Don Oliver, Nigeriafilms

A 28 year old woman (name withheld) has been arrested by a special police detective team in Eket for attempting to sell a seven year old boy. A police source said in Eket.

The youngster who is said to be her step-son was, however, living with his biological mother until the father requested to take full responsibility of him. Apparently angered by the child’s arrival, the step-mother contracted a pastor to screen the little boy to ascertain if he was possessed with witchcraft spell or not. On confirmation that the boy was possessed, he was reportedly disappeared from the house.

Evidence is emerging that a growing number of children are being subjected to exorcism rituals


Louise Hunt

The Guardian, 1/17/2012

ocial workers are used to coping with the unexpected – it comes with the territory. But child-protection specialists are increasingly coming across a kind of case that few textbooks have prepared them for: abuse of childrenrelated to belief in witchcraft.

Child abuse linked to ideas of spirit possession and witchcraft branding is a growing phenomenon, according to evidence given to the Commons education select committee’s current inquiry into child protection. It is predominantly an issue in African communities, often fuelled by extreme religious conviction, and experts believe that its growth is a reaction to personal or family misfortune brought about by the economic downturn.

Such is the level of concern about the small but rising trend that the Department for Education intends to publish an action plan on religion, witchcraft and child safeguarding, both to raise awareness of the problem and to develop expertise to counter it.

Philip Ishola of the London Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB), who has led the development of guidance for social care professionals on faith-based abuse, says: “There is a lot more work to be done on developing a co-ordinated system to respond. A consistent model across the UK does not yet exist. It is still very difficult for children’s social care teams to unpick what has caused the abuse.”

Belief in possession

The link between belief in spirit possession and child abuse came to public attention following the death in 2000 in Haringey, north London, of Victoria Climbié, who was from the Ivory Coast. Research found that her guardians, Marie Therese Kouao and Carl Manning, had tortured the eight-year-old partly through belief that she was possessed by an evil spirit – a belief supported by their church leaders.

In 2005, three adults in east London were convicted of child cruelty to another eight-year-old, from Angola. She had been starved, beaten, cut with a knife and had chilli peppers rubbed in her eyes in the belief that she was possessed.

Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (Afruca), a children’s rights charity working with African communities in the UK, told the Commons committee that faith-based abuse is on the rise. Afruca chair Prospera Tedam said: “Over the last year, we have seen and worked with 12 cases in the London area of what we perceive as severe abuse and neglect arising from these beliefs of witchcraft.”

Justin Bahunga, Afruca policy lead on faith-based abuse, says the cases coming to the charity’s attention include children being semi-strangled, burned with an iron, severely beaten and starved in the belief that “it will get the devil out of them”.

The belief that there are forces that can control people and events is widespread in Africa and among African communities in the UK, Bahunga explains. While the same notion exists in many religions, its role in African culture may manifest in a UK context as a response to issues such as immigration difficulties or unemployment.

“Desperate people will often seek advice from church leaders and some rogue pastors will blame children. They are seen as the easiest target,” Bahunga says, giving the example of a current case Afruca is advising on involving a child branded as a witch and accused of causing their stepmother’s infertility.

“The pastor will say: ‘No matter what your problems, I can solve them by protecting you against the evil forces of witchcraft’. Because of their status, the word of the pastor is interpreted as God’s will. They may be paid for their advice, or to carry out exorcisms. They exploit the vulnerability of the families.”

Children with disabilities, orphans and those seen as having challenging behaviour are particularly vulnerable to being branded as witches, he says. Also at risk are those who may have left their parents to live with relatives or other guardians.

Afruca is campaigning for a change in law to make it illegal to brand someone as a witch. But meanwhile there is a concern that the number of incidents will rise because of the economic downturn. Bahunga says: “We fear that there is potential for real increase due to the harsh social economic situation that can trigger accusations of possession – and this is likely to be worse within newly arrived communities.”

Evidence is emerging that witchcraft belief is an increasingly common tool in controlling children who have been trafficked. Research by Ecpat UK, which campaigns against the exploitation and trafficking of children, has found that traffickers may force children to go through witchcraft rituals in their countries of origin to prevent them from seeking help.

