Police have described how an 81-year-old woman was stripped naked, tied with rope and assaulted in an open field in Mount Fletcher in the Eastern Cape last week after being accused of witchcraft.
Police spokesperson Brig Tembinkosi Kinana said six people had been arrested in connection with the incident.
Kinana said police had been summoned to the scene by a concerned community member. Police arrived with municipality officials, traditional leaders and officials from the social development department and tried to rescue the elderly woman from the mob.
“Eventually, the elderly woman was taken away from the mob and to a place of safety. Police opened cases of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, kidnapping and imputing witchcraft. They arrested six suspects aged between 30 and 40. All six suspects remain in police custody and are expected back in court on June 22 in Mount Fletcher for formal bail applications,” said Kinana.
The stigmatization of children as witches is a recent phenomenon in the Niger Delta region, which suddenly exploded in the 1990s. By 2008, it was estimated that 15,000 children had been branded in the southeastern states of Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers. According to research from that period, cases that had been documented included children and babies who had had nails driven into their heads, been forced to drink cement, set on fire, scarred by acid, poisoned, and even buried alive.
Bassey recalls how two girls were accused by a pastor two years ago at the Divine Zion of God Church in the small town of Akpabuyo in Cross River State. A pregnant congregant had gone past her due date by several weeks, and the seven and 10-year-old girls were held to be responsible and branded witches. The woman had approached a pastor at her local church and paid for a consultation. Although she gave birth successful shortly after, the damage had been done. A week later, Bassey heard the girls’ screams as he returned from his fields. They had been tied to a palm tree, and were being beaten with canes and machetes by three men.
Ebe Ukara, a desk officer for the Child Rights Implementation Committee in Akamkpa, says that 60% of the child abuse cases that cross her desk are witchcraft-related, and more often than not prompted by a pastor’s declaration. Those pastors, she says, can make a tidy profit from people who turn to them for help, although she stresses that not all Pentecostal churches are out to hoodwink their followers.
Judging from the billboards that adorn roundabouts – from the capital of Abuja to the Niger Delta – beer and salvation are big businesses in Nigeria, commodities to be bought and sold.
A handful of Nigerian organisations such as the Basic Rights Counsel Initiative (BRCI) and Way to Nations try to do more than just rescue youngsters accused of witchcraft – they try to reunite them with the very relatives who have ostracised them. Such attempts are rarely successful, even with extended family members.
“How do we break the news to these children that your aunties, your uncles are not willing to even see you?” says Lawyer and child advocate James Ibor. “These kids then maybe start to even think that they are witches.”
In India, the Gunupur District Court on Friday sentenced nine people to death for brutally murdering three members of a family in 2016 after suspecting they were practicing sorcery. The murders in September last year in Rayagada district reportedly involved severe beating, injection of chemicals in the victims’ eyes and private parts, following which they were buried alive. The accused allegedly exhumed the dead bodies and burnt them in an attempt to destroy evidence after the police were informed.
The deceased included a couple and their eldest daughter. The younger daughter, who had witnessed the crime, was threatened to not speak up. Around seven days after the incident, the survivor, locked up in the house of one of the accused, escaped and lodged an FIR. “I am glad they have received death by hanging,” said witness Melita Sabara, who is also with the Rayagada District Child Protection Unit. “The nine accused have been sentenced to death by hanging by Additional District Judge Subhendu Kumar Pati,” said Additional Public Prosecutor Krushna Chandra Senapati.
Congo’s “Child Witches” are Being Exorcised. Squeezing a toddler’s eyeballs and shoving his thumb into her tiny nose, a Catholic priest purges a child of the devil, one of many exorcisms he carries out every day.
Flicked with holy water, her face smeared with olive oil and poked violently in the stomach, two-and-a-half-year old Angel bursts into tears as she is rid of the evil spirits that lurk within her. The child wriggles to free herself but her mother holds on firmly, insistent that she endures the exorcism to protect her from the sorcery that many in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) believe controls their lives.
There are around 50,000 children living on the streets of Kinshasa, all abandoned after being accused of witchcraft
The communities say they are capable of horrific crimes, drinking the blood and eating the flesh of their relatives
But a lot of the time the children are rejected simply because their parents cannot afford the extra mouth to feed
It means the children – some newborn – are left to fend for themselves, turning to crime and prostitution to survive
But there are people working to help these desperate children, and the UN’s new ‘global goals’ hope that the drivers of this horrific tradition, poverty and a lack of education, will be completely eradicated in the next 15 years
MailOnline has visited Kinshasa to find out more about this horrific belief, and the impact it has on the children
A Zimbabwean woman was wrongly accused of killing a young boy and lynched by an angry mob in a shanty town near the South African capital, Pretoria. The woman was burnt alive while another man, also from Zimbabwe, managed to escape after police officers intervened.
“The woman died when she was burnt alive by a mob [while] the man was rescued by police and taken to hospital,” local police spokeswoman Katlego Mogale told Agence France-Presse.
“He was discharged Monday night,” she added.
The incident took place Friday near Pretoria after several days of tensions, which were sparked by the death of an eight-year-old boy. The Zimbabwean pair had been accused of killing the boy through witchcraft. A probe revealed that the boy had been electrocuted.
Three people were arrested over the woman’s murder, but they currently face only charges of public violence, because “there were 500 people and more evidence is needed” to accuse the trio of lynching the victim, Mogale said.
Police reinforcements were sent to Laudium after an angry crowd attacked the local police station Sunday night, demanding the release of the three suspects.
