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Uganda’s epidemic of child sacrifice

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Musa Bogere arrested with a carcass of a dog he claimed was to be used in ritual activities.  When Liz Nabaale gave birth to a bouncing baby boy, happiness filled the home she shared with Henry Sserubiri in Nakinyuguzi village in Makindye, on the outskirts of Kampala city. The boy, whom the couple named Isaac Kyanakyayesu, was their fourth child.

But Kyanakyayesu did not live to celebrate his first birthday. Six months after his birth, he was killed by his father.

Nabaale’s voice quivers at the mention of her husband’s name. “I wanted my son to become an engineer,” she says amid sobs. “I cannot believe that the man I was living with, the father of my children, was the devil.”

Returning home from the market one afternoon last October, Nabaale found the headless body of her baby in a polythene bag. Overwhelmed, she collapsed. Police later said that 30-year-old Sserubiri beheaded his son in a witchcraft-inspired ritual. Later examination, however, revealed that Sserubiri was a regular user of narcotics and had once been admitted to a mental health hospital.

Similarly gruesome stories of people, especially children, being killed by parents, friends, and strangers in horrific ritual practices have become common in the news in the last four months.

Recent police reports put a staggering figure of 100 children missing in Uganda in November 2008 alone. Many are feared murdered. Eighty of the cases were reported in Kampala alone.

“We are yet to find out the reason behind the missing children,” says Fred Enanga, police CID spokesman, “but ritualistic killing of children is murder, and anyone involved in this act will face murder charges.”

Enanga says that while children may go missing for a number of reasons – human trafficking, family break-ups, child torture by stepmothers, child labour – police suspect that ritualistic child sacrifice tops the list.

At least 25 ritual murders involving children were confirmed in Uganda in 2006. In the same year, there were 230 cases of child abduction. The cases dropped to 108 in 2007, but then increased to 318 in 2008. So far in 2009, 18 cases of child sacrifice have been recorded, 15 of which have been investigated.

Police are increasingly focusing their energies on ritual murders. Most recently, on February 9, Musa Bogere, a witchdoctor, was arrested after human body parts were found floating in a pit-latrine next to his shrine.

After being beaten by enraged residents, Bogere, a resident of Kisenyi Zone in Kampala’s Bwaise suburb, led the police to a swamp where other decomposing body parts, of a woman wrapped in a white sack, had been dumped.

Bogere died in police custody, but, after first confessing to having killed the woman, whose identity is not yet known. He reportedly said he cut off some of her body parts and sold them for Shs100, 000.

This is not the first time Bogere has been linked to horrific crimes. Last August, the witchdoctor and one of his colleagues were arrested for slaughtering a dog and selling its flesh as goat meat. How they got out of jail remains a mystery.

What drives the killings?

It is clear that the stories of Bogere and Sseribiri represent just the tip of the silent morgue of ritual murders in Uganda. What is less clear is how a father, friend or even a stranger could brutally butcher a baby, or any other human being.

City tycoon Godfrey Kato Kajubi is alleged to have ordered the murder of 12-year-old Joseph Kasirye last year in order to bury the child’s body parts underneath a large house he was constructing.

But some analysts believe that more often, poverty, weak legislation and negligent parenting are to blame for the rise in child sacrifice in Uganda.

Parents Brigade of Buganda Road Primary School demonstrate on Speke Avenue against child sacrifice, November 2. Negligent parents leave their children with uncouth friends, relatives or even strangers, who in turn connive with witches to kill the children for money. This was, for instance, the reason cited in the murder of 5-year-old Shammim, daughter of Jalia Katusiime, a hairdresser in Njeru town, Mukono District. Katusiime had left her daughter in the care of Francis Muwanga, a neighbour, so that she could attend to a customer. When she returned, both Muwanga and her daughter were missing. Shammim’s decomposing body was later found with two fingers cut off and her tongue plucked out. Her genitals were also missing.

“With biting poverty, one is sometimes willing to do anything, including sacrifice, to exorcise the perceived curses,” said Timothy Opobo, a programme coordinator at the Africa Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) Uganda Chapter.

Opobo could be right. Shs 50,000 was enough to tempt Patrick Makonzi to chop the head off his 12-year-old nephew, Eriya Kalule, of Namusita village in Kamuli District on Boxing Day. That same month, a boda-boda cyclist in Masajja, Wakiso district, beheaded his twin children for Shs12 million. In another bizarre case, Ssenoga Setubwa, 21, stole a child from Bwaise and sold him for Shs100,000. On January 7, she confessed her offence to a judge and was jailed for 16 years.

