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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 July 2005, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Is witchcraft alive in Africa?
Witchcraft is widely practised in some parts of Nigeria
Would you turn to him for help?
Does witchcraft have a place in modern society? BBC Africa Live wants to know if it is relevant to you.

In Africa, witchcraft has played a role in rebellions, fighting wars, gaining independence and is often seen at election time.

Some people also consult witchdoctors to cure diseases or find a husband.

However, the practise has negative sides - mutilated bodies are often found in Africa, with their organs removed presumably for use in magic charms. And recently in the UK, three people were jailed over the torture of an eight-year-old Angolan girl they accused of being a possessed witch.

Do you believe in witchcraft? What is its role? What does your religion say about it? And how do you feel spiritually towards it? Would you like it banned? Do you know a witch?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Your comments:

Artist's impression of a video recording shown in court at the Old Bailey, 10 May 2005, of a young girl, now aged ten, who claimed she was almost killed after being accused of being a witch

I don't believe in witchcraft but I know it exists. These guys have powers that can really send a chilling feeling down your spine! Among the Banyores of western Kenya, we have got a group of old men who can make rainfall! We have got groups known to purchase thunder and lightening to strike enemies/opponents to death.

These guys exist and one shouldn't underestimate their capabilities. Most influential people in our society visit witches in darkness or during the wee hours for consultation or treatment. Whether a born again Christian or strong Muslim believer, you can't dismiss witchcraft.
Job Egalaha, Kenya

Two days ago in my neighbourhood. A girl of five was accused of killing her mother through witchcraft. She was tortured (tied upside down a tree) for hours to confess. What surprised me is the fact this girl had not heard of the word witchcraft and here she was being asked to make a so-called confession. In my opinion, those behind this child abuse should be brought to face the wrath of the law.
Kingsley Obika, Nigeria

Is witchcraft alive in Africa begs for the answer: Is the Pope a Catholic? We are mourning the death of our four-year-old's beloved pre-school teacher who suddenly died, apparently after taking some 'muti' (medication) dispensed to her by some 'visitors' from her rural home.
Guy, Johannesburg, South Africa

I am kind of surprised that the role of witchcraft in football has not been discussed. In Egypt, we heard tales of witchcraft from Egyptian clubs going to away games in African competitions. The most famous of these was when Al-Ahly went to play Asante Kotoko in the 80s, and found a slaughtered pig in their locker room. Although it is not common in North Africa, sometimes the most passionate fans will sacrifice a cow or sheep when their team's losing streak ends or when their favourite striker ends a dry spell.
Hosam, Boston, USA

The decision lies in the hands of an individual as to whether to believe in witchcraft or not
Osabutey Anny, Ghana

The issue as to whether witchcraft has a place in the modern society or not is really debatable. If a person consults a witchdoctor for solutions to his or her health needs, which I have seen people do before, then, I have no objection to that. On the other hand, if it is to eliminate a person or inflict pain which I hear people do in a community where I once lived then, I firmly say that it has no place in the modern society. But in spite of everything the decision lies in the hands of an individual as to whether to believe in witchcraft or not.
Osabutey Anny, Ghana

I believe there was witchcraft in Africa during the colonial times, but the witchcraft people nowadays are only making lives more difficult for the Africans. Africans need to obtain these crooks that are making life difficult for poor people, and believers in their faith. As soon as one starts to believe in these evil things, he or she will start losing all good friends, because these witches make them take into account even the joking words friends say.
Abraham Kamara, Liberian in the US

Witchcraft is many things to many people, but in its purest form it embodies an intimacy with the subtle vitality of Life and the methodology that allows the witch to manipulate reality and effect change. It is a practice like any other and therefore it can be wielded to both hinder and to help. As a witch of the neo-Pagan strand I object to my faith being persecuted on face-value. May tolerance prevail, and may unity ensue.
Gede, Australia

Witchcraft is alive the world over, from the sublime Harry Potter to the Juju Priest and witchdoctors of Africa and voodoo high priests of the Caribbean. As a Christian I believe there is a spiritual dimension of our existence, one that cannot be perceived in the natural. We are all made up of body, soul and spirit, the forces to which our spirits have allegiance with, gives rise to manifestation of our spirituality. The practice of witchcraft therefore comes from the allegiance of the spirit of man with evil forces.
Pete Johnson, UK

