Ritual killing and human sacrifice in Africa

  • post Type / Campaigns
  • Date / 12 November 2010

Leo Igwe, IHEU’s representative for West and Southern Africa, is working to combat widespread human rights abuses caused by belief in sorcery and superstition. On November 11, 2010, he raised the issue of ritual killing and human sacrifice at the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, with the following statement.


Venue: Banjul, The Gambia.

Speaker: IHEU Representative Leo Igwe


Madam Chairperson,
The practice of ritual killing(1) and human sacrifice(2) continues to take place in several African countries in contravention of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and other human rights instruments. In this 21st century, human beings are still being hunted down, mutilated, murdered or sacrificed for ritual purposes across the region. Several cases of kidnapping and disappearance of persons(3) are traced to the vicious schemes and activities of ritualists. In most cases, those targeted for ritual sacrifice are vulnerable members of the population — the  poor, women, children(4), the aged and people with disabilities.(5)

Ritualists hunt for and harvest human body parts to prepare charms and magical concoctions. In some cases desperate ritualists invade cemeteries and exhume dead bodies(6) to extract body parts.

Ritual killing and related human rights abuses take place on the continent because many people still believe that the use of charms and the performance of ritual sacrifice can fortify them spiritually, enhance their fortunes in business and during elections, or protect them from harm, disease, poverty, accident, death or destruction.

Madam Chairperson, many cases of ritual sacrifice take place in secret locations. They are largely unreported, uninvestigated and unpunished. The perpetrators and their collaborators capitalize on the prevalent irrational fear of the supernatural among Africans, and the poor and corrupt policing and justice system, to get away with these egregious violations.

Victims of ritual sacrifice are mostly minors or vulnerable individuals who do not live to seek justice or redress or who lack the resources to seek redress if ever they survive the ordeal. The families of victims fear spiritual or supernatural backlash and therefore do not hold their states accountable. And local authorities lack the political will to uphold the rule of law and protect human rights.

There have been reports of ritual murder and human sacrifice in countries across the continent: in Nigeria(7), Uganda(8), Swaziland(9), Liberia(10), Tanzania(11), Namibia(12), Zimbabwe(13)

Madam Chairperson, 
The continued occurrence of ritual killing and related abuses in these countries are clear indications that these states are in breach of their human rights obligations under the African Charter. These atrocious acts are often defended and justified as part of African culture, religion or tradition and it is claimed that they should therefore be upheld without any objection despite their grave implications for human and people’s rights.

IHEU calls upon the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights to pay critical attention to ritual killing, human sacrifice and other human rights violations that are committed in the name of religion, culture or tradition. The African Commission should hold states where human sacrifice is still going on accountable and responsible.

IHEU calls upon the African Commission to raise issues concerning ritual killing and sacrifice during their official visits and when examining the periodic reports of states.

IHEU urges the governments of Nigeria, Uganda, Swaziland, Tanzania, Liberia to improve law enforcement, the quality of education, the mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights and to take other legislative and administrative measures to combat ritual murder and human sacrifice
Thank you
1. Williams Rotimi, “Human Sacrifice: Priest Kills Son to Appease Gods”, News Star, September 26, 2006 p.1,14
2.  Sseppuuya David, “Christians Unite against Human Sacrifice”, The New Vision (Uganda) Tuesday February 24, 2009 p.12
3. Omoarelojie Ernest, “Rage of Ritualists-Corpses without genitals, eyes and other organs litter the streets as ritualists run rampant. Observers blame the new 1000 naira note for the upsurge of kidnapping and ritual killing.” The News, October 2005 pp 23-25
4. David Molomo, “Ritualist hunt male children”, Saturday Sun July 3 2004 p.10
6. Lawal Iyabo, “Ritualists Exhume, Behead 49 Bodies”. The Guardian, Monday May 15 2006 p.3
7. Jacobson Austin, “Man Kills 3-yr-Old Cousin for Rituals.” News Star, Saturday November 21, 2009 pp1,14
8. Kasooha Ismael, “Girl Beheaded in Ritual Murder”. New Vision, February 24 2009
9. http://www.swazilive.com/Swaziland_News/Swaziland_News_Stories.asp?News_id=1680
10. Addison Bobby, “Gbo-yo Business (Ritualistic Killings in Liberia)”, The New Dawn, Friday March 25 2010 pp.1,10
12. http://allafrica.com/stories/201006240739.html
13. http://www.religionnewsblog.com/category/ritual-killing

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