24 January 2013

Uganda: Fear of Arrest Abets Child Sacrifice - Report

According to a report titled, 'Child Sacrifice and the Mutilation of Children in Uganda' by Humane Africa, most people are reluctant to report incidents of child sacrifice to the police for fear of being arrested.

The research, conducted in 25 communities in south and south-eastern Uganda last year, indicates that most interviewees' are afraid of violence during interrogation. The report cites a witness in Wakiso district, who hesitated to report a child murder to the police after discovering a headless body last year.

"I hope you won't take me to the police but I think it is the traditional healers," he said.

"I will tell you but don't take me as a suspect at the police," said another interviewee, who had witnessed the body of a five-year-old girl without her genitalia and tongue.

According to Simon Fellows, the Director of Humane Africa, a UK-registered charity working in Africa to prevent social harms connected with witchcraft and child sacrifice, this fear of imprisonment comes at the cost of hiding the vice. The police homicide department reported nine cases of child mutilation and four cases of adults being mutilated between January and November 2012. During the four-month period from June to September 2012, four cases were officially reported throughout Uganda.

"This figure is in stark contrast to the 20 mutilations which occurred in the same period in the 25 communities where this research was based," Fellows said during the launch of the report in Kampala today.

However, Noa Sserunjoji, the police spokesman for the southern region, dismisses the claims that people who report the cases are arrested. Instead, he says, people don't report these cases for fear of tarnishing of the names of the perpetrators who are 'rich people'. Sserunjoji adds that others are also afraid that the witchcraft will turn against them if they report the case.

The researchers looked at Kiryandongo, Masindi, Wakiso, Mayuge, Jinja, Mukono, Kalungu, Buikwe and Masaka districts. The research shows that people mutilate children to evade poverty and frustration due to a strong belief in the effectiveness of the use of body parts such as blood and tissue in traditional medicine.

In one of the interviews recorded with a believer in child mutilation, the interviewee said, "When I wanted to get rid of bed wetting, I was given the genitalia of a young boy which I tied around my knickers for two days and it worked for me," the interviewee said.

This interviewee added that although she felt guilty that a child was mutilated to help her resolve her problem, she would support the vice if the need arose again, as body parts are stronger than herbs. The research indicates that the tongue and genitalia are the commonly mutilated parts. Also females between the age of three and 18 are most at risk of mutilation.

The research was conducted in partnership with the British High Commission, Makerere University, The Norwegian Embassy in Uganda, Save the Children, Empower and Care Organization and Kyampisi Child Care.

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