News / Africa

Children Accused of Witchcraft Left Vulnerable in Central African Republic

A 15-year old boy accused of witchcraft in the Central African Republic came to a home for street children in Bangui after suffering abuse at home. Photo: G. Joselow (VOA)A 15-year old boy accused of witchcraft in the Central African Republic came to a home for street children in Bangui after suffering abuse at home. Photo: G. Joselow (VOA)
x
A 15-year old boy accused of witchcraft in the Central African Republic came to a home for street children in Bangui after suffering abuse at home. Photo: G. Joselow (VOA)
A 15-year old boy accused of witchcraft in the Central African Republic came to a home for street children in Bangui after suffering abuse at home. Photo: G. Joselow (VOA)
Gabe Joselow
Eleven-year-old Gracia sits in a chair that is two sizes too big for her, dangling her skinny legs and speaking with poise and wisdom about a life that has not been easy.
 
She was born poor; her parents died when she was very young. After that, people who knew her say she began to act erratically. She had strange dreams.
 
Gracia says the uncle she lived with accused her of being a witch.

“When I was with my family,” she says, “they beat me and accused me of sorcery because I would go out at night. That's why they brought me here.”

Gracia now lives at a center for vulnerable children outside of Bangui. She says she is treated like the others there. And unless she talks about it, there is no way to know her background, except maybe from the two small scars over her left eye - cuts from a razor blade that was used in a exorcism ritual.
 
Gracia says she does not believe in witchcraft. But Michel Gbegbe, president of the organization running the center, says he does.

“We have received children who did not know they were witches,” he says. “But then they start to realize it as they develop their sorcery and then they understand it.”
 
Gbegbe says Christian values are at the center of everything he does here. He says children accused of witchcraft are “healed” through prayer and counseling.

Exorcism and the Church
 
Although the concept of witchcraft has a history in some African cultures, here in the Central African Republic and in other countries, belief in witchcraft has increased along with the number of Christian revivalist churches.
 
The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, has documented many examples of pastors spraying children with gasoline, administering poison to children and beating them in elaborate exorcism rituals. There have also been cases of children being left for days or even weeks inside of churches with little or no food.

Of course there is money to be made off of these rituals and both Christian and so-called “traditional healers” charge a relative fortune for their services.
 
Fosca Guilidori, the Chief of Child Protection for UNICEF in the Central African Republic, says families here sometimes turn to witchcraft as a way to explain the changes taking place in a society that is rapidly becoming more urban.
 
“I think in a way it's a reaction to the modernity,” she says, “to the fact that people are even more poor than before, and it is a way that society is dealing with the modernity and globalization.”

A Way Out

Guilidori says children often are cast out of their homes, and can run into trouble with the law like other street children who often turn to prostitution or stealing to survive.

She says reintegration into the community is key for helping children who are accused of witchcraft, starting with finding host families to adopt them.
 
“Of course, it takes a long period,” she says ,”but it seems like the community is starting to understand the child is with his foster family and nothing has happened to them, so maybe he [or she] is not a witch.”

The number of children labeled witches is hard to determine. Guilidori says they know only of those who end up in the juvenile justice system.

This was the case for a 15-year-old boy at a center for homeless children in Bangui said his uncle beat him with a piece of wood and broke his arm after accusing him of being a witch. It was only after the police intervened that he was able to get help.

Despite it all, he says he still believes in sorcery but does not believe that he himself is a witch.

Of those children who have had encounters with the law this year in the Central African Republic, only about five percent have been accused of having ties to witchcraft.
 
Experts say that in a developing country that lacks basic services and education and has a history of conflict, too many children, witches or not, remain vulnerable.

You May Like

Russian Help on Iran Less Promising on Syria, Ukraine

US-Russian collaboration to secure a deal on Iran's nuclear program has raised hopes of closer cooperation on other world issues More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe More

US-Ethiopia Relationship Strong, But Complicated

While Ethiopia serves as a valuable security ally and a bulwark against terrorism - the U.S., is a major aid donor and economic stimulator More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backersi
X
Michael Bowman
July 26, 2015 8:44 PM
Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Underground Streetcar Station In Washington, DC, to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Rise in HIV Infections Worries Ugandan Officials

Uganda had the third-highest number of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa last year, reversing its reputation for successfully tackling the epidemic in the 1990s. Although the percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS is still half of what it was in the 1980s, the increase in new infections is worrying to health workers. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs