Newsnight Responds to Criticisms of Uganda Human Sacrifice Report

A few days ago I blogged on a recent Newsnight report about human sacrifice  in Uganda by witchdoctors. Without wishing to be dismissive (and mindful of Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi’s critique of scholarship that glosses over dysfunctional religious phenomena), I had some concerns about the piece – particularly how Polino Angela, a former witchdoctor, could admit to killing 70 people yet remain unarrested, and about how he now goes around encouraging witchdoctors to burn shrines where sacrifices are supposed to have taken place, when such sites should surely be regarded as crime scenes. Anthropologist Adam Kuper has also expressed some scepticism in a post for the London Review of Books blog, and other anthropologists have added concurring views in the comments – in particular Tim Allen of the LSE, Sverker Finnström of Stockholm University and Uppsala University, and Nicolas Argenti of Brunel.

The comments also feature responses from Tim Whewell, the Newsnight journalist who filed the report, and the programme’s editor, Peter Rippon. The whole discussion is worth reading, and Rippon gives us an update on Angela:

 …There is no evidence to suggest that his testimony is ‘bogus’. His story is quite well-known in the Lango sub-region. He was a witch-doctor for 22 years – enough time to be involved in 70 human sacrifices. An academic study confirms that he was the personal witch-doctor of the former president, Tito Okello. I do not think he has boasted of murders he didn’t commit.

He has no protection. On the contrary, since our report was broadcast, police have demanded to interview him – and he is now having to find a lawyer to defend himself.

2 Responses

  1. On the contrary, since our report was broadcast, police have demanded to interview him

    Maybe they could invite him to some tea and crumpets?

  2. […] report – and raised some concerns about it – here. A sceptical piece also appeared in the London Review of Books blog, by anthropologist Adam Kuper, and the BBC responded […]

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