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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

OUT OF AFRICA FOR SURE...

Excuse me, is this the 21st Century or am I from another planet?

In Africa, Accusation of Witchcraft Leads to Abuse



The New York Times (see the whole article)


November 15, 2007


By SHARON LaFRANIERE

UIGE, Angola — Domingos Pedro was only 12 years old when his father died. The passing was sudden; the cause was a mystery to doctors. But not to Domingos’s relatives.

They gathered that afternoon in Domingos’s mud-clay house, he said, seized him and bound his legs with rope. They tossed the rope over the house’s 10-foot-high rafters and hoisted him up until he was suspended headfirst over the hard dirt floor. Then they told him they would cut the rope if he did not confess to murdering his father.

“They were yelling, ‘Witch! Witch!’” Domingos recalled, tears rolling down his face. “There were so many people all shouting at me at the same time.”

Terrified, Domingos told them what they wanted to hear, but his relatives were not appeased. Ferraz Bulio, the neighborhood’s traditional leader, said seven or eight captors were dragging Domingos down a dirt path to the river, apparently to drown him, when he intervened.

“They were slapping him and punching him,” Mr. Bulio recalled. “This is the way people react toward someone accused of witchcraft. There are lots of such cases.”

Mr. Bulio is right. In parts of Angola, Congo and the Congo Republic, a surprising number of children are identified as witches and beaten, abused or abandoned. Child advocates estimate that thousands of street children in Kinshasa, Congo’s rubble-strewn capital, have been accused of witchcraft and cast out by their families — often as a rationale for not having to feed or care for them.

The authorities in one northern Angolan town identified 432 street children who had been abandoned or abused as suspected witches. A report last year by the government’s National Institute for the Child and the United Nations Children’s Fund described the number of children deemed to be witches as “massive.”

The notion of child witches is not new here. It is a common belief in Angola’s dominant Bantu culture that witches can communicate with the world of the dead and usurp or “eat” the life force of others, bringing their victims misfortune, illness and death. Adult witches are said to bewitch children by giving them food, then forcing them to reciprocate by sacrificing a family member.

But officials attribute the surge in persecutions of children to war — 27 years in Angola, ending in 2002, and near constant strife in Congo. The conflicts orphaned many children, while leaving other families intact but too destitute to feed themselves.

“The witches situation started when fathers became unable to care for the children,” said Ana Silva, who is in charge of child protection for the children’s institute. “So they started seeking any justification to expel them from the family.”

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