Sunday, March 15, 2009

Witch killing country

"I am driving deep into witch killing country," writes Johann Hari in an extraordinary Independent (U.K.) article.

Hari reports on Kenya and Tanzania's overt "witch" murders, with old women paying the price for living too long. I was especially struck with the story of women blamed for the death of a young child from diarrhea--that was one of the more serious accusations leveled against my ancestor in 1656, that she had killed her neighbor's newborn, while really flux (the old term for diarrhea) was the cause.

1656 was 353 years ago... is it not outrageous that these same tragic issues are still happening, with parents bewildered by the brutality of their child's unfortunate death, and casting their eyes about them for someone, anyone to blame?

"Witch killings are a daily event in Sukumaland," writes Hari. This is an agricultural area of Tanzania. A daily event.

Hari tackles one of the more touchy aspects of discussing modern witchcraft persecutions: the fact that it renders the western world patronizing and meddling and oblivious to the aboriginal culture:

Africa consists of hundreds of fissiparous cultures and no culture anywhere is homogeneous and unchanging. The culture of Massachusetts was to burn witches not so long ago – until some people there began to stand up and oppose the practice. In the same way, there are huge divisions within African societies.

To read the entire article, which is quite in-depth with much anecdotal evidence (and tackles genital mutilation as well as witchcraft), please visit here.

To help support those fighting against witchcraft, visit, which is teaming with Comic Relief to help elder women in Sukumaland. The article also mentions Maparece, an organization working against female genital mutilation, but I couldn't find an online presence for it to create a clickable link.

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1 comment:

Rachel said...

Hi! I found this page while looking for an online prescence for Maparece, but have also had no luck. Thanks for the link to

This looks like a fascinating blog. I'm glad to have found it by accident.