Education is the only cur
Adrian Cruickshank, Togo

Everybody I know in Togo believes in 'mammy water', the mythological sea serpent. After dark it is impossible to get anybody to go near the beach. Witchcraft is very very strong, more than 90%. And with 60% illiteracy and more than 60% unemployment, what hope is there for the future of the northern half of Africa. Education is the only cure.
Adrian Cruickshank, Togo

There is no witchcraft in Africa. There is African Science, which the West has not understood, and instead considers it witchcraft. This should end the discussion.
Tarsuah Early, Liberia

Witchcraft is clearly evident in all of the countries I have lived in. In Zimbabwe the only person immune from witches it seems is the president himself, and that is because he can afford stronger portions from all over Africa. In South Africa are the most feared witches. In Botswana the witches are there but they are not that skilled. In Zambia and Malawi you can easily be murdered in the night by witches. In England, UK I attended witches meetings in a little town of Leek in 1996, and again in Highlane Burslem in Stoke on Trent. The witches were convinced they had special powers.
Benson Magaba, Zimbabwe

These people can travel from Malawi to USA in seconds
Allanie Njateni, Malawi

Witchcraft is still alive in Africa. Here in Malawi there are two districts where people have advanced in witchcraft. These people can travel from Malawi to USA in seconds. They can tell you to close your eyes for two minutes and after that they tell you to open your eyes and seriously you find yourself in New York, imagine.

But the funny part of it these people are not educated but they are advanced in another technology. There are no planes which can travel from UK to USA in seconds, but ordinary people here can do it. In Karonga in the northern part of Malawi you can be removed your bones if you are rude and when you apologise they are returned. Anyway don't be shocked.
Allanie Njateni, Malawi

Witchcraft is absolutely vital in African society. It shapes our norms, values and tradition. We should not allow the negative effect of witchcraft and forget the enormous positive ones. This is a tradition of our back ground and no-one should shy away from it because negativity of it has been echoed in London or other parts of the world.

Take a look, Islam and Christianity have been imported to Africa centuries ago which is intended to replace our ancestors' traditions and values. Now you can't believe your eyes, in Nigeria thousands of people are killed each year as a result of these imported religions (someone's culture). I have seen witchdoctors curing people who have been told by modern doctors that they have no chances of surviving.
James Nyikole, Sudanese in Australia

Witchcraft does exist and it is used every day in Africa. It is practiced mostly in the sub-Saharan region of Africa. In the eastern part of Africa, where I am from, it is mostly used by the women. In my opinion, witchcraft users should be punished severely because they are the devil's soldiers.
Barreh Bouh Wais, Canada

I have seen truly sick Zambians get back on their feet after a visit from the local witchdoctor, or rather traditional healer
Jenny T Gelber, USA

Having lived in rural Zambia for several years, I can say definitively that witchcraft is alive and well in Zambia. Unfortunately in the western world, it has bad connotations - that it is backwards or harmful. I have seen truly sick Zambians get back on their feet after a visit from the local witchdoctor, or rather traditional healer, a term I prefer.

I think this says mountains about the power of belief to heal, as well as the benefits of traditional medicines. The only negative thing I have to say about my experiences with Zambian witchcraft is that the Christian missionaries, with no respect for traditional belief systems, will probably wipe out the wonderful aspect of rural Zambian culture within my lifetime.
Jenny T Gelber, USA (formerly Zambia)

If there is a power of witchcraft for real, Africa would have been the first country to develop and come out from poverty. I remember when Eritrea liberated from Ethiopia in 1993; the Eritrea government widely made an open debate regarding witchcrafts and invited the so-called experts of witchcraft, but none of them able to prove what they claimed to have. For most of them it is business and for some a false hope. For me, it is very sad, irrational and sham still some Africans to see believing on the existence of witchcraft.
Berhane, London, UK

What does modern man call witchcraft? Witchcraft can take different definitions depending on whom, when and where it's being defined. However, all forms of witchcraft have something in common which are magic powers beyond human conception. Having said that, witchcraft is as old as mankind only that it has played different roles in our lives at different times and still plays a role in modern life.

