Africa

Spike in human sacrifice incidents worries authorities in Uganda

Authorities say human sacrifices take place at advice of 'witch doctors' in superstition-hit rural areas to bring good luck

Godfrey Olukya   | 03.07.2022
Spike in human sacrifice incidents worries authorities in Uganda

KAMPALA, Uganda

Despite enacting tough laws and threatening death sentences to those engaging in human sacrifices, the weird practice continues unabated in the remote and rural areas of the landlocked East African country of Uganda.

According to officials, they have recorded 132 incidents of human sacrifices in the last three years.

The more worrying aspect is that the numbers have spiked. Police said they had recorded 22 sacrifices in 2019 and the figures jumped to 45 in 2020 and 65 in 2021.

Most victims of such “ritual sacrifices” are children, apparently because they are easier to abduct and seen as “pure” and so of "higher ritual value."

Authorities said the sacrifices are being carried out by witch doctors or local traditional healers, dotting rural areas.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, police spokesman Fred Enanga said only last month they booked a man for sacrificing his two sons.

“We arrested a man identified as Musilimu Mbwire on suspicion of killing his two sons in human sacrifice,” said Enanga.

According to preliminary investigations, a rich man had paid Mbwire money and convinced him to sacrifice his two sons at the instructions of a witch doctor.

Earlier in March, police had found a headless body of a 5-year-old boy in the eastern district of Bugiri in banana fields belonging to a "witch doctor." It was found that the boy had been sacrificed by a businessman to invoke good luck.

“The villagers beat up the witch doctor after the body was found in his fields. He confessed that he had sacrificed the child together to help his client Nobert Kikulu boost his business," said local leader Musafiri Kulwabwe.

Superstitions in rural areas

In 2018, two witch doctors, Muhammad Wamala (45) and Wilber Ssebuyungo (30), were arrested after police discovered that they had sacrificed five people near a shrine in the Kayunga district. Wamala was sentenced to life in prison and Ssebuyungo was given a sentence of 30 years.

Superstitions lead people in rural areas to seek help from witch doctors, who in turn offer weird prescriptions, including human sacrifices to turn around their luck.

Betty Namukose, 50, said her family was under the spell of bad luck, as one was getting married and her brothers were unable to get jobs even after finishing school.

“One of our relatives told us that he knew a witch doctor at the border of Uganda and Tanzania who would solve our problem,” she told Anadolu Agency.

The witch doctor told them to offer a human sacrifice to keep away bad luck.

“We gave the witch doctor money to buy a child, but told him to undertake the ritual at his shrine over 100 kilometers (62 miles) away,” she said, adding that after the witch doctor announced he has accomplished the task, their home became blessed.

A more worrisome part of the superstition is to undertake human sacrifice to put the body at the foundation of a building to bring good luck.

Timothy Mukasa, a local leader in Kampala’s suburb of Kireka, told Anadolu Agency that many multistory buildings in the town have been built on a human body.

“The witch doctors tell owners to put a human body at the foundation of the construction of the buildings,” he said.

In 2014, authorities apprehended and later sentenced a tycoon Kato Kajubi for sacrificing a child and then putting his body in the foundation of a building that he was about to construct.


Lack of qualified counselors

David Musenze, a journalist who studied psychology, said there are not many qualified counselors to attend to psychological and mental issues of people, which makes them take advice from witch doctors.

"People go to witch doctors to help them get jobs, be promoted at jobs, or kill their enemies, along with many other problems," he said.

Admitting that human sacrifice is a big problem, Lucas Oweyesigire, the police spokesman for the Kampala region, said most such practices take place in rural areas.

“We went to some of the most affected districts and sensitized the witch doctors and local people there about the danger in getting involved in human sacrifice,” he said.

Oweyesigire said police immediately respond to cases and ensure all those involved are charged in the courts.

The so-called leader of traditional healing and witch doctors, Mama Fina, has also condemned human sacrifice and described those recommending the sacrifice of human beings as “fake.”

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