Uganda Sees Child Sacrifice Upsurge

Staying with Uganda, local media reports suggest that the country is currently gripped with fears about child sacrifice. The Catholic Information Service for Africa reported last month:

Two weeks ago, five-year old Aggrey Muguluma of Rubaga Division was killed in a suspected ritual by wealth-seeking criminals.

A woman and a traditional healer were recently arrested in the capital Kampala on suspicion of stealing a child with intent to offer human sacrifice.

…Though the number of children killed is unknown, the state-owned New Vision daily reported 15 cases of child sacrifice in 1999 alone. The number is suspected to be high in rural areas, away from the glare of the media.

One case that has received particular coverage is that of Edwin Muguluma, a five-year old who was murdered in July (three suspects have been charged today).

Concern over the issue has prompted a rush of circumcisions, as the New Vision reported two weeks ago:

THE number of parents taking their sons for circumcision to guard them against being sacrificed by witch doctors has of recent increased.

Kibuli Hospital administrator Siraje Mbulambago said the number had increased tremendously in the last few weeks. Parents, especially mothers, are more concerned and accompany their sons for circumcision.

Maama Ssenyonjo, 27, a mother of two, said she was forced to take her son for circumcision after hearing stories of kidnappers and witch doctors.

“For girls, you can pierce the ears, but boys are safer when they are circumcised. We are told that when a child has shed blood, they cannot be sacrificed,” she says. Ssenyonjo believed that circumcision works against child sacrifice when kidnappers abandoned her neighbour’s circumcised son…

One man, Rogers Mwebembezi, believes that his son Julius narrowly escaped being murdered for just this reason. He gave his story last week to the Weekly Observer:

In 1995, Julius, then 4 years old, was visiting his grandmother at Nkokonjeru in Mukono district. Without being noticed, a 28-year old neighbour, Resty Mbulabalungi, took him away, ostensibly to accompany her to the market. He was not seen for the next five days…The search led to Bukoba and a shrine owned by one Nyoka.

“When we finally got there,” Mwebembezi recalls, “I saw a wide dark hut from which echoes of strange voices came. The villager who had come with us told us that the voice was saying that the spirits had rejected the sacrifice because they don’t shed blood twice.”

Moments later, something wrapped in black sheets was tossed out of the shrine. Immediately the detectives accompanying the search party fired three shots in the air, and took charge of the scene.

On unwrapping the mysterious package, there was Julius. Naked. Semiconscious. His body smeared with what looked like herbs.

However, this is more complex than just a resurgence of tradition, and many Ugandans blame outside influences. Mbulabalungi had consulted a Tanzanian witch-doctor before abducting Julius, and local traditional healers are keen to disassociate themselves from such practices. Back to the New Vision:

Appearing on WBS TV recently, the Ndeeba-based Maama Phina, the chairperson of traditional healers, condemned the act of child sacrifice as evil.

That practice is not part of our profession. It is common among those doctors who come from Tanzania and Congo and normally tag onto themselves very scaring names like ‘Mutulakungo’ (one who can sit on a leopard’s back),” she says.

Phina pledged to work with The Police to stamp out child sacrifice, claiming it was a disgrace to the profession.

Local leaders in the Buganda region also blame foreign healers, as WBS notes:

The Kingdom of Buganda has called on local leaders to start registering foreigners and other new comers in their respective areas in a move aimed at eliminating Child Sacrifice.

…This was during a meeting with Local Leaders in the Mengo government to discuss ways of fighting the evil of child sacrifice at Bulange Mengo.

The Minister for local government in Buganda Kingdom Jolly Lutaaya urged local leaders to be vigilant and to step up efforts in order to stamp out Child sacrifice from Buganda and Uganda at large.

He said that it’s disheartening to note that Child Sacrifice is common in Buganda, a thing that could tarnish its norms and culture that are admired world wide. He said that in Buganda’s Culture and Norms Human Sacrifice is never heard of and even the fore fathers never practiced it.

Meanwhile, a recent op-ed in the Monitor by a Ugandan Christian blames wider foreign cultural influences for the murders – particularly Nigerian films, and, rather more surprisingly, the Rich Dad, Poor Dad books:

There are several belief systems, which have been adopted by different classes of people. Among the uprising aristocrats, The Rich Dad, Poor Dad philosophy is becoming rife. It has its good points but it has also fuelled a lot of corrupt practices. I hold it accountable for Uganda’s junk helicopter purchases, the ridiculous property sales in Kampala; the land grabbing in northern Uganda and now the oil-rich Bunyoro.

…The other besieging force is the increasing popularity of the Africa magic movies mainly from Nigeria. What they promote as reality is pure witchcraft even with those that hold Christian labels.

Men have been enticed to dabble in dubious dark deeds to gain power over others and riches. Since the majority of Uganda’s business population watches these Nigerian movies, reinforced by the commonly shared stories during idle time, it comes as no surprise that children are being sacrificed for riches.

The author believes that the Bible is the answer, since it “promotes beliefs that protect life and leads to true prosperity”.

Meanwhile, police in the UK are still attempting to track down those responsible for the murder of “Adam”, an unidentified west African boy whose dismembered torso was found by the Thames five years ago. I blogged on the ongoing investigation here.

4 Responses

  1. […] (the dismembered child found by the Thames five years ago), and as I wrote just a couple of days ago, child-killing for magical purposes does appear to be an increasing problem in […]

  2. Wow! Uganda sounds very messed up. From whence these pagan rites? Blaming the book for lust for wealth sounds crazy.

  3. […] Newsnight has a piece about human sacrifice in Uganda by witchdoctors – a mere three years after I noted Ugandan media reports on the subject. The BBC’s journalist, Tim Whewell, spends time with a […]

  4. […] in the name of “witchcraft” have been documented in Uganda – both ritual killings and as a means to acquire body parts for magical purposes […]

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