two siblings in ritual sacrifice

Due to time constraints I haven’t posted much recently. The ritual murder reported below dates from early April. A witchdoctor killed two childen for ritual purposes in Kiboga District, approximately 120 kilometres (75 mi), by road, northwest of Kampala, Uganda’s capital. The headless bodies of the victims were discovered the day after the two children, siblings, got missing. 

The police and authorities in Uganda are to be commended for their swift action. The witchdoctor, Sulaiman Ssentongo, and an accomplice, Maureen Namuleme, were arrested. More arrests are not excluded.
(FVDK)

Witchdoctor arrested over murder of two siblings in ritual sacrifice

Published: April 9, 2024
By: The Observer, Uganda

The directorate of crime intelligence (DCI) has arrested a witch doctor, Sulaiman Ssentongo, suspected of having killed two children in Kiboga on Wednesday last week for ritual sacrifice.

After committing the crime, Ssentongo reportedly fled to Kireka, Kira Municipality, in Wakiso district. Shock engulfed residents of Kasega parish, Kapeke sub-county, when the siblings; Sylvia Nantongo aged five and Esther Nakasumba aged two mysteriously went missing. Locals launched a search for the siblings on Wednesday night and their headless bodies were discovered the next day. 

Upon finding the bodies, police in Kiboga launched investigations using sniffer dogs which ended up at Ssentongo’s shrine. It was later established that Ssentongo aged 32 had fled the area with the help of his accomplice Maureen Namuleme, aged 41.

Kiboga police quickly alerted DCI and the police’s cyber unit which started tracking the duo’s movement using a mobile phone until they were found hiding in Kireka township, one of the busiest suburbs of Kampala. 

Detectives have revealed that Ssentongo has confessed that he was given transport money to run to safety after committing the crime by Namuleme – something which he later denied. The duo has been transported back to Kiboga where they allegedly committed the crime. SP Racheal Kawala, Wamala regional police spokesperson, has confirmed Ssentongo and Namuleme’s arrest.

“Our crime intelligence operatives have apprehended two suspects in connection with the double murders that occurred in Kasega parish, Kapeke sub-county, Kiboga district. The suspects have been identified as Sulaiman Ssentongo, 32 years old Namuleme Maureen, 41 years old,” said Kawala. 

Ssentongo is a resident of Kirinda village, Kasega parish, Kapeke sub-county, in Kiboga district while Namuleme is a resident of Kisingiri cell, Namiremebe Bakuli ward, Rubaga division, Kampala. 

Kawala said Ssentongo was tracked using his mobile phone. She also said that Ssentongo alleges that Namuleme is the person who helped him with money to flee the scene. 

“The suspects are currently detained at Kiboga CPS for interrogation, bringing the total number of arrests to three. Preliminary findings suggest that on April 3, 2024, at 10:00 pm, two children, were reported missing. Unfortunately, their torsos were discovered on April 4, 2024, in Kirinda village, Kasega parish, Kapeke sub-county,” Kawala explained.

However, it is not yet clear whether the children were alone at the time they were abducted by the witch doctor or whether there was assistance from a close relative since they went missing in the night hours.

Source: Witchdoctor arrested over murder of two siblings in ritual sacfrice

Kiboga District, Uganda

A manifesto for a skeptical Africa

The article presented below, written by the famous Nigerian human rights activist and humanist Dr. Leo Igwe, is a must-read. His manifesto is highly recommended to all readers. It is more than a reflection, it is more than a plea, it is more than a cry – for change or for understanding. As Dr. Igwe writes: “Africans must begin to think freely in order to ‘emancipate themselves from mental slavery’ and generate ideas that can ignite the flame of an African enlightenment.” And Dr. Igwe is not alone, he is not the only one who firmly believes this approach is the only way for Africa and Africans to move forward – as can be concluded from the list of African endorsers and other endorsers from around the world, presented at the end of his article.

Enough words written to recommend a piece that you shouldn’t miss! Enjoy the reading, and … spread the word!

PS Unfortunately, a few links in the original article are broken and/or not working properly (webmaster FVDK).

A Manifesto for a Skeptical Africa

What are the prospects for a more secular Africa, more skeptical Africa, more scientific Africa, i.e., a more humanistic Africa?

Published: December 2, 2023
Written By: Dr. Leo Igwe – Publshed By: Scott Douglas Jacobsen

For too long, African societies have been identified as superstitious, consisting of people who cannot question, reason or think critically. Dogma and blind faith in superstition, divinity and tradition are said to be the mainstay of popular thought and culture. African science is often equated with witchcraft and the occult; African philosophy with magical thinking, myth-making and mysticism, African religion with stone-age spiritual abracadabra, African medicine with folk therapies often involving pseudoscientific concoctions inspired by magical thinking. Science, critical thinking and technological intelligence are portrayed as Western — as opposed to universal — values, and as alien to Africa and to the African mindset. An African who thinks critically or seeks evidence and demands proofs for extraordinary claims is accused of taking a “white” or Western approach. An African questioning local superstitions and traditions is portrayed as having abandoned or betrayed the essence of African identity. Skepticism and rationalism are regarded as Western, un-African, philosophies. Although there is a risk of overgeneralizing, there are clear indicators that the continent is still socially, politically and culturally trapped by undue credulity.

