VSO helps fight child sacrifice in Uganda
Child sacrifice is on the increase in Uganda. VSO volunteers are working with the African Network for Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) to ensure affected families receive counselling and legal support. Vivien’s ten-year-old son was abducted for child sacrifice but survived. Here she tells her story.
It was December in 2008 and I had left my son at home with his two sisters when I went out for work. When I came back in the evening I asked the young ones “where has Omar gone?”. They said, "oh Mummy, we don’t know where he has gone, maybe he is playing?" So immediately I started looking for him.
I tried to look in the places he usually plays but he was nowhere to be seen. I then reported it to police and put announcements over the radios but we spent the whole night without seeing him. In the morning we got a call on the phone. Two women had found Omar dumped on a roadside in Mukono, a suburb of Kampala far from here. He was crying and semi conscious and craving water to drink.
We went to recover the boy from Mukono and he told us the story:
“Mummy, I was playing near our home. Then a boda-boda [a bicycle taxi] man came and picked me up and tricked me, he called me by my name and said: "your mother Vivien is calling you". So I climbed on the boda-boda and off we went but after a short while I noticed he was taking another route, not the route to your work. Then I told the man ‘it seems you are stealing me’ but the man now increased the speed and took me to unknown destination.”
So he described that they went to what seemed to be a shrine. There was a woman there who removed his clothes to examine him and said “this boy will not make a sacrifice because he is already circumcised.” That was when they put something sweetly scented towards his nose and immediately he fell asleep. Then he woke up in Mukono, far away from the shrine.
Help from the ANPPCAN
The police immediately started their investigations. This led to the arrests of the suspects and police called all the journalists to come. The following day unknown people started coming to my home but they could not identify themselves as journalists – they looked strange. So I took the boy away to an uncle’s place. But still unknown people were coming and the uncle said, “we can’t keep that boy anymore because we’re scared, we see different faces peeping in the windows, behind the houses.” It seemed like they want to re-kidnap the boy.
I reported this to the police and they said they were processing it, but processes can be slow. Then a friend told me about ANPPCAN and I ran immediately there.
When I reached ANPPCAN reception they greeted me warmly. They interviewed me and I told them the story and immediately they gave me help. They agreed with the police that they would give my son security and they took him to a safe place. Psychological torture was at a maximum and they gave him counselling and me too.
Once ANPPCAN intervened, the process was very smooth. The police were no longer dodging me, everything was just straight. When the case came to court, ANPPCAN helped me very, very much. I didn’t know the process of the court, I didn’t know who they called the prosecutor, I didn’t know all the terms. But the ANPPCAN lawyer would go inside the offices and check that everything was moving. I highly appreciate it because there was no corruption once ANPPCAN was there on my behalf. If it was not for ANPPCAN I don’t think I would have managed.
My son is still in a safe place. He has post-traumatic stress disorder. When he sees a stranger he runs away, he hides himself. There is some deterioration in his studies – he has been receiving an interim education in the safe place but now I want him to be back in school like other children.
I think it is important for people in other countries to know things that are going on in Uganda. The people who sacrifice children have an intention, and it may not end in Uganda- they may go abroad even to England. So I’m appealing to people all over the world that even a friend or brother or sister can do something bad to a child. So everyone should keep an eye on his or her family.
All names have been changed.
ANPPCAN is currently receiving support from VSO volunteer Elena Lomeli. She is sharing her communications and marketing expertise with ANPPCAN to help them raise their profile in Uganda, so that more children and families will know who to turn to when they need support.