As the 2016 election in Uganda approach, officials have begun working to crack down on an increasingly popular witchcraft trend in the African nation: child sacrifice, typically the result of extreme mutilations while the child is alive that leaves them unable to recover.
According to charity workers in Uganda, the number of cases of children killed or chronically injured in witchcraft-related attacks has begun to rise in the past year. Ugandan authorities reported one case of child sacrifice in 2006 and 29 in 2009, with that figure rising every year. “We even suspect that senior politicians, senior civil citizens who have that belief, who believe in witchcraft and go to that level of sacrifice to maintain their jobs or get work,” said Moses Binoga, head of the nation’s Anti-Human Sacrifice and Trafficking Task Force.
Binoga notes that politicians and wealthy businesspeople will often pay thousands of dollars for the limbs of a recently-killed child, used in various witchcraft rituals. “Now we are going into elections, you will find that there are so many Ugandans, even high profile people, going to witch doctors’ shrines,” he explains, “Some of them will be so desperate that if they’re told to win a seat as an MP ‘You must sacrifice a child’, they’ll do it.” There have been five cases in 2015, but that number is expected to rise as elections near.
The Daily Mail explains that the ritual usually involves chopping off the limbs of young children on their way to school. Those who are caught and used for more extensive rituals have their limbs, hearts, and genitals removed. They are not killed before being mutilated. Authorities only discover the children’s fate upon finding limbs discarded in forests. Catching the perpetrators is a difficult business, as witch doctors refuse to reveal the identities of their clients. Clients who are more well-connected in the Ugandan government or wealthy enough to protect themselves also escape prosecution; thus, the market for the limbs and genitals of children for use in witchcraft rituals remains untouched, even when witch doctors are arrested.
Not all children are dismembered upon being caught by a witch doctor. In a 2014 story, Uganda’s New Vision reported on the story of a young girl named Peace, who was kidnapped by traditional healers for 18 months. “Whenever the witchdoctor wanted a human organ to use in his concoctions, Peace was the answer. Several of her fingers had been cut off, the dental formula disfigured as a result of regular grinding of her teeth by witchdoctors. Many of her teeth are half,” said a resident of her town, Vincent Ssebayiga. In addition to losing organs and limbs, Peace’s body was full of scars when she was rescued, indicating that her blood was regularly used to make potions.
As Tanzania’s legal action against witchcraft helped curb the number of attacks on albinos in the nation, attacks in neighboring Malawi began to surge in March. Most attacks consist of individuals attempting to hack off the limb of a person suffering from albinism in order to sell it at a high price to a traditional healer.