Many irrational beliefs exist and hold sway across the region. These are beliefs informed by fear and ignorance, misrepresentations of nature and how nature works. These misconceptions are often instrumental in causing many absurd incidents, harmful traditional practices and atrocious acts. For instance, not too long ago, the police in Nigeria arrested a ‘robber’ goat which they said was a thief who suddenly turned to a goat. A Nigerian woman was reported to have given birth to a horse. In Zambia, a local school closed temporarily due to fears of witchcraft. In Uganda, there are claims of demonic attacks in schools across the country. Persecution and murder of alleged witches continue in many parts of the continent. Many Africans still believe that their suffering and misfortune are caused by witchcraft and magic. In Malawi, belief in witchcraft is widespreadRitual killing and sacrifice of albinos and other persons with disabilities take place in many communities, and are motivated by paranormal belief. Across Africa people still believe in the potency and efficacy of juju and magic charms. Faith-based abuses are perpetrated with impunity. Jihadists, witch-hunters and other militants are killing, maiming and destroying lives and property. Other-worldly visions and dogmatic attitudes about the supernatural continue to corrupt and hamper attempts by Africans to improve their lives. Even with the continent’s ubiquitous religiosity, many African states are to be found at the bottom of the Human Development Index and on the top of the poverty, mortality and morbidity indices.

Recently Africa was polled as the most devout region in the world, and this includes deep devotion to the continent’s various harmful superstitions. Devoutness and underdevelopment, poverty, misery and superstition co-exist and co-relate. It should be said that the dominant religious faiths in the region are faiths alien to the continent. That means African Christians are more devout than Europeans whose missionaries brought Christianity to Africa. African Muslims are more devout than Muslims in the Middle East, whose jihadists and clerics introduced Islam to the region.

Meanwhile, whatever good these foreign belief systems may have brought to or done in Africa can only be unfavorably compared to the damage and darkness they have caused and are still causing in the region. Some paranormal or supernatural claims of the two main religions of Christianity and Islam are part of the factors holding Africans hostage. Most Africans cannot think freely or express their doubts openly because these religions have placed a huge price on freethinking and critical inquiry. Because these belief systems rely on paranormal claims themselves, Africans feel they cannot speak out against superstition as a whole, or they will be ostracized or even killed by religious zealots. Belief in demonic possession, faith healing, and the “restorative” power of holy water can have deadly consequences for believers and whole communities. Africans must reject superstitious indoctrination and dogmatization in public institutions. Africans need to adopt this cultural motto: Dare to think. Dare to doubt. Dare to question everything in spite of what the superstitious around you teach and preach.

Africans must begin to think freely in order to ‘emancipate themselves from mental slavery’ and generate ideas that can ignite the flame of an African enlightenment.

The two dominant religions have fantastic rewards for those who cannot think, the intellectually conforming, unquestioning and obedient, even those who kill or are killed furthering their dogmas. They need to be told that the skeptical goods — the liberating promises of skeptical rationality — are by far more befitting and more beneficent to Africans than imaginary rewards either in the here and now or in the hereafter.  Today the African continent has become the new battleground for the forces of a dark age. And we have to dislodge and defeat these forces if Africa is to emerge, grow, develop and flourish. To some people, the African predicament appears hopeless. The continent seems to be condemned, doomed and damned. Africa appears to be in a fix, showing no signs of change, transformation and progress. An African enlightenment sounds like a pipe dream.

But I do not think this is the case — an African Age of Reason can be on the horizon! The fact is that there are many Africans who reason well and think critically. There are Africans who are skeptics and rationalists1. But active African skeptics are too few and far apart to form the critical mass the continent needs to experience a Skeptical Spring. Nonetheless, the momentum is building slowly and steadily. And one can say that an African skeptical awakening is in sight. As it is said: the darkest part of the night precedes the dawn. So there is no need to despair for humanity in Africa. There is every reason to be optimistic and hopeful. After all, Europe went through a very dark period in its history, in fact, a darker and more horrible phase than that which Africa is currently undergoing. Still the European continent survived to experience Enlightenment and modern civilization. Who ever thought that the Arab Spring would happen in our lifetime? So, African enlightenment can happen sooner than we expected. But it will not happen as a miracle. African enlightenment will not fall like manna from heaven. It requires — and will continue to require — hard work, efforts, sacrifice, courage and struggle by Africans and other friends who are committed to the values of enlightenment. In Europe, skeptics spoke out against harmful superstition, and unfounded dogma and caused the dawn of a new awakening. African skeptics need to speak out against the forces of dogma, irrationalism and superstition ravaging the continent. Skeptics need to organize and mobilize — online and offline — to further the cause of reason, science and critical thinking. They need to speak out in the media and to politicians about the harm resulting from undue credulity and  challenge and confront the charlatans directly to put up or shut up. Skeptics can no longer afford to keep quiet or remain indifferent in the face of a looming dark age.  They need to campaign for a reform of the educational system and encourage the teaching of critical thinking in schools.

Many charlatans operate out there in their communities. They ‘mine’ popular fears and anxietiesexploiting desperate, misinformed folks. We need to expose them and free our people from their bondage. African skeptics cannot remain passive and inactive and expect skeptical rationality to thrive and flourish or expect the forces of dogma and superstition to simply disappear. The situation requires active engagement by committed skeptics. That was how the much-talked-about skeptical tradition in the Western world was established and is sustained. 

That is how we are going to build and leave a skeptical legacy for Africa. 

This is a call to duty to all African skeptics in Africa and in the diaspora. History has thrust on us this critical responsibility which we must fulfill. Let us therefore marshal our will to doubt, to advance skepticism in the interest of Africa. Let us marshall other intellectual resources and cause this new dawn — this skeptical awakening to happen early in this 21st century. 

African skeptics arise.

1  Skeptical and rationalist groups are gaining ground in Africa. Here are a few worth supporting: 


African Endorsers

George Thindwa, Executive Director, Association for Secular Humanism, Malawi
Mandla Ntshakala, Activist, Swaziland
Jacques Rousseau, Lecturer, University of Cape Town, South Africa
Ebou Sohna, Gambia Secular Assembly, Gambia
Graham Knight, Humanist Association of Ghana, Accra Ghana
Olajide Akeredolu MD, Lagos, Nigeria
Jes Petersen, Director, Springboard Humanism, Botswana
Wilfred Makayi, Humanist Activist, Zambia
James Ibor, Attorney, Basic Rights Counsel, Calabar, Nigeria
Robert Bwambale, Founder & Executive Director, Kasese United Humanist Association, 
Uganda
Kato Mukasa, HALEA, Kampala, Uganda

Other Endorsers from Around The World

James Randi, Founder, James Randi Educational Foundation, USA
Michael Shermer, Executive Director, Skeptics Society, USA
Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, USA
D.J. Grothe, President, James Randi Educational Foundation, USA
Paul Kurtz, Founder, Institute for Science and Human Values, USA
Toni Van Pelt, Policy Director, Institute for Science and Human Values
Hemant Mehta, Blogger, Friendly Atheist
Susan Sackett, Writer and Vice President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, USA
Sonja Eggerickx President, International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), Belgium 
Josh Kutchinsky, founder and co-moderator Hummay, International Humanists 
Support egroup
Ophelia Benson, Author and Blogger, USA
Guy P. Harrison, Writer, USA
Ike Francis, Human Rights Activist, USA
Lorann Sims-Nsimba, Africa Awake Freethought Alliance, USA
Matt Cherry, International Representative, International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)
Bob Churchill – International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), UK
Norm Allen, International Outreach Director, Institute for Science and Human Values, USA
Dr Bill Cooke, Director of International Programs for the Center for Inquiry, USA 
Canberra Skeptics Inc, Australia 
Australian Skeptics (Victorian Branch)
John Perkins, The Secular Party of Australia

More signatories to be added in the future.

Source: A Manifesto for a Skeptical Africa

Uganda: some reflections on human sacrifice

Human sacrifice is a widespread phenomenon in Uganda while some specific regions are notoriously known for their ritualistic killings. Yesterday, November 5, I posted an article on the sentencing of a man from Mayunge District who had killed his son for personal gain in 2017, and the day before, on November 4, I posted an article on a mother in the Kiira region who had killed two of her children, also for ritual purposes. These are not isolated cases as the following demonstrates.

Districts of Uganda – Wikipedia

Two witchdoctors in the Kamuli District were arrested earlier this year, suspected of a ritual child sacrifice while in Luwero District on January 7 an 8-year boy was kidnapped from his family’s courtyard and found back without head, fingers and toes. In November 2022 two men from Kayunga District were found guilty of child sacrifice committed in 2009. Within Uganda the Kayunga District has earned the dubious reputation of being one of the most notorious killing places.

Kayunga District shares this reputation with the Kiira region (Wakisi District, Central Region). The most recent ritual murder case in this region is the one reported above but also in August 2022 a man and his wife in Jinja District were arrested for killing their child in a ritual practice. In May 2021 police in Kayunga District had to protect a man from a mob threatening to kill him after he had allegedly killed two of his children for rituals purposes.

In July 2022 a spike was reported in human sacrifices. I’m afraid that the child sacrifice and other ritual murder cases mentioned in this report (see my July 11 posting) and the above mentioned murders are just the tip of the iceberg. After all, it is only logical to assume that not all ritual killing cases are being discovered or reported. An unknown number of children or elderly people, victims of ritualistic practices, may have disappeared without leaving traces.

Since 2021 convicted ritual murderers in Uganda may face the death penalty. In May parliament enacted the Prevention and Prohibition of Human Sacrifice Bill, 2020, which includes the capital punishment or life imprisonment for any person found guilty of human sacrifice. The bill inspired me to some reflections – see my May 7 posting.

