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There have been nearly 200 comments on the following grisly story about "Child Witches" in Nigeria. One English commentator has pointed out that this kind of witch-hunt is not confined to Third World countries. He refers to three Satanic Abuse witch-hunts in the UK in the 1990s - all carried out by the Child Protection Services!

We did not have Satanic Abuse in Ireland but we had several allegations of child murder and mass murder made against the Christian Brothers - especially in relation to Letterfrack. One of the main accusers re Letterfrack  - a "Holocaust", a "Top People's Paedophile Ring" - was there about 25 years after the last boy died.

So Nigeria is not so bad after all. I notice that the accused young "witches" are proclaiming their innocence in the streets with the help of  a banner and a police escort. Anyone accused of child abuse in Ireland would be ill advised to adopt such tactics. The concept of "Innocent Until Proven Guilty" has been thrown out the window and hysteria reigns supreme.

Rory Connor
9 March 2008

Child 'Witches': Accusing The Defenceless
AFP "Around The World": Mon Mar 09 2009,
When I first arrived in Eket, one of the oil hubs in the Niger Delta, I thought this must be the holiest of all cities in Nigeria. Every few hundred metres are signposts advertising new Pentecostalist churches. How wrong I was, I recalled a few minutes later, when I reached the rescue centre I was seeking on the city outskirts.

In total, there are 175 children of all ages living at the centre - the youngest 18 months, the oldest 16 years.

It was afternoon when I arrived, and while some of the children were playing in the grounds, others were busy with chores -- fetching water or cooking.

Young and old, what they shared in common was that they have all been branded witches, kicked out of their family homes, some tortured, some maimed, and all forced to seek shelter.

The stories I heard seemed like a replay of those told of Europe's own witch-hunting period in the 16th and 17th centuries. But this time, the victims are not elderly men and women, but defenceless children, victims of self-styled religious leaders, crusading against 'witchcraft' in children.

In parts of Akwa Ibom state, one of the nine southern states that make up the oil-producing region of Nigeriam, children have in recent years been beaten, tortured and abandoned as 'witches'.

Some have been thrown into the raging waters of the Atlantic Ocean, according to Nigerian officials and activists, working to end to the practice.

The state authorities in Akwa Ibom in November passed a new law against child abuse and launched a campaign to smoke out those carrying out the attacks on children while educating the public to beware.

The self-declared prophets who are behind this practice receive payment in cash or kind for 'finding' 'child witches' and then 'exorcising' them.

The stories I heard at the charity centre set up to give the children shelter are heartbreaking.

One day after dinner, 11-year-old Deborah's stepmother went to her bedroom, armed with a machete and a broom, threatening to kill her if she did not confess she was a witch.

Fearing for her life, Deborah confessed and was immediately taken to a pastor who 'confirmed' that she was what she said and detained her. Over several days, the girl was flogged repeatedly by the pastor before she escaped back home. Days later her half-sister sprained her hand while playing. It could only be her 'juju', or witchcraft, which caused the accident. She was taken back to the pastor where she was placed on a 'fast' to rid her of the evil. After several days, and too weak to walk, she was returned home in a wheelbarrow. Neighbours mobbed her saying 'the witch is back' with some assaulting here for allegedly causing her half-brother's death a few days before her return. She ran inside the house, and hid under the bed, but her father followed here, pushing a machete at her, before she broke out and fled.

Aididiong, 8, was accused by her stepmother of being a witch after a cockroach invasion of her parents' wardrobe. The mother believed she turned into a cockroach and sent her off to live with an old and ailing grandmother who later died. For several days she took care of herself -- cooking and going to school -- thinking her granny was just oversleeping until she started seeing maggots around her body.

That was when she was rescued and brought to the centre. I left the centre heartbroken, but impressed by the people I had met, who were running it, and the authorities who passed their new law against this.

The shelter, though, is out of space to take in more children. They turn them away daily. Akwa Ibom children are just like any other innocent children, I thought as I left. They need love and parental care.

In this blog, reporters and editors for global news wire AFP blog about the news they report and the challenges they face covering events from Baghdad to Beijing, the White House to Darfur. Susan Njanji reports for AFP from Lagos.
COMMENT  (One of 179)

It may surprise people to know that accusations of witchcraft and devil worship are not confined to third world countries.

On February 27th 1991 nine children from four different families were removed from South Ronalsay (Orkney) by SOCIAL SERVICES on the grounds of sexual abuse conducted through devil worship and witchcraft. The same happened on the Isle of Lewis Oct 1990 .. and again in Rochdale 1990 .. each case involved accusations of child abuse (sexual) against parents, adults and even church ministers and resulted in people held in prison and children removed from parents for months. EVERY CASE was thrown out by the courts ... and social services personnel and police were found to have over-reacted and even coached children to establish something which was not there .... it is not just African people who believe the un-believable... even intelligent professionals have done the same in Britain.

 From alan.v.robinson1 on Tue Mar 10 12:19AM