- Africa’s Street Children And The Rest Of Us
In many rural areas in Africa, villages, towns-women and men boast of having ostracized a witch child. Witchcraft accusations against children in Africa nonetheless have received international attention. Though the phenomenon of witch-hunts in sub-saharan Africa is ancient, the problem is reportedly on the rise. This is due to charismatic preachers, conflict, fragmenting communities and of course poverty (E. O. Parrinder, 2012).
The Beliefs In, and Presence of Witch Children in Africa
Somewhere in Africa, there is a kid with a pathetic belly, matchstick legs, fleshless rib-cage and soulful eyes. Like vultures on hospital rooftops, this kid is a patient residence of nowhere, yet carries the tag of being a witch.
Ridiculous reasons why children could be witches normally range from bed-wetting to being clever, or naturally stubborn. Sadly, children agree that they are witches, just so they could end their torturous ordeals (Jean La Fontaine, 2012).
No! This kid is not prepared to meet a medical practitioner, he/she would be subjected to violent exorcism rituals – by a mix of different shrines.
A failed exorcism – and this is mostly the case – expels the child to the streets, for traffickers or to the waiting hands of death. This here was the story of a little boy rescued by Anja Ringgren Lovèn (a blond-haired Danish woman, whose risky steps to Africa’s rural areas gave birth to ACAEDF. Refreshingly, ACAEDF is not a religious crusade, nor a romantic adventure into the blurry yet dark corners of Africa.
It is hope carrying the name: “African Children’s Aid Education and Development Foundation.”
About witch children, Leo Igwe had put this most succinctly:
“[children] are taken to churches where they are subjected to inhumane and degrading torture in the name of ‘exorcism.’ They are chained, starved, hacked with machetes, lynched or murdered in cold blood.”
Hence, beliefs in child witches piercing through Nigeria to Angola, as well as Ethiopia to the Congo and other places, are as much dangerous and scary – as far as statistics from UNICEF et al., has shown.
In these parts of Africa, and in Nigeria most notoriously, “socio-economic problems and tensions are reflected in the collective consciousness of the people as acts of witchcraft. Everyday problems arising from the dissolution and disintegration of society are blamed on witches. Hence, protection is sought from a witch-doctor.”
The Way Forward
Ironically, while it was the case that modernism weakened beliefs in witches in 18th century Europe, urbanization has in fact, rather helped to boast belief in witches in most parts of Africa. It is therefore important to clearly elucidate the relevance of traditional cultures in existence in Africa.
One may clearly forget the strategic roles of witches in primitive societies, but it’s not easy to forget the targets of witch-hunters namely: women and children.
That’s why to eliminate or minimize certain toxic cultural practices (such as witch-hunting), a notorious engagement must be made by intelligent communities.
There is need for Africans to learn the act and science of mastering productive forces, and subjecting them to their wills through conscious planning. In our quest to be on the same – if not a daring – pedestal with the rest of the world, there’s also a need to revisit our literatures. We need to ask ourselves: from where does the child become a source of ‘bad luck’ and hatred to the community? What is the place of generational conflicts, deteriorating educational systems, and religiously-inspired films in legitimizing beliefs about children witches?
Maybe, along the margins of attempting to answer these questions (and others), the age of enlightenment will finally kiss Africa and the rest of us.
1) “Witchcraft in Nigeria and Why It Has Such a Hold on People’s Minds,” November, 2002 in www.marxist.com
2) Erich Leistner, “Witchcraft and African Development,” in African Security Review, Vol. 23, 2014, 53- 77.
3) E. O. Parrinder, “African Ideas of Witchcraft,” 30th May, 2012, 142 – 150.
Author: David Francis
Alright reserved 2019
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