• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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Third Segment from CNN on Child-Witches

CNN’s Connect the World has now broadcast the third and final part of its investigation into child-witch stigmatisation in Nigeria (I blogged parts one and two over the past two days). As before, the segment began with a depressing scene: in this instance, a young widow weeping with fear and distress as she rejects her three children from her home. Apparently, one of their siblings had died, and the woman had been told that her other children had done it through witchcraft. Despite attempts to persuade her otherwise, she remained convinced that unless she cast out her other children, she would die too. Instead, they were taken to Sam Ikpe-Itauma’s hostel for protection; Sam explained that as stigmatised witches, the children were in danger of death.

The programme also featured interviews with Akwa Ibom State spokesman Aniekan Umanah and with Joachim Theis of UNICEF. Umanah, as noted in CNN’s accompanying text article, denied there is a particular problem in Nigeria and he complained that NGOs looking after the abandoned and abused children are misrepresenting the situation to make money. Although he did not go into details, presumably he had in mind Babajide Kolade-Otitoju’s hackwork accusations against Stepping Stones Nigeria, which I dealt with here. Umanah is a reactive figure – the state government only stirred itself to make a few arrests connected to child-witch abuse following the 2008 Channel 4 documentary on the subject amd CNN noted that no convictions have so far taken place. Theis made the point that although the state has good legislation, the justice system is too weak to follow up with prosecutions when the victims are marginal.

Theis also explained that UNICEF had commissioned its own report on the subject, and that the “evidence is pretty clear, and pretty overwhelming”. I wrote about the report here. He also called for leaders to mobilise on the issue, and to work with religious groups.

Following my blog entry on yesterday’s segment, I received a comment from Barrister Victor Ukutt, who represents “Apostle” Helen Ukpabio. You can see it, and my response, here.