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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora