In Burundi and Tanzania, albinos have become an endangered human species. In Kenya and Uganda, young lives are being snuffed; their futures brought to an abrupt end with despicable cruelty, all because of greed – greed for ill-gotten wealth. All has been happening pell-mell and no one seems to have an answer – even the governments seem benumbed by a phenomenon so grave and widespread that it threatens the posterity of these nations. Children, who represent the future, have been reduced to mere commodities of exchange with mostly educated middle class clients of witchdoctors willing to pay for the much sort-after young lives to slaughter in exchange for riches.
Witchcraft has taken an insidiously dangerous proportion, leaving the future – as represented in young lives – hanging precariously on a precipice.
Witchdoctors are smiling all the way to the bank as they hold wads of cash in their bosom while children’s lives are being cut short by those who lust after wealth. All of this is driven by the false belief that human sacrifice protects and increases wealth.
Many nouveau riches are prompting a legion of individuals, green with envy, to do anything for money, not only to assume bragging rights but to escape the biting poverty. Poverty is driving parents to sell their own children to witchdoctors; from toddlers to young adults – none is spared. Others are in the business (no pun intended) of stealing children and selling them for money. One father was arrested by the police who set a trap for him upon being tipped off that he was going to sell his son for as little as $500.
The sprawling urban construction accounts for the majority of the human-sacrifice cases, with children sometimes buried alive under the construction site of many commercial buildings apparently to attract customers in drove. There is a belief, albeit a false one, that when a toddler is buried under such buildings, misfortunes are kept at bay and more wealth generated as a result.
With each passing day, it looks like the authorities are losing the battle, with one high profile businessman being left to go scot-free on technicalities despite all evidence pointing to his culpability. The government of Uganda soon appealed the ruling but the man had long escaped from the country and his whereabouts are unknown.
According to Anti-Human Sacrifice Police task Force, a department within the police force that was created and charged with the responsibility of wiping out this vice, there was one recorded case of child sacrifice in 2006, a figure that would later climb to 25 and 29 in 2008 and 2009 respectively. However, the official records have come under sharp criticism by the likes of Pastor Sewakiryanga who says they grossly understated given the number of cases that go unreported. Children, especially the ones in the vulnerable category like street children, are the easiest target since they are never accounted for. It is hard to look at a new building coming up in the city of Kampala without imagining the number of children whose desperate cry for help went unheard. All that is left of them are skeletons, buried beneath the buildings to bring “good luck” to the owners; the owners who don’t mind getting their hands stained and dripping with blood of innocent victims.
The wells of tears by parents whose children have gone missing without a trace, or those who found the decapitated bodies of those in whose futures they had so much promise, is all that is left.
A BBC undercover reporter recounted in his report recently thus,
“Telepensi led me to a field near her home where she found the body of her six-year-old grandson, Stephen, dumped in the reeds. She trembled as she pointed out the spot where she found his decapitated body; he has been missing for 24 hours.”
“Clutching the only photo she had of her grandson, Telepensi sobbed as she explained that although the local witch doctor had admitted to sacrificing Stephen, the police were reluctant to pursue the case.” They instead offered her money to keep her from speaking of the incident.
Therein lies a major problem – an encumbrance to justice for the victims or those who have been mercilessly robbed of their precious children and it is done by those whose role it is enforce the law. The society has reduced children into endangered categories of victim; and with it a future littered by bitter victims of human cruelty. The children who have survived the harrowing ordeal by the skin of their teeth have both the physical and the harder-to-deal-with psychological scars that will keep the most horrifying day of their young lives fresh as long as they shall live.
Some are reported to be having nightmares that no counseling has been able to cure. One of the survivors still remembers with so much fear the hellish experience he was subjected to each time the witch doctor stood by his bedside at night with a sharp knife…ready to put his torment to a miserable and painful end. Amidst the joyous sounds of singing of children are communities living in fear; fear of losing the most valuable part of their lives – children. They fear because they are helpless victims too who can hardly bring the culprits to book. It is hard for them to get justice when those they should be turning to for help (the police) are easily bribed into inaction by those whose appetite for ill-gotten wealth is insatiable. With their palms being greased by these well-to-do wealth-seekers, cases of child abduction and sacrifice can be conveniently made to “disappear”.
A witchdoctor explained to the undercover BBC reporter at a meeting the witchdoctor didn’t know was part of an assignment to uncover the harrowing practice. The witchdoctor called child sacrifice the most powerful spell.
“There are two ways of doing this,” he said. “We can bury the child alive on your construction site, or we cut them in different places and put their blood in a bottle of spiritual medicine.” Grabbing his throat, he continued, “If it’s a male, the whole head is cut off and his genitals. We will dig a hole at your construction site, and also bury the feet and the hands and put them all together in the hole.”
But where is the origin of this phenomenon?
The practice of sacrificing children stems from witchcraft. The barbaric practice is carried out by witchdoctors who order clients to do so. It is believed that such sacrifices are carried out to appease or invoke fiendish gods and ancestral spirits for supernatural ‘powers’ to fulfill the evil feats of the witchdoctors and/or the clients. This barbaric act of desperation ranges from the need for healing to prosperity, riches and success in general, as well as the need for protection against real or imagined enemies.
Children have been kidnapped from schools and homes by neighbors, family friends and, shockingly, parents who take them to witch doctors’ shrines to be killed and sacrificed. Body parts and organs that are commonly used are the heart, fingers, genitals and the head. Some witch doctors believe ritual sacrifices make their magic more powerful. Body parts are mixed with herbs or used as charms or talismans for clients who in turn pay a fortune in the hope that they will experience a change in fortune.
It is important to note that in most instances, witchcraft goes hand in hand with human sacrifice. Thus the children – generally believed to be pure and undefiled – are the preferred objects of sacrifice to the spirits and perceived gods. This belief trend fuels the vice. Children are preferred because they are trusting, naïve and easy to convince compared to the adults. Otherwise, there are isolated cases of adult being sacrificed too. Adults who are used for sacrificed are those that are considered undefiled: the uncircumcised and those without tattoos or piercings. Due to the wave of child sacrifice, most parents resort to piercing their children’s ears and circumcision to make them “defiled” to avoid them being sacrificed by rampant witch doctors.
However, witchcraft practice is not unique to Africa.
A chilling account in 15th century Europe, child sacrifice was a thriving practice in much of the continent. The most commonly cited example was during the reign of King Louis XIV in France when witch-trials became common. One of the high profile cases involved a High Priestess named la Voisin whose trial had the chilling evidence as recounted below:
“The child was held over the altar, a sharp [ran sic] gash across the neck, a stifled cry, and warm drops fell onto the chalice…. The corpse was handed to la Voisin, who flung it callously into an oven fashioned for that purpose which glowed white in its fierceness. It was proved that regular traffic had been carried on for years with beggar women and the lowest prostitutes, who sold their children for this purpose. At her trial, la Voisin confessed that no less than 2,500 babies had been disposed of in this manner.”
In African traditional religions, ancestral worship linked with the fear of fiendish spirits’ curses and wrath prompted child sacrificing to avert any misfortunes. This practice was only drastically condemned when the Christian missionaries came and preached against it. Of recent, there has been a strong wave of reemergence.
Fortunately, in Uganda, the media – on sharp alert – has galvanized public outcry. Sometimes, it takes adversities of such magnitude to jolt societies into action. The problem though remains and it is a reality that can’t be just wished away.
The writer is the Marketing/PR Officer for A Child Unheard Foundation. For more information visit. www.achildunheard.com