Thursday, August 05, 2010
True Crime: "I still have 83 more women to kill."
The francophone Afrik News has a story on the proliferation of serial killers across Africa and the unique problems they pose to nations that often lack the investigative and communication infrastructures to identify, track, and capture such criminals. Drawing extensively from the work of Stéphane Bourgoin, an expert on African serial killers, the article paints a nightmarish portrait of these predators. Along with the police organization and data sharing issues that would hound detectives and researchers in any country, the article points out the way in which local cultural traditions can, for lack of a better word, normalize serial killing in some African communities. From the article:
And while these rampant murders are are sometimes not linked to tradition, most of them are. In southern Africa, sangomas [midwives, healers and soothsayers] call on hired killers who, for the pleasure of killing end up as serial killers, provide them with some of their tools of work. The sangomas sometimes prepare concoctions containing human body parts. A beverage brewed from a child’s sexual organ, for example, is believed to cure impotence.
"Muti killings", murders committed by puncturing the organs of a living person, is the cause of hundreds of deaths per year. "Africa registers more crimes related to cannibalism and vampirism than anywhere else in the world". Eating someone means capturing the soul and spirit of that person. And the victims’ blood are believed to contain life. It is no secret that fetish priests and some traditional worshipers believe that by drinking human blood they either become immortal or are reborn. "This kind of belief explains the acts committed by the two Kenyan serial killers: Philip Onyancha, who drank the blood of his victims and George Otieno Okoth, who collected human hair.
Besides the "muti killings", it can be noted that across Sub-Sahara Africa, many of those often labeled as witches or wizards, mostly by fetish priests, are poisoned, drowned, hacked to death with machetes or buried alive at will in an attempt to deliver their souls from the snare of the ‘devil’. Here again, a killer could evoke witchcraft in order to be given the leeway to kill to satisfy his whim. Only last year, a Zimbabwean judge, Justice Ndou, ruled that 32 year old Vusumuzi Ndlovu’s unshakable belief in witchcraft was an extenuating factor to spare him from the southern African country’s legally imposed punishment, after he killed his neighbor whom he accused of witchcraft.
The title of this post comes from Philip Onyancha, shown under arrest above.