A BBC investigation into human sacrifice in Uganda has heard first-hand accounts which suggest ritual killings of children may be more common than authorities have acknowledged.
One witch-doctor led us to his secret shrine and said he had clients who regularly captured children and brought their blood and body parts to be consumed by spirits.
Meanwhile, a former witch-doctor who now campaigns to end child sacrifice confessed for the first time to having murdered about 70 people, including his own son.
The Ugandan government told us that human sacrifice is on the increase, and according to the head of the country’s Anti-Human Sacrifice Taskforce the crime is directly linked to rising levels of development and prosperity, and an increasing belief that witchcraft can help people get rich quickly.
In the course of our investigation we witnessed the ritual torching of the shrine of a particularly active witch-doctor in northern Uganda by anti-sacrifice campaigners.
The witch-doctor allowed ceremonial items including conch shells and animal skins to be burned in his sacred grove after agreeing to give up sacrifice.
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He told us that clients had come to him in search of wealth.
“They capture other people’s children. They bring the heart and the blood directly here to take to the spirits… They bring them in small tins and they place these objects under the tree from which the voices of the spirits are coming,” he said.
Asked how often clients brought blood and body parts, the witch-doctor said they came “on average three times a week – with all that the spirits demand from them.”
Former witch-doctor turned anti-sacrifice campaigner Polino Angela says he has persuaded 2,400 other witch-doctors to give up the trade since he himself repented in 1990.
Child protection activists in organisations such as FAPAD (Facilitation for Peace and Development) and ANPPCAN (African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect) have highlighted recent cases of ritual killing and called for new legislation to regulate so-called “traditional healers”.
Watch Tim Whewell’s film investigating the rise in child sacrifice in Uganda
Child Sacrifice is On the Rise in Uganda (Aug. 14, 2006)
Uganda’s epidemic of child sacrifice (Mar. 1, 2009)
African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN)