Tortured by a witch doctor

Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga and George.
Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga and George.

“There are no words to describe the horror that haunts a mother who has lost her only child in such a barbaric and gruesome act.”
—Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga, Kyampisi Childcare Ministries—

Within minutes of meeting five-year-old George Mukisa, of Uganda, he had won himself a place in my heart forever.

Although shy to start, it wasn’t long before he was racing me down the hospital hallway, his laughter as I tickled his stomach bringing smiles to those watching us.

No one could have guessed that the young boy with the wide smile and sparkling dark eyes had been the victim of a chilling and calculated child sacrifice attack.

On 15 February 2009, George was playing football at his family home with his older brothers while his parents attended a funeral. Seeing his opportunity, their neighbour John Otebati—a witch doctor—lured three-year-old George to a nearby banana plantation with the promise of sweets.

What followed is almost unimaginable for those of us living in the developed world—Otebati castrated George and, when people heard the young boy’s screams, fled the scene leaving George for dead.

George was rushed to a local hospital where he spent months undergoing painful surgeries in a bid to reconstruct his urinary function and to give him an artificial penis.

With his parents unable to cope with the attack—his father fainted upon seeing the trauma caused to his son’s genitals— George was placed under the guardianship of Kyampisi Childcare Ministries.

“When I look at Mukisa I feel sad. Sad for what has happened to him, and sad for what the future holds for my grandson.”
—Mrs Nakku Musana, George’s grandmother—

George’s guardian Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga, who is also the Executive Director of Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, said his young charge remembered each moment of the terrifying attack and the recovery that followed.

“He has spent almost half of his life in hospital with a lot of pain, continuous infections and skin grafting processes for the surgeries,” Pastor Sewakiryanga said.

The first reconstructive surgery, which was unsuccessful, left George with a four-inch scar running up the inside of his forearm as a physical reminder of the attack

In the end, surgeons were left with little choice but to give George a urethral catheter.

“The catheter was a big concern and he was sick every week because he had not used a catheter before. For two years he had to carry the catheter, so he stopped playing with children and going to school,” Pastor Sewakiryanga said.

However, a chance meeting with a Brisbane-based urologist offered George a new chance at life.

The urologist and his colleague, a plastic surgeon, re-routed George’s urethra to enable normal urinary output and the revise the phalloplasty that had been performed in Uganda.

Within weeks of his surgery, George was catheter-free and able to play with other children his age.

“He will not have children and will require another surgery when he is 14 years old, but he will have a better life,” Pastor Sewakiryanga said.

“But he can now do everything independently like going to the toilet and moving freely.

“As a charity we will help George will a lifetime of follow-up; he’s going to need hormone replacement as he grows but we want to help him with an education and help him have a better life.

“What has happened is not the end and we will keep talking to him about forgiveness.”

While the physical and emotional scars will stay with George for life, he was one of the lucky ones—he survived.

A 2011 report by the Jubilee Campaign and Kyampisi Childcare Ministries said there were 38 ‘registered’ cases of child sacrifice between July 2006 and March 2011.

According to the 2008 Uganda Crime Report, ritual murders (sacrifice) rose by 80 per cent from the previous year and children are emerging as the target victims.

According to official statistics, in 1999 15 children were reported and confirmed dead by way of ritual murders, in 2006, 230 children disappeared without trace.

In 2007, 103 children went missing and in 2008 another 318 disappeared; 18 of which were confirmed dead.

The victims were mostly killed because someone wanted to ensure the success of a business venture or personal financial prosperity; and in some cases attain health and happiness. Boys were often targeted more than girls because they are valued more highly in Uganda.

While even the 2011 figure of 38 registered deaths is too many, Pastor Sewakiryanga believes the ‘true’ figure vastly outstrips the official government figures, with many cases going unreported due to a lack of police resources.

“I think hundreds of cases of missing children are not reported. I think that most of the missing children that are never found are victims of child sacrifice or trafficking,” Pastor Sewakiryanga said.

“Our research and the investigation by Chris Rogers and the BBC team in 2011 have shown that witch-doctors are still ready and willing to sacrifice children for the chance of wealth and good health.

“Most of them do the sacrifice secretly and there is little chance of being caught in the act,” he said.

Pastor Sewakiryanga has spent four years risking his life to bring an end to the suffering and to bring comfort to the families whose children fall victim to witch doctors.

“I have had numerous threats from people who benefit from this business of child sacrifice and I have been attacked many times, but it is worth the risk,” he said.

“I can’t sit back and watch when children are being slaughtered in cold blood like goats. I am ready to die for these innocent children.

“The first family I met had lost three children at once; their two girls and a boy were all under the age of 12 and their throats were slit, their bodies drained of blood and organs.

“It is very, very hard for the families. There are no words to describe the horror that haunts a mother who has lost her only child in such a barbaric and gruesome act.”

“I can’t sit back and watch when children are being slaughtered in cold blood like goats. I am ready to die for these innocent children.”
—Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga—

The team at Kyampisi Childcare Ministries try to create long-term relationships with the victim’s families.

“They become our families; we build more than friendship and professional attachment based on the uniqueness of their case and their need. We identify with each of them,” Pastor Sewakiryanga said.

“As a Christian, I pray a lot as I cannot handle all of these traumatising incidents on my own but seeing the few survivors who we have helped through their struggles, I am encouraged to carry on.

“When I see George run around and be free to have a life as a child, I know that it was worth it and I am encouraged that other children will be saved.

“When I see the families that were living in fear and hopelessness healed and resettled to safety, I am encouraged that it is a worthy cause and tomorrow other families will be safe and free.”

Despite ongoing attacks, Pastor Sewakiryanga remains hopeful that there will be an end to the unnecessary killings.

“I believe without a doubt that there will be an end to child sacrifice; I might die before I see that, I don’t know, but I have faith that this practice will become history,” he said.

“If I didn’t believe so, then I wouldn’t put my life at risk to fight against it.

“We need a lot of prayers, encouragement and support in terms of funding and anyone that can help is much welcome so we can bring a lasting change.”

George’s attacker—John Otebati—was convicted over a charge of abduction and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

For information on how you can help Pastor Sewakiryanga and his team continue their fight to eradicate the practice of child sacrifice, bring justice to the perpetrators and support to the families of victims like George, click here or find them on Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/kyampisi

“Sound the trumpet louder. It will help to awaken people to the need and once people see the need, people will respond. We pray protection for our children, particularly against the vice of child sacrifice. Lord, heal our land, and heal our people.”
—The Most Reverend Henry Orombi, Archbishop of the Church of Uganda—

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