UN, Africa, work to stamp out ritualistic killings

Wednesday September 15 2021
Witchcraft-related paraphernalia

Witchcraft-related paraphernalia seized at a residential house in Nakuru, Kenya. PHOTO | FILE


Atrocities linked to witchcraft that often led to ritualistic killings have proved to be a menace in Africa. Now the United Nations has come up with a historic resolution to stamp out the practice.

A team, that will include the Lancaster University, has taken the first crucial steps to stamp out the worldwide vices meted on hundreds of people in the name of witchcraft, including ritual killings, with the formal expression by the UN being through the United Nations Resolution.

Passed without a vote, the resolution was tabled last month at the UN Human Rights Council by Kenya, with the support of the Africa group, composed of 54 member states from Africa.

The resolution calls for the elimination of these harmful practices, in recognition of the Right to Life precept that underpins human rights.

Witchcraft-related beliefs and practices have resulted in serious human rights violations including beatings, banishment, cutting of body parts, and amputation of limbs, torture, being set on fire and murder.

Particularly vulnerable are people with albinism, a genetic disorder that impairs the ability to create pigment in the body. But children, women, the elderly, and people with disabilities are targets too.



Researchers said there have been more than 700 attacks on people with albinism reported in 28 countries, mostly in Africa, in the last decade alone. This, driven by the trade in body parts of people with albinism in certain African countries with a ‘going rate’ of $75,000 for a full set of body parts.

Likewise, thousands of people accused of witchcraft are killed each year globally, while others are mutilated. Many more are killed in witchcraft-related rituals.

“The UN Special Resolution is an important step to stop the, often horrific, human rights abuses that take place due to beliefs in witchcraft around the world,” said human rights advocate Gary Foxcroft.

The resolution comes as a victory for advocates and researchers including UN Independent Expert on Albinism Ikponwosa Ero, Prof Charlotte Baker, of Lancaster University, who has published widely on albinism in Africa alongside international human rights lawyer, Kirsty Brimelow and Foxcroft have worked tirelessly in the last decade, as part of a bigger team, to ensure the extent of the shocking issue was heard at UN level.

Nations will be required to, in a systematic and in-depth manner, develop specific measures to tackle the attacks and discrimination faced by persons with albinism, disabilities, children and other groups that are particularly vulnerable.

“The resolution carefully balances protecting human rights of those accused of witchcraft and victims of ritual attacks, while also protecting traditional healers, along with the religious, indigenous and cultural beliefs and practices that do not amount to harmful practices as defined by UN bodies,” said Ero.