KILINGS DUE TO WITCHRAFT BILIEFS IN TANZANIA FOR THE PAST SIX MONTHS
Witchcraft is the use of certain kind of supernatural or magical powers .Moreover; it can be referred to the use of such powers in order to inflict harm or damage upon members of a community or their property. Witchcraft is a vague and loose term, without exact definition. The idea that, witch is in the society comes out of a culture that regards traditional healers as infallible. Witchcraft is traditional beliefs mainly possessed by traditional healers or commonly witchdoctors. It’s hard to classify groups of witchdoctors due to their mode of operation, however, one can propounds that in Tanzania there are mainly three groups of witchdoctors namely; those who posses spiritual power to bewitch and cast evil spells on others, frauds, who have no power but will do anything for money and herbalist who use their powers to heal and help the community. Community believes that the two groups with exclusion of the herbalist have been responsible for the family predicaments, disappearance and deaths of their relatives. Both witchcraft practices and the measures taken by community to battle witchcraft have been noted to propagate killings related witchcraft in Tanzania.
At international level there is no any specific instrument /law that govern killing related to witchcraft. However, there are many international instruments that can indirectly be used to tackle killings related to witchcraft. Because witchcraft practices have been found to be the main cause of violation of right to life in Tanzania ,then all international instruments prohibit violation of right to life can suitably be refered. International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights obligates all countries signatory to it to promote and protect the rights to life. Both The Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) of 1984 and ICCPR prohibit all kinds of acts and punishments witch degrade traumatize or torture any suspect .
The Constitution of United Republic of Tanzania of 1977[as amended] contain a bill of rights that prohibits killing, discrimination and torture Similarly, Killings, discrimination and witchcraft acts are punishable offences under the Penal Code Cap. 16[R.E. 2002]. Moreover, Tanzania witchcraft Act of 1928[R.E 2002] incriminates all witchcrafts acts fall under the two groups of witchcrafts .Witchcraft Act doesn’t categorize the work herbalist as witchcraft, the law define witchcraft to include acts sorcery, enchantment, bewitching, the use of instrument of witchcraft, the purported exercise of any occult power and the purported possession of any occult knowledge.
For the past six months killing related to witchcraft continued to trigger despite the fact that the government has taken stern measures to contain it. Legal and Human Rights Centre has done a number of studies which revealed that the situation of witchcraft killing is still a fashionable mostly around Lake zones regions and Southern regions. According to LHRC 2009 Human Rights Report a person can be liable for direct or indirect acts or behaviors which are connected to the witchcraft practices. It is also an offence to defame other person as a witch or wizard by imputing to him or her use of witchcraft materials and other things.
As mentioned earlier, killing due to witchcraft believes in Tanzania can be categorized into two dimensions ; killings emanated from witchcrafts acts like bewitching and killings derive from efforts taken by community eliminate certain group of people believed or suspected to be a witch. For the case of Tanzania the battle against people suspected to be witch has been used as a tool to discriminate , torture and ultimately kill old people mostly women with red eyes .This is contrary to both Convention to eliminates all discrimination against women(CEDAW) of 1979 and conventiona against torture of 1984.
LHRC 2009 Human Rights Report reveals that, the incidences of witchcraft killings have continued to take a lead as most common violators of the right to life in Tanzania. It is the leading factor of denial of the right to life, followed by killings resulted from incidences of mob violence the trend reveals that Most of the killings are targeted to old women especially in Lake Zone, central, western, southern parts of Tanzania due to the cultural norms and beliefs of the tribes found in those places.
For instance, LHRC media survey indicates at least seven people have been killed due to witchcraft beliefs since January-June, 2010 from different parts of the country as shown below in the table:
No Deceased Name Place Year
1. Agripina Thomas (45 yrs), Kagera 2010
2. Anamaria Theda (47 yrs) Kagera 2010
3. Monica Spron (43 yrs) Kagera 2010
4. Amana Shawishi(70) Mwanza. 2010
5. Lytoga venance Makorongo Nansio 2010
6. Cheupe Mwananzyuni Rukwa. 2010
7. Frank Mwasha Nzega 2010
However, the list above is not exhausted due to the facts that not all incidences killing due to witchcrafts are reported.Comperativley, last year report showed the trend was diminishing while the trends this is apparently worse.
With the same tone hunting and killing of albino have been 99% linked with witchcraft beliefs. The killings are associated with the witchcraft beliefs that the human parts or organs of the people with albinism have alluring and supernatural powers which, when mixed-up with other witchcraft items by the witchdoctors, will make someone rich. For instance, on 28th May one albino woman & her four year old son in Cendaju, on Burundi’s border with TZ were killed and 4 attempted murders of albinos whereby their body parts were chopped off were reported btn February and April eg Binti Kabula Nkalango(13) was chopped off in Kahama, on April,2010 and one Said Abdalah (40) was chopped off in Morogoro.
Women and Albino look to be more vulnerable to witchcraft killings than any other member of the community. Many studies reveal that witchcraft related killings are precipated by lawlessness, culture and hardships in life. People believes that the law cannot make responsible all people suspected to be witches , thus decide to prosecute and convict all people suspected to be witches by stoning them and burn their residential. On the other side albino are killed due to economic difficulties and perceptions of people on albinism.
The battle against killing due to witchcraft beliefs is not a one sided battle, both the government and the community should form a joint venture to end the fallacy. We should first fresh the mindset of people to do away with witch crafts practices and beliefs before we advance to other legal measures. Community should be empowered with all the principles of human rights and rule of law to avoid the acts of torture and killing of people suspected to be witches. The witchcraft Act needs be amended to address issues of witchcrafts as the best way to please the community that deadly believes in witchcraft.
By Onesmo Olengurumwa LHRC