Dr Nsaba Buturo, the minister for ethics and integrity, blames the murders on witchcraft. He says the “witchdoctors” prey on people’s fear and greed for riches.

In the Setubwa case, while passing judgment before a packed courtroom, Justice Eridad Mwanguhya declared: “The accused has pleaded guilty to the offence of stealing a child with intent to murder. She is accordingly convicted… but the offence of child sacrifice has been rampant of recent and it was by the mercy of God that a two-year-old innocent child was not killed by the evil desire of a so-called witchdoctor”.

Uganda’s 1957 Witchcraft Act prohibits acts of witchcraft that involve threatening others with death. Convictions lead to prison sentences of up to five years. Yet the law has rarely been enforced, reducing fear of punishment among witchdoctors engaging in child-trafficking and ritual murders.

Another factor that may lie behind the rise in ritual child murders is the increasing number of witchdoctors who choose to practice their craft under the guise of traditional herbal healing, a practice that is not properly regulated.

“For a long time, sacrificing has been done in secrecy. Child sacrifice centres on witchcraft,” says Timothy Opobo. “Today, sacrificing children appears to be exposed because traditional healers and herbalists are everywhere. So witchdoctors have taken advantage of the traditional herbalists by hiding under that umbrella and have advertised in the media.”

Opobo told The Independent that “sacrificing by witchdoctors is done for wealth acquisition and to out-compete rivals. Children are vulnerable and are believed to be pure – this is why they are being sacrificed”. Police say children are more likely to be victims of ritual sacrifice than adults, because they are more easily lured.

Although most cases of child sacrifice have been reported in Uganda’s central region, where the culture of ritual killing is strong, according to Opobo, other areas, like Lango in the north, are also reporting cases of missing children later found killed in a manner believed to be ritualistic.

Burhan Ssebayigga of Makerere University’s department of religious studies said traditional beliefs, which are strong in Buganda, could be behind the current wave of ritualistic child murders.

“In traditional Buganda, there is a strong belief that a mutilated body ceases to be spiritually powerful. So to sacrifice one needs something innocent or pure. And children are considered spiritually clean and virgin, a fact that makes them a soft target for witchdoctors’ ritualistic practices,” he said.

Fred Enanga, the police spokesman, says ritual murderers “have a belief that in human sacrifice they are appeasing and worshipping the gods or ancestral spirits, so that their wealth is sustained and their problems go away.”

He said the police have recruited intelligence within traditional healers to tip police off about people involved in ritualistic murder of children. Investigations reveal that witchdoctors do not do the killing themselves, but play on the psychology of their clients to do the actual killing and bring them the desired human body parts.

Like the woman who fell victim to Musa Bogere, the witchdoctor who had been arrested just six months earlier for illicitly selling dog meat, many innocent people, especially children, are in constant danger of losing their lives in these ritualistic murders. Policymakers must clamp down strongly on this evil practice.

Comments (47)Add Comment
written by noneofurf**kinbusiness, February 26, 2009
Damn, Africa will be a gold-mine of idots! :evil:
written by paxton Edie, February 28, 2009
our people need mental education so as to appreciate the Real essence and value of human life.

what a hell eating up the Africans!!!

written by Kibirige Daniel, February 28, 2009
In order to uderstand the current trend of whitch craft sacrifice including sucrificing animals which were predominantly used for hunting and security purpose,I mean dogs. We need to look back at our history not long ago.

Firstly, did such barberic acts of whichcraft such as child or adult people and dogs exisit in the past? Ofcourse i think No. Then we have to look at what is happening politically, socially and economically in contemporary Uganda led by Mu7.

In this arguement, it is imperative to focus on the contemporary economic situation where some people are getting rich on a very large scale, most are from the political circles of the well connected political ruling family and NRM in general.

Others want to compete with the ruling family who import goods and make a ug sh.1000 phone call and thier goods worth of millions are released from free the large taxes paid by those not connected to the ruling establishment of NRM.

Pertinently, for the poor with no or little education and contacts with the elites or middle class are left to rely on cheating thier poor prey and in general the most vulnerable of adults looking to get rich thruogh cultural -whitchcraft means. Those who suffer most are the most velnerable and unseen and un protected children. These children are kidnaped and killed for the purpose of conning the vulnerabble adults who want to get rich and make quick money.

Analysing the above arguement, it is the governement in general which fails it's citizens and as a result we end up looking at the unseen incidences of death both human and dog sucrifes.

It's high time for the state to wake up and protect the welfare of the entire citizens regardless of people's political, economical and social leneage.

Why is it that there is no sucrifices in europe...simple because european states have anti discriminatory and anti oppressive measures in place to protect all citizens with out looking at people's economica, political and social background.

