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

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs