A preacher in the northern Uganda district of Lira has confessed to 70 ritual killings, including his son.
Polino Angela, 50, formerly a witch-doctor based in Lira, said he was initiated into ritual murders in Kenya at a ceremony in which a 13-year-old boy was killed and his blood sprinkled on his (Angela’s) body. After this ritual, Angela was ordered by the healers to sacrifice his 10-year old boy, whom he killed.
“I deceived my wife and made sure that everyone else had gone away and I was with my child alone. Once he was placed down on the ground, I used a big knife and brought it down like a guillotine,” Angela told BBC journalists who were recently in Uganda to do a documentary on child sacrifice. The documentary was aired last Thursday.
Although he didn’t highlight where most of his 70 victims were got from, he said he has since abandoned the practice which majorly targeted vulnerable children.
“I want to be very open and sincere for the first time that there is nothing good about witchcraft. I practised as a witch doctor for 22 years, after I was immersed in blood. This, I was told, could help me speak many languages with the clients. I was instructed that on reaching home, I should pick my child, place him along the door way and on passing him, kill him,” he said.
“After this incident, I lost mercy for any one’s child, I never felt sorrow at any one moment for the sacrifice I made,” he added. Polino says he has since abandoned witchcraft and taken to serving God.
He works as a coordinator, Ex-Witch doctor’s Foundatation, an NGO started by a Catholic priest in Lira District to persuade witchdoctors to abandon the evil practice. He says that up to 2,800 witch doctors have since abandoned the practice in Northern Uganda and other parts of the country.
When asked whether he was afraid the information could be used to prosecute him, he said: “I have been to all the churches… and they know me as a warrior in the drive to end witchcraft that involves human sacrifice, so I think that alone should indemnify me and have me exonerated.”
Angela’s confession comes amidst growing public concern over rising numbers of children killed in ritual murders.
A 2009 report by Facilitation for Peace and Development (FAPAD), a Lira-based NGO, revealed that 40 children have either gone missing or have been killed in Lango and Acholi sub-regions.
The report says most of the cases of the missing children were reported in hospitals, nursery schools and other childcare centres in Gulu and Lira districts.
Vincent Oling, who worked as a translator during Angela’s confession, said that his arrest would not solve the problem.
“I was so depressed by his confession but I think he will be resourceful in giving the nation clues and identifying the people behind this practice since he said there are others at large,” said Oling, who also works with the Justice and Peace Commission in Lira.
“I was shocked when I heard this story. But his conscience was clear, the fact that he has already managed to convert over 2,000 former murderers is good enough…,” added Ms Eunice Apio, the FAPAD executive director.
“Other than looking for skulls and detaining him, let us engage his willingness. The Police should use him to trace other murderers at large,” she added. Others, however, called for his prosecution.
“His preaching can’t take away the crimes he has committed against humanity, if there is evidence of the offences against him he may not escape the law,” said Anselm Wandega, the head of policy advocacy at ANPPCAN Uganda Chapter.
He, however, called on the government to put in place a law that regulates activities of traditional healers, saying the 1958 Witch Craft Act is outdated.
“The case shows the urgency that is required to have the law in place, it will differentiate the genuine healers from quacks,” he said.
Moses Binoga, head of the Police anti-Human Sacrifice Task Force, said they had on Friday opened a file for the accused in Amolatar District, were Angela is said to be living.
“We want to first ascertain the allegations and establish the facts, whether there is or no complainant against him,” Binoga said.