In the biblical times, we read about Simon the great witch. As to whether it should be banned or not, of course there are some aspects of it that are repugnant to modern justice systems which should be outlawed. Even in the western world, there are aspects of witchcraft that haven't been eliminated.
Charles Michira, Kenya

Witchcraft is very much alive in Africa including killing and taking body parts of victims. The lack of western medicine and education is hampering the efforts to eradicate it, also the traditional doctors use witchcraft to solve domestic and mental problems, including depression, menopause and stress.
Chandru Narayan, USA

Witchcraft, or Wicca as it is known here, is a recognized religion based more on animistic beliefs than in curses and charms. It has as much place in our society as does any religion, but should be restricted in the same ways. We cant explain everything with science and until we can the magic of witchcraft is as powerful as the faith of a Christian.
Ben Gammon, Canada

It's wrong to try to ban someone's religion and it wouldn't work anyway, it would just push the practices underground
Kate, UK

It's a mistake to consider witchcraft as a single religion. In fact various forms of paganism, witchcraft, animism and folkloric religions survive around the world today. What is needed is clear secular leadership so that the practice of ritual is allowed only where it doesn't pose a danger to people's lives and health.

Christians fighting Muslims, Jews fighting Muslims, Hindus fighting Muslims and Shintos fighting Buddhists have led to many more deaths than the practice of local indigenous religions. Branding them all witchcraft plays into prejudices which were originally encouraged by early Christian missionaries to turn people away from their indigenous religions.

It's wrong to try to ban someone's religion and it wouldn't work anyway, it would just push the practices underground. Many centuries ago we had witch trials in the UK which are now widely accepted as a stain on our human rights record. To encourage others around the world to engage in a similar exercise would show that we as a people haven't grown in our understanding since then.
Kate, UK

Witchcraft is alive and well in the UK, let alone Africa. As a Pastor I have had to deal with many people who have previously been involved in witchcraft. It is dangerous, wicked, harmful and any so-called benefits are short-lived and carry a high spiritual price.
Pastor Daniel Jordan, London, UK

We are having major problems at the moment in the region where I am based in southern Liberia. Traditional and local leaders use witchcraft and the threat of punishment for its use to strengthen their position ahead of elections in October. Leaders are pretty much free to accuse people of using witchcraft and punish them with beatings, imprisonment and sometimes death with no proof due to a lack of a strong legal system in the hinterlands.

Lack of education means many believe that certain people in their community are witches and should be punished, when told so by their leaders. In turn, the leaders of course use this system to eliminate any potential rivals. Ritual killings are also used to instil fear in the local populations. Witchcraft is alive and well in West Africa and there is a desperate need to educate the people and strengthen the legal system so as to put a stop to such practices by local leaders.
Alex El Jundi (UN), Liberia

Others are cruel such that they look for the spirit of witchcraft because they are jealous, lazy and counterproductive
Tina, Zimbabwe

Witchcraft is very much alive, and I believe that it is not limited to Africa alone. However, let's differentiate between herbalists, witches and traditional healers. Herbalists are just medicine people who have knowledge of what kinds of herbs can heal certain diseases. They did not go to any school for such knowledge but got it from their family members who passed it onto them. Traditional healers consult the spiritual world for their solutions. They can cause both harm and good if the person so wishes.

Witches are a different case, they just destroy. However, some of them do not even know that they are witches because they are possessed by the evil spirit unwillingly. Others know that they are witches because the evil spirit runs in the family and unwillingly possesses them. Others are cruel such that they look for the spirit of witchcraft because they are jealous, lazy and counterproductive. I know of a maid who used to work for us. My mum was the one who had found her but my grandmother always confided in me that she did not like her. She said that she was never comfortable in her presence, and concluded that she was a witch.

