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The dangers of witchcraft

February 4, 2010

carEvery year, hundreds of people in the Central African Republic are convicted of witchcraft. One man, who received a 4-year sentence, says his case highlights some of the failures of the country’s judicial system.

Ange Mberkoulat was convicted of witchcraft after his village chief accused him of trying to kill a relative. He is officially a convict but is serving his sentence outside jail because of lack of resources in prisons

Ange says he was accused falsely. To make things worse arsonists allied to the chief burned down his house and beat up his wife. He and his family of 3 have since moved in with his sister-in-law.

The Central African Republic has endured several coups since independence in 1960 and fighting between rebels and government forces in the north has forced about 300,000 people from their homes. The political situation remains unstable despite disarmament programmes and a new national unity government in 2009.

Human rights activists say judicial corruption and abuse of prisoners are a problem. Witchcraft is a criminal offence here and is even punishable by execution in cases of homicide. The manner in which investigations are carried out is also often questionable.

State Prosecutor Kongo Parfait explains it like this: “Sometimes we directly consult a sorcerer who will put a product into the eyes of a person who has no relation to the victim and who can then determine where the fetishes of the accused have been hidden. Once the accused is found, he has to unearth the fetishes. Sometimes they will be found in the field or under the bed of the person and so on. In general, those are the indications.”

The catholic mission in Bozoum, about 300 km (200 miles) from the capital Bangui, often intervenes in witchcraft cases.

“They often accuse the weakest people — people who live alone, the ones who will not cause a lot of trouble and against whom, unfortunately, you can do whatever you like,” said mission priest Father Aurelio Gazzera, who helped rescue Ange from an angry mob.

The United Nations is also trying to improve the situation by training residents about their human rights and raising awareness of legal assistance.

A U.N. study found that in the local prison, more than half of those held were accused of witchcraft.

A few weeks after Ange recounted his experience to Reuters Africa Journal, he was imprisoned again.

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Posted by asksimba | Report as abusive

A rather good Caribbean-American author Lili Dauphin, makes frequent references to witchcraft and voodoo in her series of books based on the life of a little girl, Tilou, who lives in Haiti. The situation in Haiti concerning witchcraft strongly resembles the goings on in Africa as described in the above article. Lili elaborates on the dangers and destructiveness voodoo has on Haitian society, on progress and interpersonal relations within Haitian society. The first book of the series is Crying Mountain; the most recent book, Golden Soul, goes in greater depth about witchcraft and voodoo.

Posted by rocksolid | Report as abusive

For more in-depth news about Africa, you may want to visit Newstime Africa – We cover the whole of Africa

Posted by Newstime | Report as abusive

The problem of witchcraft and the havoc they wreck may be strange to the peolple in the advance countries.They can not comprehend the extent of damages they cause. In some cases they dont have words for some of the things they do.They have never and they cannot understand why such people should be removed from the society. All these happen in Africa because we are developing countries.In europe the generation before went through the same problems which is now very strange to the present generation. How do you explain to them the case of a child who wants his parents to remain in abject poverty. How do you convince them a mother killing her child for feitish purpose.While I do not support jungle justice I think the people of Central African Republic should be left to hand over punishment to such wicked people using whatever indigenous method they deemed fit. What has Human Right got to do with the Indegenous Judicial System of their country.In the U.S. death pennalty is still acceptable that is their indegenous way of dishing out justice and we Africans are indifferent to it. People in the advance world should stop seeing Africas indegenous way of doing things as inadequate and inferior. We are developing our system and a straight and clean break like in the past when we were colonised will push us rather backwards. We should allow the systems to develop naturally

Posted by shellyodus | Report as abusive


the africa you describe (and choose to remain) belongs to uneducated, ancient and retrogressive minds like yours. most africans, i should say, are leaving you behind.


Posted by rasuq | Report as abusive

african people, please save yourselfs still you can; perhaps to save the human rase again !!!

Posted by benniekay | Report as abusive

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