BLANTYRE, MALAWI —
Malawi has seen a surge in mob violence amid rumors of vampires. At least nine people have been stoned to death since the start of September, and police have arrested 140 people accused of taking part in vigilante justice.
On Oct.19, an angry mob in Blantyre stoned to death a 22-year-old epileptic man suspected of being a ritual blood sucker. The vigilantes also stoned to death another person in a separate incident the same day.
Residents report nocturnal visits by the alleged vampires.
Malawi president visits area
Aida Chikopa told her story directly to President Peter Mutharika when he visited her area.
She says "it happened to me on 19th September. When I was asleep around 8 o’clock in the evening, I was surprised to see blood coming from my nose. And blood was all over my mat. I asked my husband to light a torch to see what was happening. He went outside the house but could not see and find anything. But I was very weak that night."
The president asked her to clarify, but Chikopa repeated the same statement.
Police and medics say the rumors are a hoax.
Lexten Kachama is the inspector general of the Malawi Police Service.
"You can have nose bleeding, in Chichewa we call it nkafuno. If you get that nkafuno you quickly rush to believe that blood sucker came and started sucking me blood — that is not true."
Rumors start in September
The rumors started in early September and have spread to seven districts of the country. Residents told VOA they believe the blood suckers use modern technology and magic to immobilize victims late at night with a chemical, then drain their blood before vanishing.
Government authorities are yet to establish the origin of the rumors, but residents believe they came from neighboring Mozambique.
Kalepa Mawele is the chairperson for Phalombe district council.
He says "here in Phalombe we have bordered Mozambique. We started hearing about rumors of blood suckers from Mozambique. And now, they have spread in all areas of our six traditional authorities here in Phalombe."
Some critics have tied the rumors to the recent nullification of vagrancy laws that prevented people from loitering on the streets at night.
Peace Corps volunteers withdrawn
Most of those killed in the mob attacks were strangers to the area where they were attacked.
But the executive director of Center for Human Rights Education, Victor Mhango, disagrees with that premise.
"I think we are primitive society. I think the belief in Juju that makes us believe that this is happening. The police have challenged the nation that if you have evidence, show us, we are going to arrest them. People are just creating that, maybe they have got some other motives."
In the meantime, U.N. agencies have withdrawn their workers from affected districts, and the U.S. embassy has temporarily pulled out Peace Corps volunteers.