Recent discovery of two decomposed male bodies with missing body parts highlights the need for renewed effort in addressing ritual killings. The Children’s Consortium under the Coordinating Assembly of NGOs in Eswatini is saddened by the continued killing of people with impunity for ritual purposes. Latest reports of such murders seem to continue unabated, despite the Children’s Consortium and partners having marched in a wide-national awareness raising launch in condemnation of the act last month.
The latest incident of a man who was mutilated reflects the vulnerability of all people in the society an increase in number of missing and murdered people. As no one is safe from these attacks, there needs to be more effort put in terms of community visible policing to protect citizens of the country.
According to the 2015 Report of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on the study on the situation of human rights of persons living with albinism, ritual killing and related human rights abuses take place on the continent because some people still believe in charms and that the performance of ritual sacrifices can fortify them spiritually, enhance their fortunes in business and during elections, or protect them from harm, disease, poverty, accident, death or destruction.
There are beliefs that human body parts can magically gain people wealth, prosperity and/or to gain them power in winning elections. The result of such beliefs is that several cases of kidnapping and disappearance of persons are traced to the vicious schemes and activities of alleged ritualists. In most cases, those targeted for ritual sacrifice are vulnerable of the population — the poor, women, children the aged and people with disabilities.
These are wrong beliefs totally in disregard of the human life which ought to be protected at all times. Such attacks involve the violation of fundamental human rights. The practice of ritual killing is against the tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and other human rights instruments. In this 21st century, it is sad to see inhabitants of the Kingdom being hunted down like wild animals, mutilated, murdered or sacrificed for ritual purposes or elections. All of the above practices must be thoroughly interrogated and solutions brought forward on how they could be ended.
The perpetrators and their collaborators who get away with these egregious violations capitalize on the prevalent fear and vulnerability of eMaSwati and poor, ineffective policing as well as in short supply protective measures delaying due justice for the victims and their families.
In such events, vulnerable individuals do not live to seek justice or redress because they are dead or lack the resources to pursue cases for redress if ever they survive the ordeal.
The families and communities fear spiritual or supernatural backlash therefore never hold their duty bearers accountable.
Local authorities lack the necessary tools and skills to enforce the rule of law to protect human rights without evidence even if there are known suspects.
Traditional healers need to come out boldly to rise up against the killings, name and shame clients and their peers if ever they are suspected to be practicing witchcraft. There is need to have a national dialogue with all stakeholders and denounce ritual killings in all its forms. Ritual killings are a harmful social practice and should be addressed as such. As some are eager to enter or re-enter political offices in September this year, we continue to call for renewed actions by state entities in addressing ritual killings that are alleged to be linked to the national elections. The children’s Consortium under CANGO further calls for the following:
• The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights should pay critical attention to ritual killing, human sacrifice and other human rights violations that are committed in the name of religion, culture or tradition and highlight it as a serious cause of concern during state party reports. Furthermore, the African Commission must raise issues concerning ritual killing and sacrifice during their official visits and when examining the periodic reports of states;
• The African Commission should hold states where human sacrifice is still ongoing accountable and responsible;
• Duty bearers especially law enforcement be provided with adequate resources and facilities to expedite the process of prosecution for such cases;
• The quality of education, the mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights should be strengthened;
• Aggressive legislative and administrative measures should be implemented to combat ritual murder and human sacrifice;
• UN bodies, EU, local private partners and other international partners should support local initiatives and join hands with local organisations that aim to call for an end to ritual killings;
• Allocate more resources to host community sensitization awareness campaigns at community level to denounce some of the myths associated with ritual killings.
For more information, contact
Chair of the Children’s Consortium