She left a year later after she got married. However, when she had a baby, both the baby and the husband mysteriously died. The husband's family was puzzled and they consulted a traditional healer who told them that it was the wife who killed their son and grandchild. She later confessed that she was a witch and that the allegations were true. Her grandmother confirmed it saying that the spirit of witchcraft that was resident in the family is now on her. I pity her, poor girl!
Tina, Zimbabwe

It does exist. That's for sure. Alarming though how many people use it as an excuse to their shortcomings. And when this happens innocent people pay the price. Mostly the ones who cannot defend themselves, like children. The ones who abuse the oldest religion ever also give witchcraft a bad name. Shame!
Elektra, Netherlands

I do belief in witchcraft. It is alive in Africa. For all time, it has established the basic character of life in my community. In some cases it places people on the path of progress and encourages competition and social well being, though on a high human cost. It should be encouraged.
Lambert Munang Ngong, Cameroon

People's lives have been destroyed by these witches. My brother was a victim
Johnson Ogah, Nigeria

Witchcraft is alive and well in Africa. I am speaking to you from my personal experience of being a witness to confessions by so-called witches and events supporting their exploits. People's lives have been destroyed by these witches. My brother was a victim. Witchcraft in any form is barbaric, evil and inhumane. I know some witches whom I might deal with soon.
Johnson Ogah, Nigeria

Of course I believe in the existence of witchcraft in Africa. Witchcraft has no place in modern society, as the world is too civilised to accommodate such practise. The art of witchcraft is cruel, inhumane, unreligious and barbaric. I think it is high time we got rid of such practise in Africa and took a seat among the civilised nations in the world. It is now time that governments in Africa put strong legislations in place to stamp out the practice.
Joseph P Abu Jnr, Sierra Leone

Witchcraft does exist. I was at a boarding school for four years and I did witness some witchcraft going on. Witchcraft indeed is used as a multipurpose thing as mentioned in your article. In Malawi there have been several cases whereby mutilated bodies have been found. Though I haven't physically seen one myself but just read about it in the papers.
Wezi, Malawi

I do believe witchcraft is alive in the whole world not only in Africa. It really works if one believes in it.
Rejoice Bvups, Zimbabwe

I have never seen a witch with my own eyes. But there are some events that happen in my country that lack scientific explanation and has been attributed to witchcraft. So I say yes witchcraft is with us and will always be there as long as Africa is alive.
Amos Phir, Malawi

Witchcraft exists everywhere in the world. Africa is no exception, but I think the pivot that hinges the activity of witchcraft is hatred, selfishness and injustice. Love, justice and tolerance are the only cure for this impetuosity. Besides, I don't believe that the instrument of law can be invoked to curb an activity that cannot be physically or legally verified.
Fidel Okaba Adie, Bekwarra, Nigeria

Witchcraft should be completely banned from Africa. These are some of the practices that are leaving us behind in this modern world. We can only seek help from God, not from all that nonsense.
Ngong Mayen, Sudan (now in Australia)

I have read several horrific stories in other parts of the world including the West which clearly borders on the very things you are referring to be the elements/parameter/yardstick to witchcraft. If there is witchcraft, it is not and cannot be confined to the geographical boundaries of Africa.
Samuel Cobblah, Ghanaian in Germany

Witchcraft in Africa is real and it is growing in an alarming rate because the youth are now into it
Juliet, Nigeria

Witchcraft in Africa is real and it is growing in an alarming rate because the youth are now into it. In Nigeria in particular most young people join up to witchcraft because they want to make quick money. They don't mind what the witchdoctor demands from them - at times the witchdoctor asks them to kill their mother, father or even brothers and sisters. And they do it because they really want to become rich in a short time.

This practice in Nigeria is common with the Ibos. The witchdoctors are also believed to cure illnesses, and do other things like giving people luck to find husbands, good jobs, children and so on. But as a Christian I don't believe in them, my religion condemns it, my religion tells me that it is only Jesus that has an answer to our problems so I don't know why people still go and patronise these devils.

Another thing that makes me wonder is the fact that there so many churches in Nigeria where this type of practice happens. Witchcraft does no good to the nation but helps to hinder the progress of the nation. I wish that President Obasanjo stops these practices.
Juliet, Nigeria

Witchcraft is truly alive in Africa; not only in remote villages but also in the wealthy suburbs of Kenya. One need not look far to see signs, advertising witchcraft services, which include promises to ensure you get a job, get pregnant, ensure your husband sticks to you, or even attract a new one.

