Maama Fiina was in Parliament before the Committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development last week. This is a committee on social services that according to the Parliament of Uganda, is “mandated by Parliament to oversee the activities of the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.” The committee comprises of members “selected from among Members of Parliament on the basis of the parties or organizations represented in Parliament.” They (the committee) are currently handling a petition on Anti-Child Sacrifice and Ritual Murder of Children.
Workers’ representative and vice chairperson of the committee, Arinaitwe Rwakajara, chaired and the traditional healers appeared before the committee alongside officials from Uganda Communications Council.
Ritual sacrifice in Uganda has been on the rise. Uganda registered a total of 12 suspected human sacrifices during 2013, ten of which involved children as victims. [Source: Ministry of Internal Affairs. “Annual Report on the trend of Trafficking in Persons in Uganda: 2013“. February 2014] In their most recent Annual Crime and Traffic/Road Safety Report, Uganda Police Force reported a 8.3% increase of ritual murders from 2012. [Access entire 2013 report here.]So it’s completely understandable that this has come up in parliament.
The traditional healers, appearing under their umbrella association Uganda ne Ddagala no Buwangwa Bwaffe, were led by their President General Namutebi Sylvia famously known as Maama Fiina. She pointed out that in their practice as traditional healers, no human body parts are used (or requested) to give blessings to people or to give wealth to those that seek it. She said they only required animal sacrifices: chicken, goats and cows. Maama Fiina submitted that traditionally, sacrificial objects must be edible and eaten and therefore child sacrifice would not be acceptable. Hon. Winifred Kiiza (Woman MP Kasese as well as member of this committee) countered this, asking whether in a place where cannibalism is practiced, child sacrifice would not then be acceptable but there was no answer.
There are a lot of grey areas when it comes to traditional healing and religions. As Maama Fiina rightly pointed out while in Parliament, the existing laws governing need to be revisited. The current law is the colonial Witchcraft Act 1957 and the practice has changed with the cash-based economy and several other factors. Her reasoning is of course self-preserving. Maama Fiina believes that there are several disingenuous practitioners who are there to swindle money while UCC said the law, especially Section 2, was vague.
2. Offences and penalties in relation to witchcraft.
Any person who directly or indirectly threatens another with death by witchcraft or by any other supernatural means commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.
Any person who directly or indirectly threatens to cause disease or any physical harm to another, or to cause disease or harm to any livestock or harm to any property of whatever sort or another by witchcraft or by any other supernatural means commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years.
Any person who practises witchcraft or who holds himself or herself out as a witch, whether on one or more occasions, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years.
Any person who hires or procures another person to practise witchcraft or who for evil purposes consults or consorts with another who practises witchcraft or holds himself or herself out as a witch commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years.
This is going to be an interesting conversation to follow.
P.S Just FYI since we should all be able to access our legislators:
Committee email address is: email@example.com
Email address of chairperson of committee is: firstname.lastname@example.org