Since the enactment of the bill a number of convicted ritual murderers have been sentenced to heavy sentences and many years in prison, but the ugly phenomenon has not been eradicated. It’s a sad reality.

Uganda: father jailed 52 years for son’s ritual sacrifice, witch doctor set free

Law enforcement officers as well as the High Court Judge are to be commended for the bringing to justice of a father who brutally killed his own son believing that would bring him wealth. Greed and superstition were the ingredients for a repulsive act. Hopefully the 52-year prison sentence for the convicted murderer will act as a deterrent for others who might be tempted to engage in this practice of child sacrifice for personal gains.

Warning: the following article contains graphic details of a cruel crime which may upset some readers (webmaster FVDK).

Father jailed 52 years for son’s ritual sacrifice, witch doctor set free

The accused persons arrive at court. COURTESY PHOTO/URN

Published: November 1, 2023
By: Michael Wandati – DISPATCH, Uganda’s News Monthly

Iganga, Uganda | In a significant legal ruling, High Court Judge, Justice David Batema, has handed down a verdict resulting in a 52-year prison sentence for Hassan Kafudde, a father convicted of the murder of his son in a ritual sacrifice. The case also involved lengthy sentences for one accomplice, while the witch doctor implicated in the case, who had spent six years in remand, was released.

The proceedings unfolded within the High Court of Uganda Circuit located in Iganga. The prosecution’s case contended that Kafudde sacrificed his son in a ritual murder with the belief that it would bring him wealth.

According to the prosecution’s account, on the 6th of June 2017, the convicted individuals, situated in Musita village within the Mayuge District, gruesomely beheaded and mutilated a child known as MJ in a ritualistic act.

Earlier in the legal proceedings, one of the accused, Issa Muyita, entered a guilty plea, reached a plea bargain agreement, and offered to testify as a prosecution witness. Consequently, he received a 25-year prison sentence. The trial continued against Kafudde and Kabaale Mubaraka, both of whom pleaded not guilty.

During the trial, Muyita confessed that he had accompanied Kafudde from Musita trading center to a sugarcane plantation, where Kafudde presented his son MJ. The child was tragically murdered in the sugarcane plantation near a stream. Kafudde collected the child’s blood in a polythene bag and transported the severed body parts in a bag. Additionally, he dug a shallow grave to bury the decapitated remains of the sacrificed child.

As a result, Kafudde was found guilty of the ritual murder of the child MJ and convicted as charged. It was subsequently established in court that Mubaraka did not actively participate in the commission of the offense.

However, the court determined that Mubaraka, identified as a witch doctor with shrines in Musita village, had been informed of the criminal act by Hassan Kafudde. Mubaraka subsequently went into hiding after the incident and was subsequently found guilty of being an accessory to the murder, as per section 394 of the Penal Code Act.

At the conclusion of the trial, Justice Batema, presiding over the High Court of Uganda Circuit in Iganga, convicted and sentenced the accomplices, Muyita, Kafudde, and Mubaraka, on the charge of trafficking in persons, in violation of section 4(a) and 5(c) of the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act. Hassan Kafudde was sentenced to 52 years in prison, while Mubaraka received a 3-year prison term.

In his judgment, Justice Batema strongly denounced the heinous practice of ritual child sacrifice, the dismemberment of children, and the illegal trade in body parts, emphasizing the gravity of such offenses.

Justice Batema justified the lengthy custodial sentence for Kafudde by pointing to his lack of remorse throughout the court proceedings and his failure to demonstrate regret for the crime. Accordingly, Kafudde was sentenced to spend 52 years in Kirinya prisons, which includes the six years spent in pretrial detention.

The judge found Kabaale Mubaraka guilty of being an accessory to the crime but observed hesitancy on his part to report the incident to the police. Consequently, Mubaraka was sentenced to three years in prison, but given his prior six-year remand period, he was ordered to be immediately released.

Jacqueline Okui, the spokesperson for the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), commended the court for its landmark judgment, asserting that it will serve as a deterrent to individuals involved in such criminal acts.

Okui further challenged parents to take a proactive role in safeguarding their children’s well-being, emphasizing that engaging in child rights abuses such as ritual murders, whether directly or indirectly, would result in significant custodial sentences.

The investigation of this case was led by Aliwali Kizito, Chief State Attorney, with the prosecution being conducted by Racheal Bikhole, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions and Head of the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Division, along with Nyanzi Gladys, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, Biira Peace, Chief State Attorney, and Arap Malinga, a Senior State Attorney within the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Source: Father jailed 52 years for son’s ritual sacrifice, witch doctor set free

Uganda: woman arrested for allegedly killing her two children in ritual sacrifice

Allegedly, another ritual murder case in Uganda. The suspect arrested, mother of the two murdered children, will undergo a psychiatric examination. In my opinion, a wise decision. If indeed she committed the crime, she must be mentally ill. If not, how could she treat her own flesh and blood that way?
(webmaster FVDK)

Woman arrested for allegedly killing her two children in ritual sacrifice

Published: November 2, 2023
By: Michael Wandati – DISPATCH, Uganda’s News Monthly

Jinja, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | In the Kiira region, law enforcement authorities have taken into custody a 28-year-old woman named Rose Musiya for allegedly murdering her two children in ritualistic sacrifice.

