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

US States Where Women Work for Free

Women earn less than men in all 50 states More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows Fight to Death Against IS

In wide-ranging interview, Fuad Masum describes new type of fight that will take time to win 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.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs