Activist Annie Ikpa Talks about Fighting Child Sacrifice in Uganda

This is a video that some readers of this blog may find difficult to watch. It’s from LADBible, which is a YouTube channel which interviews people involved in extreme, often violent and criminal issues. For example, among other people they’ve interviewed are Holocaust survivors, African survivors of genocide, paedophile hunters and criminals. In this video, Black British activist Annie Ikpa describes how she got involved in framing legislation against child sacrifice in Uganda.

Ikpa had originally wanted to pursue a career in the editing and production side of film and television. She was invited to go to Uganda to investigate this issue for herself. She’s part Nigerian, and her grandfather was a traditional healer, but she wasn’t expecting the horrors she came across in that part of Africa. She describes two case, one in which a security guard rescued a baby girl from being sacrificed by a witchdoctor on a construction site. The witchdoctor had already spread the magical herbs about the child when the security guard spotted him and rescued the kid. The other incident was when the uncle of a part of boys lured them out of the family house to go on a shopping trip. Once they were away from the home, he cut off one of the lad’s head and genitals in front of the other child, who fortunately was able to escape. She explains that these sacrifices are performed to bring luck and success to private clients commissioning them.

She also explains that while there are laws against child sacrifice in Uganda, they aren’t sufficiently strong enough to act as a deterrent. She talks about children being kept in cages to have pieces cut off them bit by bit to act as sacrifices. But if the witchdoctors are caught doing this, they aren’t prosecuted for child sacrifice, but simply for kidnapping which has a lower sentence.

She describes how she spent seven years helping to frame legislation against it, and the process by which such legislation has to be prepared so it can be passed on to an MP to present it to the Uganda parliament. She managed to get to parliament to do so with minutes to spare just days before parliament went into recess for the end of the parliamentary year. If it hadn’t been passed, she would have had to spend two or three years doing the whole process over again. But fortunately, her bill was passed.

Ikpa is clearly an exceptionally intelligent and motivated woman, and the horrors she’s seen have clearly affected her. Several times in the interview she wipes away tears. The comments on the YouTube site for this video hail her as a true heroine, someone who should be held for public admiration instead of vapid celebs like the Kardashians. Absolutely! I would hope that she’s also been invited to speak in schools, to inspire children to get involved with politics and show them how they can change society around the world for the better.

The child sacrifice she’s talking about is muti. Way back around 2004 there was an instance of it in this country, when the torso of a young man, simply called ‘Adam’, was fished out of the Thames. It had been wrapped in cloth of various colours in a way that suggested very strongly that the lad had been killed and dismembered as part of this black magic ritual. As well as Uganda, it’s also practised in South Africa. A few years I read a piece in a book about the archaeology of death about how a South African anthropologist had tried to justify it at an academic gathering in this country. He declared it was somehow acceptable because South African indigenous culture recognised that some individuals had to suffer for the benefit of the rest of the community. I think others weren’t impressed, and he was shown the door.

But this incident shows the problems of cultural relativism at their most extreme. If there are no objective moral values and every culture is as valid as any other, then horrific and barbaric practices like this are perfectly justified and may not be criticised by outsiders. One of the criticisms of Postcolonial Theory is that it never criticises the traditional culture of the colonised societies, only the actions of the colonisers. Way back in the ’90s, when postmodernism was gathering strength, Indian feminists strong objected to this attitude because the western, postmodernist activists who were so loud in denouncing western racism were silent or even sided with the traditional groups in Indian society keeping women in their traditional roles and low status.

I am also reminded of a clip that went round the net a few years ago of a debate about decolonising the curriculum at a South African university. A Black female student was shown being very upset and offended by the refusal of her White comrades and western science to accept that traditional African rainmakers could actually make it rain. There are several reasons why the girl was wrong. Firstly, science deals with phenomena that can be tested experimentally, and that are therefore repeatable. The supernatural falls outside, and so is properly the subject of religion and metaphysics, not science. Another objection is that when she urged her White listeners to ‘decolonise’ their minds, she was acting as a colonist in her turn by trying to force her culture’s beliefs on them. But this also shows another major problem with Postcolonial theory. It rejects facts, reason and logic, because these are western concepts that are alien to Black and indigenous ways of thinking. These instead stress intuition, myth, legend and ‘lived experience’. The danger is that if you adopt this attitude, then you open the way to those wishing us to just accept barbaric practices like human sacrifice.

It isn’t just Africa, however, where there’s been a revival of human sacrifice. It’s also reappeared in India, where a young girl was also brutally murdered. Driving the return of this horror is the poverty created by neoliberalism that has encouraged desperately poor communities to turn to the dark side of the occult.

regardless of the social and economic forces behind child sacrifice in Africa and elsewhere, this young woman is indeed a heroine for standing up and fighting it when so many others wouldn’t. And LADBible has pinned at the top of their comments section a piece stating that she has opened a JustGiving for people who want to donate to the struggle against it. This is at justgiving.com/annieikpa

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5 Responses to “Activist Annie Ikpa Talks about Fighting Child Sacrifice in Uganda”

  1. Mark Pattie Says:

    Slightly off topic here, but did you see Tom Daley’s docu about homophobia in Commonwealth countries? I do believe he is mainly right in that the legislation (particularly in Jamaica, Nigeria) was brought over by the British colonisers. I think it may have also been that way in Pakistan, but given that country is now an Islamic Republic (capitalisation of “Republic” intended)- I think fundamentalist Deobandi Islam also plays a part. That’s not to say all Islamic countries are homophobic- Lebanon, Azerbaijan and even Turkey are surprisingly tolerant. As for the condemnation of the likes of FGM, grooming gangs in this country- it needs to come more from within the Pakistani community, rather than from right-wing politicos like Philip Davies and Laurence Fox.

  2. Que? Says:

    A nice write up.

    It only goes to show that there are many problems within African countries that can’t be blamed on the ‘The West’

  3. Annie Ikpa Says:

    Thank you so very much for taking the time to write this. I am extremely grateful that this practice is finally being spoken of, and heard. Annie Ikpa

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