According to reports, Musiya, who resides in Buwagi cell in the Northern Division of Jinja City, has been accused of taking her children’s lives in what is believed to be an act of ritual sacrifice. Shockingly, it has come to light that she buried one of the children within their residence.

The father of the children, Magada Kyagulanyi, a casual laborer hailing from Bukunjja in Buikwe district, recounted his return home on Sunday 29, October 2023 when Musiya disclosed to him that their children had been missing for the past two days.

Kyagulanyi further stated that when the police arrived at their residence, Musiya initially feigned possession by malevolent spirits. However, under scrutiny, she eventually confessed to her involvement in the tragic incident.

Lydia Karemera, the Deputy Resident City Commissioner of Jinja North, confirmed that investigators have thoroughly examined the scene of the crime. She also mentioned that, in addition to the legal proceedings, Musiya will be required to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Source: Woman arrested for allegedly killing her two children in ritual sacrifice

World Day Against Witch Hunts

August 10 is World day against witch hunts.

During the past five years I have frequently posted on this sad topic. See e.g. the following posts: Witchcraft Persecution and Advocacy without Borders in Africa, earlier this year, as well as the following country-specific postings: DRC, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe.

Although not the main focus of this website I find it useful and necessary to draw attention to this phenomenon which is based on superstition, violates human rights and creates many innocent victims – not only elderly women and men but also children, just like ritual murders.

I wish to commend Charlotte Müller and Sertan Sanderson of DW (Deutsche Welle) – see below – for an excellent article on this topic. It’s an impressive account of what happens to people accused of witchcraft and victims sof superstition.
(FVDK)

World Day Against Witch Hunts: People With Dementia Are Not Witches

Witch camps in Ghana

Published: August 4, 2023
By: The Ghana Report

August 10 has been designated World Day against Witch Hunts. The Advocacy for Alleged Witches welcomes this development and urges countries to mark this important day, and try to highlight past and contemporary sufferings and abuses of alleged witches in different parts of the globe.

Witchcraft belief is a silent killer of persons. Witchcraft accusation is a form of death sentence in many places. People suspected of witchcraft, especially women and children, are banished, persecuted, and murdered in over 40 countries across the globe. Unfortunately, this tragic incident has not been given the attention it deserves.

Considered a thing of the past in Western countries, this vicious phenomenon has been minimized. Witch persecution is not treated with urgency. It is not considered a global priority. Meanwhile, witch hunting rages across Africa, Asia, and Oceania.

The misconceptions that characterized witch hunting in early modern Europe have not disappeared. Witchcraft imaginaries and other superstitions still grip the minds of people with force and ferocity. Reinforced by traditional, Christian, Islamic, and Hindu religious dogmas, occult fears and anxieties are widespread.

Many people make sense of death, illness, and other misfortunes using the narratives of witchcraft and malevolent magic. Witch hunters operate with impunity in many countries, including nations with criminal provisions against witchcraft accusations and jungle justice.

Some of the people who are often accused and targeted as witches are elderly persons, especially those with dementia.

To help draw attention to this problem, the Advocacy for Alleged Witches has chosen to focus on dementia for this year’s World Day against Witch Hunts. People with dementia experience memory loss, poor judgment, and confusion.

Their thinking and problem-solving abilities are impaired. Unfortunately, these health issues are misunderstood and misinterpreted. Hence, some people treat those with dementia with fear, not respect. They spiritualize these health conditions, and associate them with witchcraft and demons.

There have been instances where people with dementia left their homes or care centers, and were unable to return or recall their home addresses. People claimed that they were returning from witchcraft meetings; that they crash landed on their way to their occult gatherings while flying over churches or electric poles.

Imagine that! People forge absurd and incomprehensible narratives to justify the abuse of people with dementia. Sometimes, people claim that those suffering dementia turn into cats, birds, or dogs. As a result of these misconceptions, people maltreat persons with dementia without mercy; they attack, beat, and lynch them. Family members abandon them and make them suffer painful and miserable deaths. AfAW urges the public to stop these abuses, and treat people with dementia with care and compassion.

Source: World Day Against Witch Hunts: People With Dementia Are Not Witches

And:

Witch hunts: A global problem in the 21st century

Accusations of witchcraft typically affect the most vulnerable — such as this refugee living in the DRC
Image: Getty Images/AFP/F. Scoppa

Published: August 10, 2023
By: Charlotte Müller | Sertan Sanderson – DW

Witch hunts are far from being a thing of the past — even in the 21st century. In many countries, this is still a sad reality for many women today. That is why August 10 has been declared a World Day against Witch Hunts.

Akua Denteh was beaten to death in Ghana’s East Gonja District last month — after being accused of being a witch. The murder of the 90-year-old has once more highlighted the deep-seated prejudices against women accused of practicing witchcraft in Ghana, many of whom are elderly.

An arrest was made in early August, but the issue continues to draw attention after authorities were accused of dragging their heels in the case. Human rights and gender activists now demand to see change in culture in a country where supernatural beliefs play a big role.

But the case of Akua Denteh is far from an isolated instance in Ghana, or indeed the world at large. In many countries of the world, women are still accused of practicing witchcraft each year. They are persecuted and even killed in organized witch hunts — especially in Africa but also in Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Many women in Ghana are pushed to live in so-called witch camps because they are rejected by society Image: picture-alliance/Pacific Press/L. Wateridge

Witch hunts: a contemporary issue

Those accused of witchcraft have now found a perhaps unlikely charity ally in their fight for justice: the Catholic missionary society missio, which is part of the global Pontifical Mission Societies under the jurisdiction of the Pope, has declared August 10 as World Day against Witch Hunts, saying that in at least 36 nations around the world, people continue to be persecuted as witches.

While the Catholic Church encouraged witch hunts in Europe from the 15th to the 18th century, it is now trying to shed light into this dark practice. Part of this might be a sense of historical obligation — but the real driving force is the number of victims that witch hunts still cost today. 

Historian Wolfgang Behringer, who works as a professor specializing in the early modern age at Saarland University, firmly believes in putting the numbers in perspective. He told DW that during these three centuries, between 50,000 and 60,000 people are assumed to have been killed for so-called crimes of witchcraft — a tally that is close to being twice the population of some major German cities at the time.

But he says that in the 20th century alone, more people accused of witchcraft were brutally murdered than during the three centuries when witch hunts were practiced in Europe: “Between 1960 and 2000, about 40,000 people alleged of practicing witchcraft were murdered in Tanzania alone. While there are no laws against witchcraft as such in Tanzanian law, village tribunals often decide that certain individuals should be killed,” Behringer told DW.

The historian insists that due to the collective decision-making behind these tribunals, such murders are far from being arbitrary and isolated cases: “I’ve therefore concluded that witch hunts are not a historic problem but a burning issue that still exists in the present.”

A picture of so-called witch doctors in Sierra Leone taken roughly around the year 1900 Image:
Getty Images/Hulton Archive

A pan-African problem?

In Tanzania, the victims of these witch hunts are often people with albinism; some people believe that the body parts of these individuals can be used to extract potions against all sorts of ailments. Similar practices are known to take place in Zambia and elsewhere on the continent.

Meanwhile in Ghana, where nonagenarian Akua Denteh was bludgeoned to death last month, certain communities blamed the birth of children with disabilities on practices of witchcraft.

Screenshot – to watch the video please consult the source

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is usually the younger generations who are associated witchcraft. So-called “children of witchcraft” are usually rejected by their families and left to fend for themselves. However, their so-called crimes often have little to do with sorcery at all:

“We have learned of numerous cases of children suffering rape and then no longer being accepted by their families. Or they are born as illegitimate children out of wedlock, and are forced to live with a parent who no longer accepts them,” says Thérèse Mema Mapenzi, who works as a mission project partner in the eastern DRC city of Bukayu.

‘Children of witchcraft’ in the DRC

Mapenzi’s facility was initially intended to be a women’s shelter to harbor women who suffered rape at the hands of the militia in the eastern parts of the country, where rape is used as a weapon of war as part of the civil conflict there. But over the years, more and more children started seeking her help after they were rejected as “children of witchcraft.”

With assistance from the Catholic missionary society missio, Mapenzi is now also supporting these underage individuals in coping with their many traumas while trying to find orphanages and schools for them.

“When these children come here, they have often been beaten to a pulp, have been branded as witches or have suffered other injuries. It is painful to just even look at them. We are always shocked to see these children devoid of any protection. How can this be?” Mapenzi wonders.

Thérèse Mema Mapenzi is trying to help women and girls accused of being “children of witchcraft”
Image: missio

Seeking dialogue to end witch hunts

But there is a whole social infrastructure fueling this hatred against these young people in the DRC: Many charismatic churches blame diseases such as HIV/AIDS or female infertility on witchcraft, with illegitimate children serving as scapegoats for problems that cannot be easily solved in one of the poorest countries on earth. Other reasons cited include sudden deaths, crop failures, greed, jealousy and more.

Thérèse Mema Mapenzi says that trying to help those on the receiving end of this ire is a difficult task, especially in the absence of legal protection: “In Congolese law, witchcraft is not recognized as a violation of the law because there is no evidence you can produce. Unfortunately, the people have therefore developed their own legal practices to seek retribution and punish those whom call them witches.”

In addition to helping those escaping persecution, Mapenzi also seeks dialogue with communities to stop prejudice against those accused of witchcraft and sorcery. She wants to bring estranged families torn apart by witch hunts back together. Acting as a mediator, she talks to people, and from time to time succeeds in reuniting relatives with women and children who had been ostracized and shamed. Mapenzi says that such efforts — when they succeed — take an average of two to three years from beginning to finish.

