Young boys mutilated, left for dead and used for charm in Uganda

The blood of young boys is a particularly powerful ingredient in potions and spells concocted by the witch doctors that operate in a booming industry in Uganda.

Severed genitalia, torn scraps of flesh, an ear or a nose, and fingers are also sought-after in these barbaric practices, which gullible or terrified customers are told represent the height of cultural lore.
For an especially complex ritual, a witch doctor will use the entire decapitated head of a child in his ritual.

And in certain circumstances, such as a new building that a developer wants spiritual intervention to ensure the success of, a boy is likely to be buried alive beneath the foundations.

The cases of child sacrifice in Uganda in Africa’s east have risen sharply in recent years, despite witch doctors not being part of the country’s rich culture.

And as this week’s episode of Dateline on SBS uncovers, police and the court system have been slow to act on the escalating issue.

Instead, it’s being left to one man to both hunt down witch doctors and to take in and care for the children who are lucky enough to survive sacrifice attacks.

Robert, a victim of child sacrifice, came to Australia for lifesaving treatment.
Robert, a victim of child sacrifice, came to Australia for lifesaving treatment.Source:Supplied
Peter Michael Sewakiryanga had a good life as a successful accountant when the deaths of three children from one family in his village flung his life onto a different path.

The boys had been brutalised with machetes and had their blood drained, before being dumped and left for dead in the bush.

I saw the family’s pain, the community’s anger, I helped with the collection of the bodies and attended the funerals, Mr Sewakiryanga told
There were more and more and more cases. My life took a twist because I decided it was my calling. I had to do something. No life can be enjoyable when there is suffering right next door. For me, it was pointless to pursue my career when there was no help for these children.
Peter holding a community awareness event about the dangers of witch doctors.
Peter holding a community awareness event about the dangers of witch doctors.Source:Supplied
Witch craft exists in secret in Uganda, the go-to of the rich and powerful who want a shortcut to wealth, good health and luck.

People who are poor but deeply superstitious are also lured in by witch doctors — savvy conmen who employ manipulation and fear to snatch new customers.

Even the educated who know the powers do not exist still fear these witch doctors, even the police fear them, Mr Sewakiryanga said. If everybody fears them, who will challenge them?

It’s rare that children survive the rituals, but those who do are physically and emotionally scarred for life. Many have deformities and disabilities as a result of their extensive injuries.

A witch doctor who Peter tracked and helped arrest.
A witch doctor who Peter tracked and helped arrest.Source:Supplied
Mr Sewakiryanga began taking in boys to help their recovery. Among the first was a boy whose genitalia were cut off and another who a witch doctor attempted to behead.

They will use the genitalia, ears or nose of a child, the blood and the tissue, or the head, some will use a live child, he said of the barbaric witch doctors.
Very few children survive. For those who do, it is very painful and they have lifelong physical and emotional scars. Many need lifetime rehabilitation and care.

Uganda is a deeply spiritual and traditionally religious country, with lores surrounding the power of animal sacrifice that some still subscribe to.

Healers also hold sway, using herbs and natural ingredients to craft medicines that treat everything from colds and coughs to infertility.

But this has been (hijacked) by liars and cheats to promote black magic, Mr Sewakiryanga said. Child sacrifice is not our culture. Our culture is very rich and we cherish it, but it has been tainted with the blood of innocent children.

Unspeakable crimes are hiding behind culture and religious freedom, he said, but the widespread abduction, torture and murder of countless children — mostly boys — is a human rights crisis.

In the last six months, we have had over 12 cases of children who have been sacrificed, those are the ones who are dead, he said.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

There are other cases that we suspect involve witch doctors. There are bodies that have been dumped in the bush, they have been found there with signs of sacrifice. There are 30 missing children in the last three months.

The Dateline episode shows Mr Sewakiryanga and SBS reporter Amos Roberts trying to enlist the help of police to track and arrest a known witch doctor, who has left a trail of victims and tormented survivors in his wake.

But even if an arrest is made, prosecuting the criminals is a long process — if it occurs at all.

While support in Uganda has been difficult to muster, a team of Australians has leant their support to Mr Sewakiryanga.

Brisbane charity Droplets in a Stream raises funds to care for survivors, who require long-term rehabilitation and care, and to bring the worst cases to Australia for treatment.

Australia has been very kind to us., Mr Sewakiryanga said.
A number of people have passionately responded to our cause — the doctors and hospitals have helped a number of our survivors with lifesaving surgeries at no cost.
We haven’t had this much support from anywhere in the world. There is so much support for our cause and I thank everybody. We have so much to do but every single child saved is worth it.


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