Witch doctors reveal extent of child sacrifice in Uganda
The BBC has obtained first-hand accounts of human sacrifice in Uganda amid concerns that the practice is spreading – just as the country becomes more modern.
One witch doctor was filmed confessing that he had clients who captured children and brought their blood and body parts to his shrine.
Another former witch doctor, now campaigning to stamp out the practice, was recorded admitting to having murdered about 70 people – including his own son.
The Ugandan government told the BBC that human sacrifice was on the increase and public concern was now a major issue.
According to the head of the country’s Anti-Human Sacrifice Taskforce, the crime is directly linked to rising levels of development and prosperity – and an increasing belief that witchcraft can help people get rich quickly.
In the course of their investigation, to be broadcast tonight on Crossing Continents (BBC Radio 4) and Newsnight (BBC Two), the BBC team witnessed the ritual torching by anti-sacrifice campaigners of the shrine of a particularly active witch doctor in northern Uganda.
The witch doctor allowed the destruction after agreeing to give up the practice.
He told the BBC clients came to him in search of wealth.
He says: “They go and capture other people’s children. They bring the heart and the blood directly here to take to the spirits... They bring them in small tins and they place these objects under the tree from which the voices of the spirits are coming.”
Asked how often clients brought blood and body parts, the witch doctor says: “They came on average three times a week – with all that the spirits demand from them.”
The BBC saw a beaker of blood and what appeared to be a large raw liver in the shrine before it was destroyed, although it was not possible to determine whether they were human remains.
The witch doctor denied any direct involvement in murder or incitement to murder, saying his spirits spoke directly to clients.
He says he was paid 500,000 Ugandan shillings (about £160) for a consultation. Most of that money, he says, was handed over to his “boss” in a nationwide network of witchdoctors.
The head of the Anti-Human Sacrifice and Trafficking Task Force, assistant commissioner Moses Binoga of the Ugandan police, says there were 26 murder cases thought to be part of ritual sacrifice in 2009.
He says: “We also have about 120 children and adults reported missing whose fate we have not traced. From the experience of those whom we recovered, we cannot rule out that they may be victims of human sacrifice.”
In 2007 there were just three cases. Earlier figures are not available.
Child protection campaigners believe the real number of cases is much higher, as some disappearances are not reported to police, and others cannot be fully investigated.
Polino Angela, former witch doctor turned anti-sacrifice campaigner, says he has persuaded 2,400 other witch doctors to give up the trade since he himself repented in 1990.
He told the BBC how he had first been initiated as a witch doctor at a ceremony in Kenya, where a boy of about 13 was sacrificed.
Polino Angela says: “The child was cut with a knife on the neck and the entire length from the neck down was ripped open, and then the open part was put on me.”
He says that, when he returned to Uganda, he was told by those who had initiated him to kill his own son, aged 10.
“I was instructed... ’‘On reaching home, pick your own child, place him across the doorway, and on walking over him, cut him, kill him, sacrifice him.’ This very painful exercise made me so hardened, I had no mercy for anyone.”
When asked how many people he had killed, he says: “It is difficult to remember exactly but I can say that even 70 can be a figure that is not too exaggerated.”
Asked if he was afraid he might now be prosecuted as a result of confessing, Polino Angela says: “I have been to all the churches... and they know me as a warrior in the drive to end witchcraft that involves human sacrifice, so I think that alone should indemnify me and have me exonerated.”
Notes to Editors
Any use of information in this release must credit “BBC News”.
Crossing Continents – Uganda: Battling The Witch-Doctors, BBC Radio 4, Thursday 7 January 2010, 11.00-11.30am; repeated Monday 11 January, 8.30-9.00pm
Newsnight – Uganda: Battling The Witch-Doctors, BBC Two, Thursday 7 January, 10.30-11.20pm
Crossing Continents – Uganda: Battling The Witch-Doctors, BBC World Service, Thursday 14 January, 12.30pm; repeated at 4.30pm, 11.30pm and on Friday 15 January at 4.30am.
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