But even with a residual risk of the victims being suspected of witchcraft again, she says her endeavors are worth the risk. She says that the fact that August 10 has been recognized as the World Day against Witch Hunts sends a signal that her work is important — and needed.

Hunting the hunters  a dangerous undertaking

For Thérèse Mema Mapenzi, the World Day against Witch Hunts marks another milestone in her uphill battle in the DRC. Jörg Nowak, spokesman for missio, agrees and hopes that there will now be growing awareness about this issue around the globe.

As part of his work, Nowak has visited several missio project partners fighting to help bring an end to witch hunts in recent years. But he wasn’t aware about the magnitude of the problem himself until 2017.

The first case he dealt with was the killing of women accused of being witches in Papua New Guinea in the 2010s — which eventually resulted in his publishing a paper on the crisis situation in the country and becoming missio’s dedicated expert on witch hunts.

But much of Nowak’s extensive research in Papua New Guinea remains largely under wraps for the time being, at least in the country itself: the evidence he accrued against some of the perpetrators there could risk the lives of missio partners working for him.

Not much has changed for centuries, apart from the localities involved when it comes to the occult belief in witchcraft, says Nowak while stressing: “There is no such thing as witchcraft. But there are accusations and stigmatization designed to demonize people; indeed designed to discredit them in order for others to gain selfish advantages.”

Maxwell Suuk and Isaac Kaledzi contributed to this article.

Screenshot – to watch the seven images please consult the source

Source: Witch hunts: A global problem in the 21st century

Uganda: Family piles pressure on police to recover head of suspected ritual victim

Another suspected ritual murder in Uganda. This time an eight-year old boy was killed apparently for ritual proposes. The boy, Yasin Sserunga, who was a pupil at Destiny Primary School, was found dead with head and toes missing.

A suspect was arrested but his arrest won’t bring back the boy to his parents who are unable to recover from their grief at their son’s death. They pay the price for someone’s belief in witchcraft and superstition.
(webmaster FVDK).

Family piles pressure on police to recover head of suspected ritual victim

Yasin Sserunga, a pupil at Destiny Primary School went missing from his parent’s home at Kisule Butanza village, Katikamu Sub County in Luwero district on January 7th.

Sylvia Namutebi aka Maama Fiina condoling with Nabatanzi the mother of slain Yasin Sserunga.

Published: March 3, 2023
By: Mazima – Uganda (thanks to URN)

A family in Luwero District has asked the Police to find the head of an eight-year-old boy who was killed in a suspected ritual murder.

Yasin Sserunga, a pupil at Destiny Primary School went missing from his parent’s home at Kisule Butanza village, Katikamu Sub County in Luwero district on January 7th.

Sserunga was found dead the next day with his head and toes missing. Sserunga’s torso was buried at Kasanga village in Nakasongola District but to date, the Police are yet to recover the head and other parts.

Yasin Sserunga, the father of the deceased says that two weeks ago, residents arrested a key suspect Robert Mawanda, a neighbor, and handed him to Police but investigations have dragged on.

Sserunga says the family is still in pain for burying their child without some body parts. He also fears that the police may release the key suspect because they have detained him for two weeks without appearing in court, which is contrary to the mandatory 48 hours.

Abubaker Sande Ssebwoya, the uncle to the deceased says that the suspect was linked to the murder after residents and relatives found him at the scene of the crime at around 2 am when they were searching for Sserunga.

Ssebwoya adds that the Police also obtained phone printouts that linked the suspect to the scene and other people have recorded statements on the matter.

The child’s family abandoned their home after the murder and are staying with relatives.

Patrick Lule, the Savannah Regional Police Spokesperson has asked the family to remain calm because the police are determined to ensure they get justice and recover the missing body parts.

Lule says that Police detained Mawanda but he has denied participation in the ritual murder and knowledge about the whereabouts of the missing body parts.

Lule, however, notes that the Police are pursuing scientific investigations to link him to the murder and his file has been sent to the State Attorney to sanction charges against him. 

According to the Police report, 58 people were murdered in 2022 in Luwero and the district ranked eighth in the country with the highest number of homicide cases. 

Source: Family piles pressure on police to recover head of suspected ritual victim

Uganda: two witchdoctors arrested over suspected ritual sacrifice of boy

Already much has been said about ritual murders in Uganda in previous postings. The numerous reports of ritual killings in Uganda may adequately correspond with the many ritual murders committed in this country, but may also be attributed to the country’s active and well functioning press and the press freedom it enjoys (webmaster FVDK).

Two witchdoctors arrested over suspected ritual sacrifice of boy

Police arrest the suspects (blurred faces) in Kamuli District on February 18, 2023. PHOTO/OPIO SAM CALEB

Published: February 19, 2023
By: Sam Caleb Opio – Monitor, Uganda

What you need to know:

  • The duo, however, denied any involvement in the alleged crime.

Police in Kamuli District are holdingtwo witchdoctors as persons of interest in the suspected ritual murder of a four-year-old boy whose mutilated body was discovered in a sugarcane plantation, four days after he went missing.

