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Villages around Uganda’s capital, Kampala, are gripped by fear, reports Chris Roberts with the BBC, as witchdoctors are being blamed for the surge in popularity of a traditional ritual said to bring wealth and good health — child sacrifice.

Schoolchildren are being closely watched by teachers and parents as they make their way home from school. In playgrounds and on the roadside, posters warn of the danger of abduction.

“Many believe that members of the country’s new elite are paying witchdoctors vast sums of money for the sacrifices in a bid to increase their wealth,” writes Rogers:

At the Kyampisi Childcare Ministries church, Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga is teaching local children a song called “Heal Our Land, End Child Sacrifice.” To hear dozens of young voices singing such shocking words epitomises how ritual murder has become part of everyday life here.

“Child sacrifice has risen because people have become lovers of money. They want to get richer,” the pastor says. “They have a belief that when you sacrifice a child you get wealth, and there are people who are willing to buy these children for a price. So they have become a commodity of exchange, child sacrifice has become a commercial business.”

According to official police figures, there was one case of child sacrifice in 2006; in 2008 the police say they investigated 25 alleged ritual murders, and in 2009, another 29.

Pastor Sewakiryanga disputes the police numbers, and says there are more victims from his parish than official statistics for the entire country, notes Rogers. The work of the police task force has been strongly criticized by the UK-based charity, Jubilee Campaign. It claims the true number of cases is in the hundreds — with more than 900 cases yet to be investigated because of corruption and a lack of resources.

Rogers describes how a tribal woman named Tepenensi took him to a field near her home where she found the body of her six-year-old grandson Stephen, dumped in the reeds. Clutching the only photo she has of the boy, she sobbed as she explained that although the local witchdoctor had admitted to sacrificing Stephen, the police were reluctant to pursue the case.

“They offered me money to keep quiet,” she says. “I refused the offer.”

The head of the Anti-Human Sacrifice Police Task Force, Commissioner Bignoa Moses, says the police are doing all they can to tackle the problem.

“Sometimes, they accuse us of these things because we make no arrests, but we are limited. If we get information that someone is involved in criminal activities like human sacrifice, we shall go and investigate, and if it can be proven we will take him to court, but sometimes the cases are not proven.”

Pastor Sewakiryanga says without the full force of the law, there is little that can be done to protect Uganda’s children from the belief in the power of human sacrifice.

“The children do not have voices, their voices have been silenced by the law and the police not acting, and the people who read the newspapers do nothing, so we have to make a stand and do whatever it takes to stamp out this evil, we can only pray that the government will listen.”

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