People with albinism lack pigment in their skin and appear pale. In Tanzania, this condition makes them targets. They are killed “like animals” and their body parts are used in potions believed to bring wealth and luck. Over 70 albinos have been murdered in the last three years alone, but there have been only 10 convictions.
Alfred Kapole, chairman of the regional Tanzania Albinism Society, had to escape to Mwanza city when a village leader tried to kill him for his hair. Another attempt on his life was made this year.
“He was among the first person with albinism whose case reached the courts,” Vicky Ntetema, head of Under the Same Sun, told the BBC.
“I had gone to the lake to fish,” said Mtobi Namigambo, relating to the BBC how his then 3-month-old son, May Mosi, who has albinism, was attacked when Namigambo had gone to work for the day. “They were all alone in the house when the attackers struck. My wife jumped out of the window and ran to safety with May, leaving the two children behind, who were not harmed at all.”
“After jumping out of the window,” Namigambo’s wife, Sabina, said, “they still came after me and I was screaming for help. They only backed off when I woke up the neighbors.”
Namigambo lives on Ukerewe Island, which used to be a sanctuary for albinos.
“We would urge the government to do more in educating the community here,” Namigambo told BBC. “The government once held seminars about albinism. It made a lot of difference, but not anymore.”
A campaign has been launched by the Tanzania government to urge communities to stop targeting albinos, but the biggest threat comes from rural areas, where television and radio has no reach. Mashaka Benedict, a representative of the Sengerema Albino Society, told the BBC that it is the educated, wealthy businessmen and politicians of the country that seek out the body parts of albinos. Benedict believes that is why the arrest and conviction numbers are so low.
“How can a poor man offer $10,000 for a body part? It’s the businessmen and politicians who are involved,” he told BBC.
The police say they are doing their best. “These cases are complicated because most incidents happen in very remote areas where there is no electricity, for example, and that makes identifying perpetrators at night very hard,” Mwanza police commander Valentino Mlowola told the BBC.
A Paraguayan woman, Adolfina Ocampos, 45, was lynched by members of an indigenous community in Paraguay this week. Officers said the woman was accused of witchcraft and was taken to a river where she was submerged under water. The mob then tied her to a pole and carried her to another site where they prepared a grave, filled it with firewood and set her alight while she was still alive.
The men later burned the remains of the body on a camp fire, investigators say.
A group of seven men and a 14-year-old boy have confessed to what took place, according to police.
An excellent article by Dana MacLean on Papua New Guinea’s witch-hunts was published on October 21, 2014 in the Asia-Pacific current-affairs magazine, The Diplomat. It is a great read for anyone concerned with modern witch hunts and the plight of the accused in foreign countries.
In the past decade in Papua New Guinea, hundreds of men, women and children have been accused of witchcraft or sorcery, and publicly tortured and murdered by vigilante mobs. Endemic fears of black magic haunt Pacific Island communities, fueling the violence.
“It is a public mob-mentality packed action. It is not just killing, but torturing, to try to get a confession out of them,” says Kate Scheutze, Amnesty International’s Pacific researcher.
In April 2014, six people – including two children – were murdered in Sasiko village in the Madang province on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea by marauding men from a neighboring village. Nearly one year earlier, a 20-year-old mother in Mount Hagen, in the Western Highlands, was burned to death after being accused of using sorcery against a 6-year-old boy who had died. These are just two examples of a widespread practice that targets men, women and children as a means to explain hardship and accidents, according to anthropologists. Papua New Guinea’s Constitutional and Law Reform Commission estimates that there are 150 sorcery-related deaths annually.
WUNDANYI, KENYA: A Kenyan governor, John Mruttu, has banned Tanzanian witchcraft and foreign witch doctors from operating in Taita Taveta County, authorities have said. Mruttu has also warned that locals who will be found harbouring them will be arrested and prosecuted.
Scores of people have been killed in the coastal region on suspicion that they were practicing witchcraft with Taita Taveta and Kilifi County the most affected.
“We met and agreed with the county Commissioner Mr Oningoi Ole Sosio that traditional witchdoctors will no longer be allowed to operate in the region. Anyone found harboring or facilitating their movement will be arrested and prosecuted,” Mruttu warned.
Mruttu made his remarks while addressing primary and secondary school heads and school management committees in Voi town during an education conference on Monday. The one day stakeholders’ conference was sponsored by the county government to discuss poor education standards and find lasting solutions to the problems, but apparently seemed like a great opportunity to Mruttu to make declarations about witchcraft. Ironically, the conference was aimed at streamlining standards of educating, identification of special needs placement and inclusion and transforming the county by developing a reading culture.
The meeting found out that widespread belief in witchcraft and practices among residents, sale and consumption of illicit brews and drugs, persistent famine and water shortages, persistent human wildlife conflicts as some of the major development obstacles in the region. However, rather than pass laws regarding the false accusation of witchcraft and the persecution of the accused, Mruttu found it more prudent to ban foreign witch doctors. He noted that witch doctors from the neighboring countries had secretly been invading the region and causing fear among the local community.
“Some have been coming on invitation by the local residents. We want teachers, parents and churches to take the lead in the fight against such outmoded cultural beliefs,” said Mr Mruttu.
A report by Ipsos research carried out last year reveals that Taita Taveta County was leading in terms of witch craft in the Coast region with 11 percent of the residents believing in the tradition. According to the research, ‘Kenya Coast Survey Development, Marginalization, Security and Participating’, Kilifi County is 8 percent while Kwale is third while 7 percent and Mombasa with 1 percent.