In Uganda, Child Sacrifices Remain Frighteningly Too Common

Children play in the town of Nakasongola on February 22, 2017. Children here continue to live in constant fear of being kidnapped and sacrificed. (Photo: Tonny Onyulo)

It’s been a year since Cynthia Misanya found the dismembered body of her 10-year-old daughter, Jane, in a pit under an outhouse. The girl had gone to fetch water in a nearby swamp when she was abducted, strangled and dismembered. Body parts were recovered miles away.

“I was shocked when I saw the mutilated body of my daughter,” Misanya, 30, wept as she recalled the horror. “I really couldn’t believe if she was really my daughter. She was missing almost every part of her body. She died a very painful death.”

Police later arrested a wealthy neighbor, businessman Gilbert Odima, who authorities alleged used Jane as a human sacrifice in a witchcraft ritual designed to bring him good fortune. “He confessed to me that he carried out the ritual to boost his dwindling business,” Misanya recounted about Odima, who is now in prison awaiting trial. “He said he knew the act would bring him good luck and success in life.” 

Misanya’s gruesome experience is only too common in Uganda, where human sacrifice — especially of children — occurs despite the government’s efforts to stop it. Ugandan figures show seven child and six adult sacrifices in 2015, the most recent numbers available. In 2014, police recorded nine child and four adult sacrifices. Five years before, they counted 29 cases in total, the most in recent years.

The actual number of human sacrifices likely is higher, says Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, which rehabilitates children lucky enough to escape the ritual. The organization tallied six cases this year in the capital of Kampala alone. Thousands of children go missing in Uganda annually, and dozens are likely victims of sacrifice, said Peter Sewakiryanga, a pastor and the aid group’s director.

“There are several cases of child sacrifice which are neither reported to us nor police,” said Sewakiryanga. “But we act in time to help those people who report to us. We provide financial and medical care for survivors of child sacrifice.”

Fueling the practice are witch doctors and believers willing to kill and offer body parts to dark spirits to get rich, heal diseases, mitigate misfortunes, forestall impending events or even help their favorite candidates win elections.

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Tonny Onyulo