Ecpat UK director Christine Beddoe says: “No matter how far away they are from the trafficker, these children are still living in fear of what will happen to them if they speak out. As our understanding of this issue has grown, we are seeing more cases where the ​children’s behaviour suggests they are living with this fear and control in their lives.”

In July last year, Anthony Harrison of Stratford, east London, became the first person in the UK to be convicted of using witchcraft rituals to control victims of trafficking. He was jailed for 20 years for imprisoning two Nigerian girls, aged 14 and 16, whom he was attempting to take out of the UK to force into prostitution.

While Beddoe praises the work of the Metropolitan police special investigations unit in the Harrison case, she is concerned that agencies are not sharing case-based information from child protection services that could indicate abuse. This may be through ignorance of witchcraft practices, but she also believes there is a reticence among child protection workers in tackling what may be perceived as a cultural issue.

“One of the biggest challenges is where professionals have turned a blind eye to perceived cultural practices, even when they are considered harmful to children,” Beddoe says. “They have got to start challenging concerns around cultural sensitivity where there is child abuse. This needs to be documented and agencies need to find a way of synthesising the data.”

The last major official study of child abuse linked to accusations of witchcraft was carried out in 2006. It identified 74 cases of abuse in the UK since 2000 where a clear link could be established. Three quarters of known cases were in London and the children were mostly of African ethnicity, with some cases from south-east Asia and one from a white English background. Around half involved children born in the UK.

Safeguarding children

Supplementary guidance on safeguarding children was issued in 2007. But child protection organisations working in communities with beliefs in possession are concerned that such abuse often remains under the radar until a child dies.

Simon Bass, chief executive of the Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS), which trains churches in safeguarding issues, urges practitioners to use his service as a resource. “Social work practitioners need to understand the communities by working with organisations like ourselves,” he says.

Ishola, who chairs the LSCB’s child-trafficking group and is a service manager in children’s services at Harrow council, north London, thinks social workers are becoming more aware of the problem. “Three to four years ago, these issues may not have registered as a real concern because of a western interpretation of witchcraft,” he says. “But we have learned about belief in spirit possession from people coming into the UK. These cases come from a different perspective and now awareness is better.”

The education department’s forthcoming action plan stems from a roundtable meeting last year involving children’s minister Tim Loughton and child protection organisations including Afruca and CCPAS. A department spokesman says: “It was agreed that stronger co-ordination of activity was needed, both nationally and locally, to raise awareness of this issue, develop the skills of practitioners and to support communities to resist abuse.”

Bass says the action plan will bring together best practice. “I hope it will enable practitioners to know where to go for help in understanding the issues so they are more readily able to respond. I believe it will go a long way to addressing this abuse.”

Americans Should Protest Nigerian Witch-Hunter’s Visit



Editorial by Michael Mungai, Huffington Post

f you live in the U.S. and you are:

•In bondage
•Having bad dreams
•Under a witchcraft attack or oppression
•Possessed by mermaid spirits or other evil spirits
•Barren and having frequent miscarriages
•Experiencing an unsuccessful life of disappointment
•Experiencing financial impotency with difficulties
•Facing victimization and a lack of promotion
•Experiencing a stagnant life with failures

…You need not wait for too long. Helen Ukpabio, a Nigerian evangelist, will be traveling to the United States in March where she will be preaching in Texas. All ye people in the U.S. who have been struggling with the possession of mermaid spirits no longer have to be like fish out of water, someone’s finally coming to shore you up.

While it is laughable that there are credulous people in this world who believe in such fishy claims, the real issue that should trouble every American is that their impending guest is also a notorious child-witch hunter. Ukpabio alleges that Satan constantly manifests himself in the bodies of children through demonic possession, turning them into witches and wizards. Condemned as witches, these children are splashed with acid, buried alive, immersed in fire or expelled from their communities. According to Nigerian humanist campaigner Leo Igwe, Ukpabio “is a Christian fundamentalist and a Biblical literalist. She uses her sermons, teachings and prophetic declarations to incite hatred, intolerance and persecution of alleged witches and wizards.” Ukpabio, we learn from Igwe, claims to be an ex-witch, who later founded her own church to pursue her “anointed mission” of delivering people from witchcraft. Her ministry’s services include deliverance sessions that identify and cast out demons. Her church has extended witch- hunting branches all over Nigeria and even to other countries.

