Child sacrifice in Uganda
Rural districts near Kampala, Uganda's capital, have been badly affected by kidnappings of children for sacrificial purposes and are gripped by fear. On the roadsides posters have been put up warning children of the danger of abduction by witch doctors for the purpose of child sacrifice.
The witchdoctor will consult the spirits for anyone who can pay his fee. The spirits via him will communicate what kind of sacrifice of appeasement they want. Often these sacrifices are chickens or goats, but when such sacrifices fail to make the client prosper instantly ‘the spirits’ demand human sacrifices.
The witchdoctor himself may believe that this is indeed a powerful magical ritual but in some cases the aim is to give the client an impossible task so that the witchdoctor does not appear to have failed. In other cases the witchdoctor actually gains a lot of wealth by facilitating and carrying out human sacrifices as the fee charged is normally very high.
Young children are often the victim because they are relatively easy to abduct. The desire for instant wealth on the part of the client and greed on the part of the witchdoctor has created a ready market for children to be bought and sold at a price. Children have become a commodity of exchange and child sacrifice is more than a religious or cultural issue, it has become a commercial business.
A study of the Ugandan context shows great disparity between the rich elite and the average Ugandan who struggles to make ends meet. It is almost impossible for someone born in a poor family to climb up on the social ladder. The gap between the rich and the poor combined with discontent with the political status quo, endemic corruption and general feeling that the country has lost direction breeds a lot of discontent and frustration. It is in such an environment that the witch doctors thrive who promise desperate people a miraculous way to bridge the gap from have-not to have, from failure to success and from poverty to wealth.
Witch doctors point at the small elite who has become rich in a relatively short time during Uganda’s economic boom in the early 21st century and claim that they have aided many of the nouveau riche to gain their wealth. According to the head of the country's Anti-Human Sacrifice Taskforce the child sacrifice is directly linked to rising levels of development and prosperity, and an increasing belief that witchcraft can help people get rich quickly.
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The issue of child sacrifice in Uganda has been highlighted in the media over the past three years with ABC (Australia) and BBC producing compelling reports and documentaries. The media attention coincided with media campaigns by Ugandan NGOs such as RACHO, ANPPCAN-Uganda, faith based organisations such as Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM) and Rose's Journey--a collective effort of Ugandans and friends of Uganda to end child sacrifice.
The media attention has put the government of Uganda under pressure to be seen doing something about the issue of child sacrifice and has resulted in the formation of an official government taskforce to deal with this matter in Ugandan society. The taskforce consists of an officer with a motorcycle and works without a proper budget. Consequently, many Ugandans believe that the gesture of the Ugandan government is more a matter of window dressing to avert local and international criticism than a genuine attempt.
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- ; BBC 2010. Human sacrifices 'on the rise in Uganda' as witch doctors admit to rituals, BBC Investigation quoted in the Telegraph (7 January): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/uganda/6944292/Human-sacrifices-on-the-rise-in-Uganda-as-witch-doctors-admit-to-rituals.html
- Vernaschi, Marco 2010. Child Sacrifice in Uganda. Pulitzer center (April 16): http://pulitzercenter.org/blog/untold-stories/uganda-child-sacrifice-not-cultural-issue
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