Tanzanian medicine men blame family
misfortunes on them. Old women killed in witch hunts
By Rodrique Ngowi
SHINYANGA, Tanzania - Fear of witches
and greed are proving a deadly combination on the windswept plains of northwestern
Tanzania, and old women with red-rimmed eyes are paying the price.
Stories abound in Shinyanga of children,
grandchildren and neighbors orchestrating the killing of elderly women
whose eyes have grown red from years of cooking over cow-dung fires. Medicine
men and diviners say the women are witches responsible for the misfortune
of friends and relatives.
"A group of two or three hooded
individuals, dressed in black, bearing bright torchlights and razor-sharp
machetes, converge at the house of a potential victim, break open the door,
and order relatives to identify a woman they seek," Shinyanga Police Chief
Wolfgang Gumbu said.
"A lightning-fast machete strike
on top of the head, followed by another on the hand attempting to cover
the face and a final blow on the shoulder. They harm no one else and take
nothing except, of course, the life of the hapless woman."
The Sukuma people of the Shinyanga
region, south of Lake Victoria, have always believed in witchcraft, although
its practice was repressed by German and then British colonial rulers.
When this poor East African nation became independent in 1961, witchcraft
again came to the fore.
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