This won’t be Ukpabio’s first trip to the United States. In her last visit to Houston, Texas in 2010, she defended herself by arguing that her critics pick on her because she is an African. She cited J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series, arguing that if Westerners do not take Rowling’s work seriously, then she (Ukpabio) is a hapless victim of Western racism. However, while Rowling’s readers tend to buy brooms, hats and “magic wands” for their children to play with, parents inspired by Ukpabio are more likely to buy machetes and physically confront the alleged demons living in their children’s bodies. Also, citing Western interference and racism has now become the mantra for many unscrupulous Africans pursuing self-serving ends. They unfairly take advantage of Africa’s injurious history with the West, a topic that elicits sentimental reactions from most Africans whenever it is invoked.

“If a child under the age of two screams in the night, cries and is always feverish with deteriorating health, he or she is a servant of Satan,” Ukpabio writes in her book, Unveiling the Mysteries of Witchcraft. In many rural African settings, these symptoms are common in almost all babies. In a country where more than 10 percent of children die before they reach five years, what these babies need is immediate medical attention. By instructing gullible Nigerian parents to persecute their own children, she continues to enrich herself, through her books and remittances from exorcisms. In this, she joins the growing list of televangelists who are fleecing poor Africans all over the continent, promising “miracles” for a fee.

I first learned of her nefarious campaign in the heartbreaking documentary, Dispatches: Return to Africa’s Witch Children. For the past nine years, I have worked with street children in Kenya, most of them coming from abusive backgrounds. I have watched over young boys who occasionally experience dreadful nightmares due to the trauma they endured under violent parents, guardians or relatives. This distress haunts the children for a long time and their suffering has caused substantial inhibition of their psychological and intellectual growth. It therefore disturbs me to see Ukpabio, hiding behind the immunity of religion, inflicting even worse torture on Nigerian children.

My appeal to rational Americans is to ensure that Ukpabio, with her hateful campaign against defenseless children, knows that she is not welcome in their country. She should be met with hostility similar to the protests against the Pope’s visit to the United Kingdom. While we should all respect the freedom of everyone to practice their religion, this respect should stop where it starts harming those around them. Like in the popular phrase attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins. In the name of religion, crimes against children continue with no justice or accountability from relevant authorities. However, protesting against Ukpabio’s visit to America would be a step towards the right direction in giving a voice to her unfortunate little victims.


Kenyan police to probe 22 ‘witch’ murders



Kenyan police said on Wednesday they would investigate the murder of 22 people accused of being witches, killed since last month in a spate of separate attacks.

“People are being lynched because they are accused of being witches,” said Kiprono Langat, police chief for the coastal town of Malindi.

“Instead of making them face the law, they just lynch them — we are talking of about 22 cases.”

Langat said many of those who were killed were elderly, and included both men and women.

“It is a worrying trend particularly here in Malindi… An investigation is underway and stern action will be taken against those found to have participated. It can’t be left to continue,” he added.

Like in many parts of Africa, many communities in Kenya believe in the powers of witch doctors and black magic in influencing the course of social events.



Another child murdered as a result of ‘deliverance’ theology


LONDON — A 15-year-old boy who died from “unspeakable savagery and brutality” was attacked by relatives who believed he was a sorcerer involved in witchcraft, a London court heard Thursday.

The victim, Kristy Bamu, was found drowned with 101 different injuries on Christmas Day 2010 in a flat in Newham, east London.




Merry Christmas from Voice of the Accused

As much of the world celebrates Christmas, let us not forgot those who are in suffering. Canadian writer Thomas Froese reminds us of the parallels between the pursuit of the Christ child in Biblical history and the modern day pursuit of children in Africa as victims of murder.



And lo! A child is saved from a brutal death

A young boy is returned to his family and a writer sees echoes of the nativity story

KAMPALA, UGANDA It’s late at night at the Ugandan-Kenyan border and a little Ugandan boy is about to disappear forever.

Moses Kaloulou, all of seven years old, is crying hysterically. Not that he knows what’s going to happen, that he’ll likely soon die at the hands, and knife blade, of a witch doctor. All he knows is that it’s late — about midnight now — and very dark, and that some hours ago he was taken by strange men.

A border patrol officer looks. Something is wrong. That boy on the back of that motorcycle-taxi is crying wildly. The boy looks Ugandan but the driver, Kenyan. The driver sees he’s being watched. He’s nervous. In a panic, he lets the boy go and takes off into the night. Moses’ life is miraculously saved.

This is the feel-good story of the year for me. I’ll never forget hearing that voice on the phone: “We think we’ve found the boy.” Now it’s Christmas, that celebration for children, a time that’s as good as any, maybe the best, to think of it all.

Remember when three-year-old Kienan Hebert was abducted from his British Columbia home in September? Remember the countrywide anguish? The prayers from coast-to-coast? The amazement when he was returned by, of all people, his abductor? It was one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction moments.

Not long after, on this side of the ocean, Moses was abducted from his village. His father, Richard, is a Ugandan friend. I had just written about him for The Spectator, how my family pays school fees for Richard’s children. Then his heartsick phone call to me: “Mister Thom! Moses is gone!”

In Uganda, this often means one horrible thing: sacrificial murder. The ritual, known as juju, is performed by witch doctors and supported by paying customers who believe the blood of a child has all kinds of power to bring fantastic success.

Despite a national campaign against this terror, in recent years ritual sacrifice in Uganda has run unabated. Uganda’s Anti Human Sacrifice Task Force has been limited, especially in this culture of corruption.

In fact, if Jesus was a boy in today’s Uganda, we might not celebrate Christmas as we know it at all. A few shillings or pounds or dollars in certain hands, a blind eye and a turned back, and an innocent young life is easily snuffed out. God — if you believe this part of the Christmas story — would need another plan to save humanity.

It’s unknown how many Ugandan children are being murdered. Some estimate that thousands have disappeared in the past four years. The BBC reports that 400 African kids have been trafficked to the United Kingdom alone, apparently for rituals there, before rescue by British police.

There are also good people in Uganda. When Moses vanished, we initiated our own Amber Alert. I gave Richard money for local radio ads. As with Kienan, people prayed. I contacted hundreds of Canadian friends, many in Hamilton, to join the Ugandans.

It was a municipal politician who eventually heard those ads and phoned to tell me Moses had been found, traumatized and now in hospital, but safe.

I wish this kind of story was just a dark chapter in Africa’s past. But it’s as true as Christmas. And if the story of that first Christmas indeed is true, then, really, it has less to do with the quaint postcard images we routinely see, than danger and fear and hardships we can’t imagine.

It tells us that the Christ Child was supposed to be brutally slain, and that while his family escaped to the safety of this continent, to North Africa, many other children died in a murderous rage of a fallen king.

And isn’t this closer to our own personal experience? I believe it is. Life can be full of joy. And pain. That’s why Christmas is never just for the world’s children. It’s for the disappointed and lonely, the hurting and confused, those of us who, in a way, need to become like children again.

Then, even in a broken world, we can see beyond it and be held close, and told that, no matter what, nothing, but nothing, can ever get us.


Human Rights Group says “16 Women murdered for Witchcraft”




16 elderly women were killed between January and November this year, after accused of being witches, in the district of Marromeu, in the central Mozambican province of Sofala, according to a report in the Beira daily paper “Diario de Mocambique”.

The issue was raised during a demonstration in Beira against violence against women, organized by the NGO Action for Community Development (ASADEC).

In a message presented at the protest, a group of elderly women said that when a young man does not achieve success in his life, perhaps because he fails to find a job, the first person he blames for his situation is an old woman in the family, claiming that she has cursed him.

“These situations are becoming common in our society” referred the message of the elderly, asking “is being old sufficient reason for being considered a witch and being condemned to death?”

In the first half of this year, the Sofala Provincial Directorate of Women’s Affairs and Social Welfare (DPMAS) assisted 1,580 victims of violence, including elderly women accused of practicing witchcraft.

On behalf of the government, Anibal Nhampossa, Director of Tourism in Sofala, appealed to those present on the demonstration to respect human rights and basic rules for living together. Excuses for violence, such as witchcraft, had no rationale.

The Provincial Director for Women’s Affairs, Diquessone Tole, said the march served to express outrage against the violence.

“We have been making efforts to reduce rates of violence by publicizing the laws against domestic violence, child trafficking and other social legal instruments, aimed at creating a new environment of human relationship in society”, Tole said.