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By unknown | Apr 07, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

KAMPALA - Caroline Aya was playing in front of her house in January when a neighbour put a cloth over her mouth and fled with her.

A few days later the eight-year-old's body was found a short walk away - with her tongue cut out. Police believe she was offered up as a human sacrifice in a ritual killing, thought to bring wealth or health.

"If it is a sickness you try to treat it, and if they die that is one thing, but when you slaughter a person like a goat, that is not easy," said Caroline's father Balluonzima Christ.

The practice of human sacrifice is on the rise in Uganda, as measured by ritual killings in which body parts, often facial features or genitals, are cut off for use in ceremonies.

The number of people killed in ritual murders last year rose to a new high of at least 15 children and 14 adults, up from just three cases in 2007, according to police. The informal count is much higher - 154 suspects were arrested last year and 50 taken to court over ritual killings.

Children in particular are common victims, according to a US state department report released this month. The US spent $500000 (about R3,7million) to train 2000 Ugandan police last year to investigate offences related to human trafficking, including ritual killings.

The problem is bad enough that last year the police established an Anti-Human Sacrifice Task Force. Human sacrifices have been recorded throughout history and still occur in many countries, including India, Indonesia, South Africa, Gabon and Tanzania.

One traditional healer in Uganda, when asked about the phenomenon, pointed to the story told in the Bible's book of Genesis, when God asked Abraham to sacrifice a son. But the rise in human sacrifices in Uganda appears to come from a desire for wealth and a belief that drugs made from human organs can bring riches, according to task force head Moses Binoga.

"I call it a problem of psychological disorientation," said Binoga. "People get disoriented. People stop having respect in humanity and believe more in the worth of money and so-called good fortune, and they lose that natural social respect for people." The sacrifices are also linked to a deep belief in traditional healers, who are very popular in Uganda.

At the end of a winding dirt road on the edge of Kampala - Uganda's capital - barefoot children scurry past a sign advertising the abilities of Musa Nsimbe, who goes by the trade name Professor Gabogola. The sign in front of his small wood hut reads like a panacea for the world's woes.

"A traditional healer with powers over spirits. Solves all cases, demons, thieves, tooth decay, madness fevers and genital affairs."

Another traditional healer, 60-year-old Livingstone Kiggo, said sacrifice is part of the healer's tool kit - sacrificing a goat, sheep or chicken is considered a call to the spirits, to people's ancestors. But killing humans is not part of the practice, Kiggo said.

He blamed sacrificial deaths on people who "want to destroy the work of traditional healers".

"Those are killers. They are not healers," Kiggo said. - Sapa-AP


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