New Vision (Kampala)

7 July 2004

Uganda: Demons Attack Kiboga Pupils

Kampala — Primary school in Kiboga district was closed in May after parents reported that their children were being attacked by demons.

Bisika Primary School, located in Butemba sub-county, was later re-opened but the pupils continued to live in fear. Another demon attack was reported on June 29, in the same school.

Bisika, a government-aided day primary school, is located five kilometres from Kiboga town. The well-furnished four-building school has 450 pupils.

The parents accused Isma Sserunkuuma, a man, who lives near the school, of bringing the demons locally known as mayembe. They said Sserunkuma wanted the demons from a witchdoctor to help him acquire wealth.

Acting on the parents' report, the Kiboga resident district commissioner (rdc), Margaret Kasaija, ordered for the arrest of Sserunkuuma and the closure of the school until the demons would be driven out of the school. Sserunkuuma is still in detention.

"I wonder why people really acquire demons and resort to bewitching others," Kasaija lamented before she cautioned the public against acquiring demons.

At the time of arrest, Sserunkuuma said he could not afford the demons' enormous demands. He said the demons demanded for 300 virgin girls and cows to provide them with blood for sustenance.

Sserunkuuma added that when he failed to provide the virgins and cows, he set them (demons) free. They then attacked the pupils. He pleaded that he had no intention of harming the school, but only failed to control the demons.

The demons reportedly affected primary four, five, six and seven pupils below 12 years. When attacked, the pupils gabble and run around the compound. Others undress and foam around their mouths.

They also shake violently as if shocked by an electric current. Parents also said they had to tie their children on pegs with ropes to avoid their disappearance.

The national chairman for traditional healers, Ben Ggulu, performed traditional rituals before the school was re-opened in May. He also healed 15 pupils, whose mental abilities had been affected by the demons.

Ggulu would hold herbs atop the pupils' heads to invoke the demons out of them. Using traditional charms, Ggulu spoke strange languages causing bark cloth-wound cow's horn to move around the place, a ritual he said he did to search for the demons.

"Sorcery has become a common practice in this district, especially in Ntwetwe, Kapeke, Kyankwanzi and Butemba sub-counties," Ggulu, who is also the Kapeke sub-county chairperson, said.

He noted that many people acquired demons without knowing their nature, adding that, "harmless demons do not ask for blood and human sacrifices."

Ggulu said some people use harmful demons to kill others in the struggle to gain wealth.

He said the Police had let the public down in handling witchcraft cases because they had failed to investigate such cases properly. He asked the Police to contact him in such cases.

"In such cases, the Police should be very careful because there are people who falsely accuse their neighbours of possessing demons for other interests," Ggulu said.

Ggulu appealed to parliamentarians to review the witchcraft law, which he said was weak.

Residents, some of whom, have migrated to other places in fear of the demons owned by their neighbours, said they were tired of endless mayhem caused to them by demons.

One Bisika resident, Isma Sserugya said Sserunkuuma's demons had not yet affected residents and boys in the school, arguing that they were convinced to believe that the demons were interested in virgin girls as Sserunkuuma disclosed on his arrest.

The district Police commander, Okwot Obwona, said most incidents of mob justice in Kiboga district were against witchcraft suspects.

The Bisika LCI chairperson, Diriyam Lukwago said, "I will not accept the practice of acquiring demons to go on in this village. We have even come up with a by-law to evict any one who will be found with demons."

Asked about the spiritual history of the residents, Lukwago said most of them were staunch believers, who did not believe in demons, adding that the Muslim community constituted the largest percentage.

The chairman asked residents to cooperate with his council to fight sorcery. The district director of health services, Dr. John Bosco Serebe, confirmed the incident but declined to comment further, saying the cases were still being examined in the district laboratory.

During the last demon attack, a priest Rev. Fr. Herman Kakooza was called in to pray pupils.

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