AFRUCA, a charity promoting the rights and welfare of African children in the UK, has welcomed the recent verdict in the Kristy Bamu child murder case and renewed call for action to criminalise the branding of children as witches.
Kristy was murdered on Christmas Day by his sister, Magalie Bamu, and her partner, Eric Bikubi, who suspected the 15 year old of practising witchcraft.
The teenager was found drowned in the bathtub of the couple’s flat in Newham in East London after being subjected to four days of extreme violence and torture.
On 5th March 2012 Bikubi was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years while Bamu will serve 25 years for Kristy’s murder.
The Crown Prosecution Service said that Bikubi inflicted “violence on an unimaginable scale” and that Bamu “willingly subjected her 15 year old brother to extreme violence.”
The teenager was found with 130 separate injuries and died from a combination of drowning and beatings to his head, chest and limbs.
“While offering our condolences to his family for this senseless murder, this case is a very powerful reminder of the utter devastation that can occur when children are needlessly and without reason branded as witches or as possessed by evil spirits. We therefore renew our call for action to criminalise this very harmful practice,” AFRUCA said.
AFRUCA criticized the branding of someone as a witch, saying it “presupposes that the person is a malevolent character responsible for metaphysically harming people and causing havoc in their lives.”
The child rights body argued that the branding of children as witches is a licence to harm them because they are seen as "evil".
“We believe that this is what happened in the Kristy Bamu case where he was branded as a witch before being subjected to extreme abuse and torture for being an “evil” person,” AFRUCA said.
“The branding of children as witches is in itself a serious form of emotional abuse which leads to untold anguish and suffering by victims,” AFRUCA added.
The organisation revealed that they’ve witnessed many cases where victims are not only ostracised but also isolated by their families and community members.
“There is nowhere in UK law where the link between witchcraft branding and emotional abuse is explicitly made despite the level of harm and devastation that can occur. This anomaly needs to be urgently corrected to safeguard vulnerable children,” AFRUCA said. “The branding of children as witches leads to other forms of abuses including serious physical abuse and torture, even sexual abuse and definitely child neglect. In this case, it has led to the death of a child. Child branding is therefore a very serious infringement on the rights of the child which in our view cannot be justified by the claim of other people's right to religion or freedom of expression.”
The organisation observed that the branding of children as witches in London has increased during the economic downturn.
“Vulnerable children are being scapegoated as the cause of other people's misfortune. At AFRUCA alone, we deal with about a dozen of such child branding cases a year with most resulting in serious forms of abusive acts on victims,” AFRUCA said.
The organization said they were particularly concerned about activities of some rogue faith leaders in the African community “who are preying on people's beliefs to brand children as witches for the sole purpose of extorting money from their parents to perform fake exorcism rites and as a way of increasing their power-base.”
AFRUCA called for immediate action to stop such harmful activities in order to safeguard vulnerable children.
“The law ought to be able to protect children like Kristy Bamu from being scapegoated as witches in the first place. We should not seek to act only after the damage is done and a child is seriously harmed or killed because someone thought they were a witch,” AFRUCA said.
AFRUCA, in partnership with Chuka Umunna, MP will host a Parliamentary meeting on 18th April 2012 to discuss the branding of African children as witches in the UK.