The number of incidents of child sacrifice — in which witch doctors abduct children to use their body parts in potions or rituals – in Uganda increased significantly in 2015 as the nation braced for election season, thanks to desperate political candidates seeking any possible advantage at the polls.
In Uganda and other parts of Africa, members of the political class with access to the financial resources necessary to pay a witch doctor have long turned to supernatural tactics in the hopes of attracting voters. “Child sacrifice cases are common during election time, as some people believe blood sacrifices will bring wealth and power,” Shelin Kasozi tells Kenya’s The Star. Kasozi works with Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM), a group that specializes in helping children who have survived attempted sacrifices.
The report says 13 cases of human sacrifice were reported in 2015, the same number as the year before. Two fewer children and two more adults were confirmed to be the victims of human sacrifice in 2015. Six of the cases of children in question were found to be directly related to Uganda’s elections. The charity notes that these are only confirmed cases, however, and that many cases of missing children have yet to be resolved and could turn out to be cases of ritualistic sacrifice.
Ugandan law enforcement can confirm a body has been the victim of a sacrifice due to the wounds found on it. Many bodies are found missing organs like hearts or livers. Some are cut into pieces, decapitated, or castrated.
Ugandan authorities began to prepare for a surge in witchcraft activities in June 2015, as elections were held on February 18 and are almost always correlated to a surge in the number of cases of such attacks. Moses Binoga, the head of Uganda’s Anti-Human Sacrifice and Trafficking Task Force, said in June that his main concern regarding predators are the wealthy. “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 said, “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.”
Not all children sacrificed are killed immediately. Many are caught on their way to school and castrated, their genitals used in spells and potions. Binoga told the story of one girl who was found after being abducted by a witch doctor and being taken apart piece by piece. She was found with individual teeth sawed in half, fingers missing points, and scars indicating that a number of her organs had been removed.
While the demand for these sacrifices comes from the nation’s wealthy, prices for the body parts of children are so high that some poor parents are willing to give up their children. In 2008, Uganda was shaken by a case in which a man sold the heads of his three-year-old twins for $3614.82 (12 million Ugandan shillings).
An investigation by the Uganda Human Rights Commission published in 2014 warned that the nation has been severely underestimating the number of victims of sacrifice in the nation, in large part due to the fact that “reports of missing persons and suspected ritual murders are sometimes made late to Police who often find the crime scene(s) already tampered with.” It notes a significant increase in recent years. Between 2007 and 2008, the number of reported ritual sacrifice cases increased 800 percent.
Ritualistic sacrifice during election season is not limited to Uganda. In June 2015, officials in Tanzania were forced to issue a warning to candidates for office to refrain from committing sacrifices by kidnapping and dismembering albino people. Tanzania has one of the highest populations in the world of albino people — those born without melanin — making them prime targets for witch doctors. “I want to assure my fellow politicians that there won’t be any parliamentary seat that will be won as a result of using albino body parts,” said Tanzanian Deputy Home Affairs Minister Pereira Silima shortly before elections.
More than 70 albino people have been killed this century in Tanzania to be used as ingredients in potions and spells, a small number due to the practice in the country of acquiring body parts without killing. “Hunters” who work with witch doctors will often attack an albino person and hack off their arm or leg, selling the part they can procure for up to $75,000. Tanzania has banned the practice of witchcraft entirely as a means of attempting to curb this market.