Doused with gasoline and then burned alive, the old Nyabadeux met an atrocious end after being accused of witchcraft, like dozens of women in recent months in villages in South Kivu, a province in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. .
Since the beginning of September alone, the local authorities have counted eight people who have been burned or lynched in three territories (Kalehe, Walungu and Fizi) by popular justice that is as horrible as it is expeditious, often triggered by the obscurantist injunction of clairvoyants and other preachers in lack of devotees.
“We recorded 324 accusations of witchcraft over the period from June to September,” said Nelly Adidja, from the Association of Media Women (AFEM) in South Kivu. The territory of Kalehe alone has 114 cases, including five women who were burned alive and four others taken to God knows where by self-defense militias.
“There is a resurgence of the phenomenon because the State has failed in its sovereign missions, the police and the justice system are not doing their job,” said Professor Bosco Muchukiwa, sociologist and director general of the Higher Institute for Rural Development. (ISDR) of Bukavu.
The problem, according to him, is accentuated by the “Bajakazi”, clairvoyants and pseudo-preachers present in almost all the villages. There are also a few men, but the majority are women. They claim to detect wizards and witches. “It’s false, they have no power, but they play on the naivety of the people they manipulate, to have more followers, to give themselves a certain value, more weight in the village”.
– “Charlatans” –
“The prayer rooms of these charlatans must be banned! “, pleads for his part Muhindo Cikwanine, jurist and expert in parliamentary law. “In 2014, the provincial deputies passed an edict (law) prohibiting the use of popular justice in South Kivu”, but the text is not applied, “this law has not been followed by sufficient awareness of the population,” he said.
Thadée Miderho, administrator of the Kabare territory, says that since the beginning of the year six people have been killed, “mainly women over 60”, on the grounds that they were witches, designated as such by “Bajakazi “.
Two years ago, on the basis of a complaint addressed to the prosecutor of Kavumu (north of Bukavu), 11 of these priestesses were arrested and spent six months in prison. “They were released after promising to change jobs, but some continue their activities in secret,” laments the administrator.
As for bringing to justice the villagers who kill the supposed witches, it is an almost impossible mission, according to Thadée Miderho. “In the event of popular justice, the village chiefs say that it is + the population + who is the author, they do not name names”.
Shasha Rubenga, he still shudders at the evocation of scenes he witnessed on August 16 in Cifunzi, a village of about 2,000 inhabitants on the edge of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
“It was around 5:00 a.m., it was a Monday. Young people were circulating in the village in possession of a list on which appeared the names of 19 women over the age of 65, designated as witches by a prophetess,” says the young teacher and human rights activist.
They were looking for these women. Most of them, whose houses were destroyed, had time to flee. A few others were saved by the soldiers who fired into the air to disperse the crowd.
“But I saw these young people get their hands on a neighbor called Nyabadeux”, an old woman who had seven children. “She was brutalized, doused with gasoline and set on fire with a match.” This woman was burned alive in the middle of the village.
“It hurts me, even young people under the age of 10 take part in these gruesome scenes,” Shasha continues. “I saw a five-year-old child with a big stick, turning over the charred body of Nyabadeux.”
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DRC: murders of women accused of witchcraft are increasing in South Kivu – La Libre Afrique
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