News / Africa

Sierra Leone Ritual Murder Fears Rise Ahead of Elections

So-called ritual murders have been a part of African society for centuries. In Sierra Leone, some believe ritual murders increase during election time because some politicians think they will gain political power from another human's body parts.

This Saturday, people will vote for a president and members of parliament. But one man is only thinking about the loss of his sister in what he said appears to be a ritual murder.

Osman Bangura sits outside his home at Six Mile village, a remote community about 40 kilometers from Freetown, the country's capital. He is remembering his elder sister, Zainab, who was killed last July.

"She was so tall and so nice, and a beautiful lady," said Bangura.

A beautiful lady whose life was taken too soon, he added. She was just 35 years old. Her body was found in the bush outside the village. Her private parts were missing, as well as her tongue, Bangura said. He worried that Zainab was a victim of a ritual murder because when body parts are missing that indicates they were sacrificed.

"This happens anytime elections take place in Sierra Leone, and this is the first time it happened in this village," explained Bangura.

Ritual murders in Sierra Leone's culture date back before colonial times, said Joe Alie, a professor who teaches history and African studies at Fourah Bay College in Freetown.
 
He says the British colonial government tried to stamp out the practice, but to this day, he said, some believe body parts will give them power and political gains. He said allegations of these murders tend to increase during an election year.

"There is this belief for instance that if they remove fat from a human being and some diviner makes some concoction from it, and you rub [it] on your face - wherever you appear in public you'll be the guy that everyone looks up to, you become very powerful, very famous," explained Alie.

Implementing specific laws

So-called ritual murders happen across the continent. In recent years, authorities in Tanzania have tried to stop a wave of albino killings, driven by a demand for their body parts.

But these beliefs are something Alpha Jalloh wants stopped. He is a correspondent in Freetown for the Patriotic Vanguard, an online newspaper based in Canada. Although he has been following Zainab's case, it is also something that hits close to home for him.

"My dad was killed. Today as I talk to you, I have never known the killers, and his [body] parts were taken off," explained Jalloh. "There was no trial, we've never known the suspects, so whenever these things happen I become very emotional. I grew up as an orphan."

Jalloh wants to see specific laws and punishment for ritual murders put in place in Sierra Leone and internationally. According to the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, there are no laws that strictly deal with ritual murders - a person can only be charged with murder.

Unreported

Jalloh recalled a story he covered in the 1980's. Alhaji Tokowa, who murdered a baby and used the skin for ritual purposes, was convicted in the High Court of Sierra Leone. Since then there have been several other murders believed to be connected with rituals, but in some instances suspects escape the law, he said.

He added that it is hard to know how many people in the country were victims of alleged ritual murders because many cases go unreported.

"These are issues mainly happening in remote areas, where it is difficult to even see police. Like Six Mile village, you have to walk two miles [3.2 kilometers] to come to [a] police post where you have no more than a few policemen," said Jalloh. "Each village is far away from the other, so when something happens it takes time for other villages to know what has happened, and that is what happened with Zainab."

Regarding Zainab's case, two men have been arrested and are currently in prison, according to Inspector Henry Sesay with the Waterloo Police Department. The case is currently before the magistrate in Waterloo, which is the town closest to Six Mile village. Sesay could not comment further on whether or not police suspect it to be a ritual murder, but the matter is under investigation.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid