Catherine Karma is a six-year old student who lives right outside Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. On 16 March, Catherine Karma was expelled from the TYNECEPLOH Education Foundation School after being accused of having “the power of the ‘dark world’ and the ability to initiate other students”.
The administration of the school has not shown any proof or direct involvement of Catherine Karma performing witchcraft activities and as of 17 March has not made any public comment on this decision.
Momolu Dorley, President of Humanists Liberia, commented the news:
“Humanists Liberia has learned with utter shock about the expulsion of a six-year old Catherine Karma from TYNECEPLOH Education Foundation for being a ‘witch’.
“Humanists Liberia strongly condemns the decision of the school. This cruel act does not only have the propensity to isolate Ms. Karma but will lead to perennial trauma that will terribly affect her growth and overall welfare of Catherine Karma.
“Humanists Liberia is calling for a swift publicly written apology to Catherine and her family. We are also calling on the government to assist with counseling of Catherine and family and to take punitive action against the school to send a strong deterrence to others in the habit of falsely accusing their compatriots of witchcraft. The issue of witchcraft is a long standing dogma that has alienated many and stifled development. It is time to tackle it head on!”
Leo Igwe, Director of Advocacy for Alleged Witches, commented:
“The decision to expel Ms. Karma is shameful, outrageous, and difficult to comprehend. First of all, how did the school confirm that Ms. Karma was a witch? How was the school able to ascertain that she indulged in witchcraft activities (whatever that means)? In fact, what does the school understand by witchcraft?
“The role of a school is to educate and enlighten pupils and lead students out of ignorance and superstitions. A school should dispel irrational fears and anxieties, not reinforce these misconceptions. By expelling Ms. Karma, the school has failed in its role as an educational center. The school has betrayed the academic and enlightenment trust that the parents and the society repose in it.
“AfAW urges the school to take all the necessary measures and ensure that Ms. Catherine Karma continues her education without any further disruption, while ensuring that this educational failure does not repeat itself in this school again.”
Lillie Ashworth, Advocacy Officer at Humanists International, said:
“Fear of witchcraft is used to justify extreme human rights abuses around the world. In the past year, we have witnessed witchcraft accusations lead to mob violence, extrajudicial killing and ostracisation in countries such as Nigeria, Malawi, India, Guatemala, and now, Liberia.
“As Catherine Karma’s case demonstrates, the strong stigma associated with an accusation of witchcraft can result in an innocent individual being blamed for society’s ills, and treated as if they are not a human being deserving of empathy and basic human rights. States can – and should – be doing more to address witchcraft-related abuse.
“At the UN Human Rights Council and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Humanists International, with support from its Members and Associates, has been calling for States to develop comprehensive strategies to tackle the roots of the problem: belief in the imaginary crime of witchcraft, the structural poverty that enables irrational superstitions to thrive, and the individuals who exploit it for personal gain.”