On Wednesday, Alvin Butanakya went missing from his grandparents’ home in Naikesa Village, Kisozi Town Council.

But three days later, a sniffer dog led police to a shrine owned by Balat Buluuba and Fred Balikoowa.

At the shrine, police say they found Butanakya’s body smeared with ash and with missing parts, including the right hand, tongue and genitals.

Mr Micheal Kasadha, the Busoga North Police Spokesperson, said residents sought their help and they introduced a sniffer dog which led detectives to the shrine where the two were holed up.

“A search was conducted and some exhibits of evidential value were recovered. The two are helping police in investigations after which they will be charged with murder,” Mr Kasadha said at the weekend.

The duo, however, denied any involvement in the alleged crime.

“We are practicing native doctors who help spirit-struck patients.  We are being framed because of our big clientele. The blood stains they claim are from the deceased is actually from a chicken we slaughtered and sprinkled on the walls,” they explained.

Mr Robert Lutwama, the deceased’s grandfather, with whom he was staying, said the boy left home with his grandmother, Ms Annet Kilikumwino, on Wednesday at around 10am and never returned.

This prompted a search party by the community which yielded the discovery of his body buried in a sugarcane plantation 50 metres from his grandparents’ home.

Source: Two witchdoctors arrested over suspected ritual sacrifice of boy

Uganda: body of boy found without head, toes

The new year couldn’t start worse. Another suspected ritual murder in Uganda. This time the victim is an 8-year old boy who was kidnapped from his family’s courtyard – in Luweero District – on Saturday, January 7.
The reader is reminded that in August 2022, the body of a 3-year old child was discovered in the same region, hanging in a banana plantation, murdered. Also in the latter case, the circumstances warrant the suspicion of a ritual sacrifice.
(webmaster FVDK).

Body of boy found without head, toes

Police and residents near the scene where the deceased’s was discovered in Butanza Village, Luweero District, yesterday. PHOTO/ DAN WANDERA

Published: January 9, 2023
By: Dan Wandera – Daily Monitor, Uganda

What you need to know:

Residents say the incident has reawakened fears of kidnappers involved in ritual sacrifice.

Residents of Butanza-Kisule Village in Katikamu Sub-county, Luweero District, yesterday woke up to shocking news after they discovered the body of an eight-year-old boy, earlier reported missing in a garden.

The body did not have a head, fingers and toes.

While the residents associate the gruesome murder to child sacrifice, the police said they await the postmortem report to guide the investigations as they hunt for those who committed the crime.

“We have taken the body for postmortem but we call upon anybody with information that can guide the investigation to pass it to the police. Avoid rumours and unfounded talks but cooperate with the police,” Ms Sarah Kataike, the district criminal investigations officer, told the residents gathered near the home where the child went missing from the parents.

Ms Prossy Nabatanzi, the mother of the deceased, revealed that her son, Yasin Sseruga, was last seen on Saturday at around 3pm as he played with her younger sister in the family compound.

“As they played, somebody approached them and convinced the girl to go and get something from the house. When she returned, her brother and the unidentified man had disappeared from the compound,” she revealed.

“We reported the case to our village chairperson and we were also advised to go to Wobulenzi Police Station to report the case of the missing boy. The village mounted a search in the nearby areas but we did not get the missing boy,” she added.

Mr Godfrey Kafeero, the village chairperson, revealed that when the village tried to search the surrounding areas, they got stuck because there was no clue about the direction that the suspected kidnappers could have taken.

“They took advantage of the young girl and sister of the kidnapped boy who could not give any details. The young girl could not even describe the person who convinced her to go into the house,” he said.

Mr Kafeero explained that one of the residents only identified as Med discovered the lifeless body of a child tied between two tree trunks with a missing head as he approached his garden about 500 meters from the home where the child had been reported missing. “He quickly raised an alarm, alerting the residents. We are confused as residents because the intentions of the suspected assailants are not known. They manage to bring back the body in a place where we can easily locate it,” he says.

Ms Regina Nabachwa, another resident, said the incident has reawakened the fears of suspected child kidnappers involved in ritual sacrifice.

“This is a painful experience as a parent. They did not bother to call the parents for possible ransom. The suspects must have targeted the human body parts,” Ms Nabachwa claimed in an interview.

Recent incident

On August 31, police recovered the body of a three-year-old child hanging in a banana plantation in Kanyogoga Village, Luweero Sub-county. The deceased identified as Innocent Adriko had been left under the care of a 15-year-old by their mother, who had travelled.

Source: Body of boy found without head, toes

Also:

Suspected Ritual Victim Buried Without Head

The torso of Yasin Sserunga being taken for burial at Kasanga village in Katuugo town in Nakasongola district

Published: January 10, 2023
By: Brian Luwaga – Uganda Radio Network

The former pupil of Destiny Primary School disappeared from his parent’s home at Kisule Butanza village in Luwero district on Saturday afternoon.

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Source: Suspected Ritual Victim Buried Without Head