The BBC is reporting that Ugandan witchdoctors are performing a ritual involving child sacrifice which is thought to bring wealth and good health. Although almost unheard of in Uganda until recently, a renewed interest in the ritual has been re-emerging among witchdoctors who some say have murdered up to 900 children in the past few years.
Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga of the Kyampisi Childcare Ministries church told BBC reporter Chris Rogers that the ritual murder of children by local sorcerers is becoming a part of every day life.
"Child sacrifice has risen because people have become lovers of money. They want to get richer," the pastor says.
"They have a belief that when you sacrifice a child you get wealth, and there are people who are willing to buy these children for a price. So they have become a commodity of exchange, child sacrifice has become a commercial business."
Sewakiryanga and his parishioners are lobbying the government to regulate witch doctors and improve police resources to investigate these crimes, but it's an uphill climb.
Official police figures say the numbers of child sacrifices rose from one case in 2006 to 29 in 2009, but the UK-based charity known as Jubilee Campaign released a report listing the true number of cases to be in the hundreds. They say more than 900 cases are still pending investigation by a police force that is doing little to solve them because of corruption or lack of resources.
Rogers and his team, posing as local businessmen in need of the ritual to help their new business, were quickly introduced to a local witchdoctor. The man, named Awali, led them into the courtyard behind his home, wrestled a goat to the ground and slit its throat.
"This animal has been sacrificed to bring luck to us all," Awali told Rogers, then demanded a fee of $390 for the ritual.
They returned a few days later and this time Awali invited them into his shrine, which is "littered with herbs, face masks, rattles and a machete," Rogers reports.
This meeting was called to discuss the most powerful of all spells, Awali said - the sacrifice of a child.
"There are two ways of doing this," he told Rogers. "We can bury the child alive on your construction site, or we cut them in different places and put their blood in a bottle of spiritual medicine."
He grabbed his throat, then explained: "If it's a male, the whole head is cut off and his genitals. We will dig a hole at your construction site, and also bury the feet and the hands and put them all together in the hole."
Awali boasted he had sacrificed children many times before and knew what he was doing.
Rogers quietly withdrew from the negotiations. He handed his eyewitness account to local police who did nothing.
"Awali is still a free man," he reports.
During the course of his investigation, he spoke to one grief-stricken grandmother who showed him the body of her six year-old grandson who had just been beheaded and his body dumped nearby. Sobbing, she said the local witchdoctor admitted to sacrificing the child, but police were reluctant to pursue the case. Instead, they offered her money to keep quiet. She refused.
A neurosurgeon at Kampala's main hospital showed Rogers X-rays of horrific injuries suffered by a nine year-old boy named Allan who survived an attempt to sacrifice him. The X-rays reveal bone missing from his skull and damage to part of the brain where a machete sliced through his head and neck in an attempt to behead him. He was also castrated by the witchdoctor. The boy lay in a coma for a month after his body was dumped near his village home.
Even though Allan was able to identify Awali as his attacker, police say Allan's eyewitness account is unreliable.
No-one from the Ugandan government agreed to speak with Rogers, and the local police deny inaction and corruption.
The head of the Anti-Human Sacrifice Police Task Force, Commissioner Bignoa Moses, says the police are doing all they can to tackle the problem.
"Sometimes, they accuse us of these things because we make no arrests, but we are limited. If we get information that someone is involved in criminal activities like human sacrifice, we shall go and investigate, and if it can be proven we will take him to court, but sometimes the cases are not proven."
Without the full force of the law to bear on the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes, Pastor Sewakiryanga says little can be done to protect Uganda's children from the belief in the power of human sacrifice.
"The children do not have voices, their voices have been silenced by the law and the police not acting, and the people who read the newspapers do nothing, so we have to make a stand and do whatever it takes to stamp out this evil, we can only pray that the government will listen."
Photo by the BBC