If NRM and Mu7 in general can overcome the current trends of ill and negative forces of human life in Uganda, then we shall see in future if not now that our society has returned back to it's original traditional of valueing human life.

NRM, Mu7 wake up and protect the welfare of all Ugandans rather than your own family, friends and cronies.
How is killing children profitable?
written by Anon, March 01, 2009
So are rich people using witches as middlemen for children to use in their own rituals? Can someone explain how this whole thing works? I don't get how witches make money paying people to kill children.

"Shs 50,000 was enough to tempt Patrick Makonzi to chop the head off his 12-year-old nephew"

"...a cyclist beheaded his twin for Shs12 million."

That is one messed up society.
written by james, March 03, 2009
Thats what i hate about superstition.Can anyone really provide prove that these mad practices work? apart from the phycological comfort it gives the believers.My verdict is......yes you might have guest it. Hang all the practitioners from the the highest tree in the land! I will attend the occasion.
written by james, March 03, 2009
kibirige, ritualistic killings is as old as civilization.It exists in all societies all over the world. Its an evil thats not exclusive to Uganda or Africa
Human kind is wild!
written by Saf, April 14, 2009
:evil: It is really evil that can drive a parent to **** his/her own child.i mean everyone out there can be a parent to anyone younger than is not negligence we are talking about because also parents do **** their own i think it is the world coming to an end!
ugandans be realistic!
written by kojo estella m, April 22, 2009
fellow Ugandans we need to be realistic in all that are done against the innocent future for Uganda.we have to understand that Uganda is in the developing world!this along makes us to know we are holding the burden of diseases,so i do not see any reasons for creating our risks
The best effort in fighting for childrens' is your
written by Francis Awee, May 28, 2009
Im pleased to have come across your artcle on child sacrifice.Please keep updating me on the events of child sacrifice so that i also educate the community on this backward practice.
project manager
written by Fred, June 18, 2009
My 5 year old sister Auma Immaculate was kidnnaped from me and murdered on the 18th december. The suspect is a police man and my clan brother.

the court proceding is delaying and am not happy with government, they put less effort to protect children. How do you feel if a government police officer murder your child? this is my real story.
I pray for Uganda
written by SYLVIA ADOYO ONYANGO, June 27, 2009
:evil: whatever happened to the human kind,when will Africa be up?!! all I ask for is forgiveness from God, i just cant help but drip tears from my eyes when i learn of an innocent life murdered for the work of the Devil. The Lord said " Let the children come to me, because theirs is the Kingdom of God" Why then do U destroy the kingdom of God.Why! Why! Lord Please have mercy on us and save us from this cynical behaviour
human right activist
written by Tugume Gerald , November 09, 2009
fellow Ugandans we need to be realistic in all that are done against the innocent future for Uganda.we have to understand that Uganda is in the developing world!this along makes us to know we are holding the burden of diseases,so i do not see any reasons for creating our risks

so my fellow ugandans please let us come out and fight the devil, by fighting for the rights of the children
Tugume Gerald
written by Bangi Opio, December 10, 2009
Iam very sorry for what is happening in Uganda.....those one who are doing the evil are those carrying the christian names.What are the christian doing? if iam to ask a question.Fellow Ugandan enough is enough let's us stand up and say no to child sacifice.
People should desist from witchdoctor(s)....let's us say no to witch doctor and follow Jesus Christ for one another.Iam sorry if Ugandan can tolerate thing that should have been done in the last one hundreds century now.
Child sacrifice stop with you!
Human Sacrifice, Christianity and Kill the Gays Bill
written by Paul, January 07, 2010
So how is it that an entire society and government look the other way as hundreds of innocent children are brutally murdered while the obsession over the "evil" gays marches forward in the legislature and body politic??? I mean, WTF!

