Police say the cult whose members are mainly wealthy Kampalans originated from West Africa
Police are investigating a religious cult of predominantly wealthy people linked to human sacrifice in the country.The Observer has learnt that Police earlier this year, acting on a tip-off, sanctioned an investigation into claims that some wealthy people in the country are responsible for the spiralling acts of child human sacrifice in the country.
The Acting Commissioner of the Police Investigations Department, Moses Binoga, told The Observer in an interview last Thursday at CID headquarters in Kibuli that the Police are taking these allegations seriously.
Since the start of the year, his department has gathered information on this cult whose activities are mainly concentrated in Kampala. He says the cult originated from West Africa.
Authorities in West Africa have in the recent past fought running battles with cult members. On August 6, cult members shot and killed a policeman in Nigeria who was considered a threat to the cult’s activities in Adigbe area.
In the same country, 13 students were killed in clashes between cults calling themselves the Black Axe and the Black Eye, all said to be practising black magic. Some of their activities include killing, rape, extortion and theft.
Nigeria Police also clashed with the Boko Haram cult, killing 700 people and arresting hundreds of members of the group.
“We are investigating a cult which makes them [followers] take human blood periodically. It is a devil cult,” Binoga says of the Kampala cult.
Binoga, who also heads the Collation Crime Intelligence Unit, could however not discuss their findings so far, citing fear of jeopardising the investigations.
“It is an open secret everyone is talking about it, they say if you don’t take blood, the wealth will go,” Binoga says.
Dawn of human sacrifice
Human sacrifice and more intensely child sacrifice is not new to Uganda. On January 22, 1999, one-year-old Milly Nsonyiwa of Mukono District disappeared from her mother, Esther Nakachwa. Her remains where discovered in a shrine a month later.
On April 4, 1999, five year old Shammim Muhammad was left in the care of a neighbour, Francis Muwanga, by her mother Jalia Katusiime, a hair dresser.
Muwanga fled with the little girl, killing her and cutting off her head. He removed her tongue, fingers and private parts. His wife confessed that the two were working on the orders of a witch doctor, Yunus Samanya, who told them that if they sacrificed a child to the spirits, they would become rich.
Muwanga, his wife and the witch doctor were sentenced to death on July 29, 1999 and are in prison.
A year before on October 9, 1998, James Kareju Mugisha in Nyabushozi, Kiruhura District, was arrested while attempting to sell his son, Reuben Mugabe, aged 12 to a construction company for Shs 3million for ritual sacrifice. These are some of the cases that made news before 2008.
But in December 2008, the arrest of businessman Godfrey Kato Kajubi in connection with the kidnap and ritual killing of 12-year-old Joseph Kasirye, brought to light many other cases totalling 318 in 2008 – up from 230 in 2006.
Kajubi is accused of buying the head of the boy for witchcraft to boost his wealth. Soon after Kajubi’s arrest, another man, Abbas Mugerwa, was arrested in Masajja after he beheaded his twins.
Mugerwa told The Observer that a rich man had asked him for his twins in exchange for Shs 50million, a deal Mugerwa agreed to; prompting him to behead the three-year olds.
In Nakibizi, Mukono District, one Emmanuel Kironde, a toddler, was found dead with his neck and wrists missing. The toddler had gone missing from his grand mother’s home, Namwandu Wamala, in Njeru Town Council.
Police arrested Moses Kimbowa, a witchdoctor and his accomplices Muzamiru Mukalazi and Anthony Ssendikadiwa. Kimbowa confessed to killing four people.
“Kajubi’s arrest attracted the attention of very many people and after that everything that was happening was taken as human sacrifice, yet in reality the situation is not so bad, it’s been contained; incidents are reducing,” says Binoga.
He adds many of the cases of missing children have been mistaken for child sacrifice when in fact it is human trafficking, as discovered by the CID.
But human sacrifice is one form of trafficking because it involves moving people from one place to another with the intention of exploiting them for their body parts or turning them into slaves.
Get rich quick
Florence Kirabira, Acting Head of Child and Family Protection Unit, says an assessment by Police has revealed that many Ugandans are obsessed with money and becoming rich quickly without working for it.
Some of those obsessed with getting rich quick are ready to do anything, including killing –if that is what the witchdoctor recommends - to reach their goal.
“It’s a difficult and complex situation where children have been sacrificed because of an urge for people to get wealthy. We have people who believe in getting rich [at all costs],” Kirabira says.
According to James Ongom, an investigating officer, 40 children have lost their lives to ritual killings this year alone. Out of these cases, 15 have so far been investigated, but no one has been convicted.
Others attribute part of the belief in super natural powers to the recent wave of “Nollywood” movies from West Africa whose main themes are wealth and devil worship.
“They [people] think when you sacrifice human blood you will become rich over night. Or get promotions on the job ahead of others,” Binoga says.
Children who are considered pure and free of sin are the biggest target. More over, they are easier to trap. A 2007 Police crime report revealed that 230 children fell prey to criminals. Four children were murdered, 44 were rescued.
Most cases occurred in Kampala, Mukono, Mityana, Jinja, Masaka, Masindi and Tororo districts. In December 2008, Police Spokesperson, Judith Nabakooba, said Police had registered 130 cases of missing children.
Incidentally, Uganda doesn’t have a law against human trafficking, which complicates the fight against human sacrifice. In early April 2009, Parliament passed the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2008, which prescribes penalties of 15 years to life imprisonment.
However, it is yet to be assented to by the President. For now, the Penal Code is the only law used to charge people involved in human trafficking. According Binoga, the government established a five-person anti-trafficking Police unit within the Ugandan Police Force’s (UPF) Child and Family Protection Unit (CFPU) in January 2009.
Law enforcement officers investigated a number of suspected trafficking cases but did not secure convictions of any offenders.
Human sacrifice, on the other hand, is treated as murder and anyone found guilty of ritual killing is charged with murder and the maximum sentence is death.