I’ve written a lot over the years about Leo Igwe, Helen Ukpabio and the horrible abuse aimed almost exclusively at women and children in North Africa due to allegations of witchcraft. Unfortunately, that practice is now spreading elsewhere. London has seen an alarming number of cases of witchcraft-related abuse.
Kevani Kanda was just six years old when her family accused her of being a witch. She was being molested by a relative and the trauma made her wet the bed and sleepwalk.
But instead of trying to find out what was wrong, Kanda’s family were convinced she was possessed by an evil spirit. For the next five years, she was starved, forced to eat her own vomit, beaten repeatedly and given suppositories containing spices to “get rid of the evil spirits.” And the torture occurred in a London suburb.
“I never told anyone what was happening to me because to me it was normal,” the 25-year-old Christian told NBC News. “That was my normal world back then and unfortunately my teachers did not pick up on the fact I was being horrendously abused.”
Kanda isn’t alone. London’s Metropolitan Police announced this week that reports of abuse where the child is accused of being a witch or possessed by an evil spirit are on the rise. Fourteen years after the force recorded its first allegation of such an incident, there have been at least 27 cases during in 2014 alone.Most of the cases involve pastors or religious leaders in African communities who have incorporated elements of witchcraft or spirit possession into their version of fundamentalist Christianity. These beliefs are widely held in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Kanda was born.
In the Congolese capital Kinshasa, fundamentalist sects take money from families to rid their children of evil spirits. In the city of 10 million, more than 20,000 young people are thought to be living on the streets, many of whom have been shunned as witches by their families, according to research by charity War Child. Kanda said a cousin in her homeland is currently living on the streets with her baby after being shunned in this way by the family.
And that’s just the Congo. It also goes on in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana and many other countries. The Humanist Service Corps’ first project will be working at a witch camp in Ghana to help improve the conditions there.