So now the gays are going to pay for the entire societies depravity.....and the US Christians have their bloody hands all over this story.
Uganda need cleansing
written by el fahmi, January 08, 2010
these are very very sadistic..
Ugandan should be cleansed from dark ritual,
missionary from Islam and Christian should work there..
Uganda need cleansing
written by el fahmi, January 08, 2010
these are very very sadistic..
Ugandan should be cleansed from dark ritual,
missionary from Islam and Christian should work there..
written by sohee, January 08, 2010
western "civilized' peoples also sacrifice their own 'unborn' children in the name of wealth and prosperity. They cry that children are too expensive and an unwanted burden. If you really look at these Ugandans who committed the crimes, how are they much different. Their motivation was for increased, freedom, wealth and power. Instead of being motivated by love, they are motivated by greed. The motivation is the same : self-love ( in other words selfishness). Only Jesus Christ is the answer. God tells us to love others as we love our selves...I believe this is the cause of much sin in the world...lack of love for others and for God. This world desperately need our Saviour Jesus Christ.
sad sick and no excuse
written by Michelle, January 13, 2010
I don't believe there is any amount of prayer that can save sick,evil,demented people like these are!!! they will never know how to be civilised in a country of unjusts, unruly and crookedness. so I think you have to ask why are they having children if this huge epidemic is happening, stop having children and spare the unborn these atrocities.
sad sick and no excuse
written by Michelle, January 13, 2010
I don't believe there is any amount of prayer that can save sick,evil,demented people like these are!!! they will never know how to be civilised in a country of unjusts, unruly and crookedness. so I think you have to ask why are they having children if this huge epidemic is happening, stop having children and spare the unborn these atrocities.
Imperalists should be stopped
written by Thinking Voter, January 13, 2010
Isn't it terrible that Europeans sent missionaires there to dilute and destory African culture?
written by Barry Bass, January 14, 2010
I feel terribly bad to see men killing there own, people created in the Image of God. This people need the LORD
written by Pete, January 16, 2010
Africans have rejected western enlightenment and humanism, and here you see the consequences. Even Uganda's supposedly educated Minister of Ethics believes in evil spirits. A dark continent indeed.
Life is precious
written by MUTESA ASSUMAN, January 18, 2010
Those who pray on people's precious lives should be dealt with, with an iron fist.Other wise Africa is heading at a point of no return.
written by Brother, February 27, 2010
This is pure evil...what kind of sickass @**is this?!! African people wake the hell up and protect these children! I am too sick to even continue this post. There is no spiritual/religious/materialistic justification, as they have lost their damn minds! Stop giving praises to Satan thinking it is the spirits or "god". Bastards!smilies/angry.gif
Strengthening the vulnerable
written by Susan, February 27, 2010
What a horror that the people of Uganda have to add to the rest of the many injustices they suffer. Whatever we can do to shore up and strengthen the vulnerable - in education, food, clean water, medicine and job creation - will help protect the most vulnerable. Let's do more than marvel at the horror - let's get busy sponsoring kids, supporting organizations that fortify the vulnerable, and buy the products they've made that are available for sale. Doing these things puts more power into the hands of those who otherwise are at a loss to protect themselves.
written by ghd, July 06, 2010
Firstly, did such barberic acts of whichcraft chi flat iron]such as child or adult people and dogs exisit in the past? Ofcourse i think No. Then we have to look at what is happening politically, socially and economically in contemporary Uganda led by Mu7.
written by seo services, September 29, 2010
In epidemiology, an epidemic , occurs when new cases of a certain disease, in a given human population, and during a given period, substantially exceed what is "expected," based on recent experience. In recent usages, the disease is not required to be communicable; examples include cancer or heart disease. Another example includes the infamous Black Death of the Middle Ages.SEO India - Get good seo services from SEO company in India,USA,UK. If you need SEO services, organic SEO & managed search engine marketing call us +91.8013242527
written by Henry Ramirez, December 20, 2010
Western enlightenment and humanism, Pete? Really? The western (un)civilizations do the same thing to tens of thousands of unborn human babies every year. But they are sacrificed on the altar of "human rights" and "personal freedoms." How's THAT for irony? Let's take the plank out of our owns eyes, then we can see clearly enough to remove the splinter from those in Africa.
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soccer is my favorite,so is David Beckham
This is madness
written by Sheffield Builder, April 04, 2011
Let me just tell you one thing. Killing, saraficing or murdering however you want to put it is all based on the black magic's and worship of the devil. If you truly want to get rid of this problem you first have to educate the people on there relgiouse beliefs and worshipping the one true god ALLAh. When you do this then they will not need to go to satanic worshipping witch doctors to bless there new house's or whatever they want blessing. To find out about Islam and how it could save you from all this madness visit
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written by Gladys Kyotungire[Miss Face of Africa EU 2013-2014], September 24, 2014
There is no excuse good enough to sacrifice a child not even poverty. In England children get missing for selfish reason similar to child sacrifice, I am saying this to correct who ever mentioned that these things don't happen in developed countries.
written by Gladys Kyotungire[Miss Face of Africa EU 2013-2014], September 24, 2014
It starts with you dear Ugandan every child is your child we need to strengthen our voice on the vice, educate children so they are not lured by the predators. Implement what you can do instead of pointing a figure. I launched a campaign against Child Sacrifice on the 02/02/2013 where I invited religious leaders, members of parliament and state house. I have realised that we all agree that this is a vice that needs to come to an end what can we do as individuals other than voice our opinions? please feel free to join me with ideas to make the campaign a success.

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