Most "wagangas" as witchdoctors are commonly referred to in East Africa, hail from Zanzibar and even those from other regions claim to hail from the area, since they are reputed to deliver. Though witchcraft is not spoken about, it is very alive and desperate people spend their life savings on the promise of the realisation of their dreams.
Christine Wamuyu, Kenya

In this part of the world unlike in places like Europe or America witchcraft is perceived as sinister and evil and so people do not go about advertising the fact
Mmabatho, Botswana

I was very amused at your question, "Do you know a witch?" In this part of the world unlike in places like Europe or America witchcraft is perceived as sinister and evil and so people do not go about advertising the fact that they are witches. Sadly it is often people who live better than the rest of the community or are extremely poor who are labelled as witches.

Such rumours could be triggered by jealousy e.g. very rich families (are sometimes accused of using body parts (with the assistance of witchdoctors) to enhance business) etc. I remember as a first year sociology student at university how we argued with our New Zealander lecturer when she said there were good witches and bad witches.

How can a witch be good we asked? She also referred to witchcraft as a religion and this just astonished us even more! However, as for witchdoctors, many innocent herbalists and traditional healers are called witchdoctors by the West simply because they do not practice western medicine. Thankfully scientists are now taking a closer look at some of the plants and herbs used by these practitioners to learn more about their healing powers.

Certainly I believe that many traditional healers are not involved in sinister practices and are certainly not into witchcraft. Your question on whether I know a witch is no but I know many people who are accused of being witches (often behind their backs).
Mmabatho, Botswana

To Mmabatho in Botswana: Your New Zealander lecturer was probably talking about the Wicca religion, which is based on some pre-Christian European folklore and has pretty much nothing to do with those traditions labelled witchcraft in Africa, Asia, etc. One of my friends called herself a witch in high school because she believed in Wicca - she did not encourage harmful acts to others. So just calling someone a witch without explaining which kind of witch you mean is uncalled for.
Hsifeng, NYC, USA

Wherever you go, if you want to consult a witch you can do so
Botshabelo, Botswana

Whether we deny it or not witchcraft is still here in Africa. In fact our leaders in society ranging from president, judges, lawyers, teachers, police, businesspeople etc. use witchcraft to strengthen themselves. In Botswana it is not uncommon to hear that a child has disappeared only to be found later with missing body parts. However I wish to point out that witchcraft is not the domain of Africans.

I believe that it is all over the world, Europe, Americas, Pacific - wherever you go, if you want to consult a witch you can do so. I wish to make one thing clear to all. There is a difference between witches and traditional doctors. Traditional doctors only specialise in helping cure diseases. They were very helpful prior to colonialism and civilization.

However nowadays the difference is very little because some traditional doctors are actually involved in witchcraft. No matter how witchcraft is conceived by many, a lot of us are still going to cling to this old tradition. I for one have no problem with witchcraft as long as it is not used to kill but just to create good fortune for the client.
Botshabelo, Botswana

Witchcraft is alive and well. Ask Liberians, and they will not hesitate to tell you that their politicians are scrambling over human body parts in order to win political offices.
Peter, United States

My religion, Islam, like Christianity, regards witchcraft as satanic
Ahmed, Uganda

l don't believe in witchcraft but I know that it exists. My religion, Islam, like Christianity, regards witchcraft as satanic. Witchcraft has partly survived in Africa due to the failure of Islam and Christianity to liberate their followers from poverty, ignorance and disease.

The solution is for the two beliefs to recognise African customs which are not in contradiction with Islam and Christianity and to strengthen the penal code to deal harshly with witchcraft.
Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi, Uganda

Witchcraft should be banned from this world, because it does not have any positive effect. To vanquish the witches in this world we need the word of God.
Fanaye Alemayehu, Ethiopia

The right to adopt a religion is a basic right and should not be interfered with, except where it poses a visible danger to society. Secondly, it is doubtful that a ban would be effective, in any event. With economic development (hopefully, resulting in education, health care, housing, food, etc) these practices would soon become objects of light-hearted curiosity.
UE, UK/Nigeria

My Christian background refrains me from believing in what she does, so I opted out of that offer
Juliet O, Uganda

