2019-06-14

"Under the guise of witchcraft people are tortured, murdered and development money is wasted. But local governments and international aid organisations remain passive," write Alberique Houndjo (Benin), Chief Bisong Etahoben (Cameroon), Fidelis Mac-Leva (Nigeria), Anneke Verbraeken (The Netherlands). 

Entrepreneurs being blackmailed. Politicians being poisoned. Houses burned down. Roads destroyed. Men and women locked up for days. Sons who kill their father for a body part. Children who are starving. Babies with a harelip being killed. The consequences of the belief in witchcraft are horrible.


Witchcraft, the belief in magic, is -for the average Westerner- far removed from their personal lives, something you laugh about. But using supernatural powers to gain success, money and power, or to harm other people, is for some Africans an everyday reality that largely determines life, work, and relationships. 


The belief in witchcraft not only has profound and violent consequences for the individual, but it also has a negative impact on the entire economy of a country. Where the belief in witchcraft is widely spread, mutual distrust is considerable. And distrust has an enormous effect on everyday life. Nobody wants to be better than someone else. Nobody wants to be noticed, because then you can become the target of witchcraft. So business people do not invest too much, students won’t be too successful. This has a profound negative influence on the economy.

It also leads to a passive society and an extremely gruesome one, where people are murdered and tortured. But aid organisations don’t see the belief in witchcraft as a phenomenon they should take into consideration. Even though their projects fail with billions of dollars down the drain.


The belief in witchcraft is also a source of corruption, blackmail and crime, with gangs active in trading bodyparts. Gangs are also active in extorting entrepreneurs, politicians and sometimes even entire villages. 

Politicians often use witchcraft for their own good, to get more votes or to make life difficult for their competitors. They, therefore, will not easily pass laws that tackle the excesses. Witchcraft is punishable but it’s difficult to investigate and evidence is hard to find. Policemen are not very eager to make arrests, they are afraid of becoming a target themselves.

Scientists do not see a big change in the near future; the belief in witchcraft is too deeply rooted in some communities. It means no change as well for the gruesome consequences, the crime and (partially) failed development projects. 

 

Alberique Houndjo

Alberique Houndjo is an investigative journalist for Matin Libre and spokesperson of the journalist association of Benin. 

Anneke Verbraeken

Anneke Verbraeken is a Dutch investigative journalist, specialised in Great Lakes Region and French-speaking countries in Sub-Sahara Africa. 

Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian international investigative journalist and Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of the WEEKLY POST newspaper based in Yaounde, Cameroon. 

Fidelis Mac-Leva

Fidelis Mac-Leva is a Nigerian print journalist with over fifteen years of working experience.