I actually know a witch who travels to London regularly from Uganda to 'cleanse people'. You would never in your wildest dreams believe that she is a witch. She even promised to give me medicine that can make me get a visa if I decide that I want to go to London. However my Christian background refrains me from believing in what she does, so I opted out of that offer.
Juliet O, Uganda

Witchcraft is a means of social control, just like the police and the courts in our countries. If any murder has been committed or a person tortured by witchcraft, then they should be punished by the laws of the land. But I don't think witchcraft itself should be banned. This is because it serves important sociological and psychological functions and could have positive effects of making one feel secure, etc.
Gayatri Thampy, USA

Witchcraft is certainly alive and kicking in Africa. I have often seen alleged criminals being threatened with being taken to the local police station or threatened with witchcraft (jo-jo) in order to obtain the truth out of them. If this is going on, then witchcraft has it's believers and thus it lives!
Rohit Sagar, UK

I am from a small town in Ethiopia, 200 km far from the capitol. It is very common to see local people to go to church and a witchcraft house, locally called "Tenqui bet". In more rural areas, using Tenqui for taking revenge against neighbours is common. Although most people don't believe in Tenqui in Ethiopia, it still exists today. People say witchcraft is only alive in Africa. I believe it is everywhere regardless of technology or belief.
Abule Zemedie, Ethiopian in USA

It a shameful fact in today's world that Africans still believe in this stupidity. Where were the witches to help us when the continent was being exploited by the colonial imperialists? There has never been, and there will never be witches. It is an extremely dumb idea.
Rasaq Ibrahim, USA

I do not have anything against witchcraft so long as it is used positively. There is no way you can tell who is a witch unless you are told - it is not written on their forehead. It will be an uphill battle to ban witchcraft completely, because not all of them are bad. You have to be a true believer in God in order to overcome witchcraft. Those who use it positively, can help people with healing, protection and prosperity.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

My name is Rev. Clopein, and I am a Wiccan High Priestess. I practice witchcraft on a daily basis and this practice has fulfilled my life, and strengthened my resolve to believe in myself, and to help others. It's been my foundation for over 12 years now, and I have helped people of all faiths.
Reverend Clopein, USA

Witchcraft still plays a vital role in Africa especially in southern Sudan where I come from. I'm a Christian but I'm still following my traditional belief in the existence of witchcraft. I personally know a lot of witchdoctors and acknowledge their importance in my country.
Peter Tuach, Sudanese, Minnesota, USA

Each person is entitled to their own religion, belief or culture, but when that same thinking such as witchcraft in South Africa, encourages people to rape three-month-old babies to 'cure' them of HIV, people should rethink their views.
Danni, South Africa

About a month ago my cousin was found to be a witch. She testified after my pastor had prayed for her. According to her she was introduced to it by my grandmother. I also know many people who are said to be witches. If Africa truly wants to live then we must desist from evil spirits and rather trust in the Lord.
Bernard Bortey, Ghana

I do believe that witchcraft exists. It has negative and positive uses. For instance, bullets cannot penetrate the bodies of some members of armed forces in Africa as they have been protected by witchdoctors. Also, there are cases where witchdoctors have been called in to find out why an individual's health condition has been deteriorating rapidly in spite of western medical treatment. One positive effect, that I know of is the healing of broken bones. Christianity is against it, particularly the born again Christians, but it is difficult for Africans to give it up completely as it is part of Africa's culture.
Sigismond Wilson, Michigan, USA

After trying witchcraft I know it does work, it is a very strong tool that can be used. Witchcraft is only as strong as the person's will and belief, and is only evil if the person is evil. Knowing a few witches, and being a part of their lives, I know these are good people, and anyone claiming otherwise are only attacking what they do not understand.
Christopher Williams, Wales

These are traditional healers who use knowledge passed on from their parents to cure people. They use herbs which are cheaper than family medicine. They are a reminder that before colonialism Africans had their own means of healing people.
Isingoma, South Africa

There are more important things affecting Africa than witchcraft. Witchcraft is everywhere, including western countries and is not limited to Africa.
Ziggy, USA

Witchcraft torture three jailed
08 Jul 05 |  London



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