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Imperative of civic engagement on witchcraft-based violence in Malawi

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Timothy Mtambo


SIR: The Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AfAW) commends the Minister for Civic Education and National Unity, Mr. Timothy Pagonachi Mtambo for the efforts to combat violations and mob violence linked to witchcraft beliefs in Malawi. At a recent event in the Neno district, Mtambo urged Malawians to end witchcraft-related attacks and exorcism because jungle justice was a crime against the law. Mtambo, who was a human rights activist before joining politics, made this appeal during a civic education programme on witchcraft-based violence in the country.

Neno is one of the districts in the country that has experienced mob violence and persecution of elderly persons in the name of witchcraft. Many elderly persons have lost their lives or have their property destroyed following allegations of witchcraft. Some of the survivors have been rendered homeless. He noted that elderly people are human beings and have a right to life and dignified treatment.

The civic engagement of chiefs and clergy on witch persecution in Malawi is a laudable initiative because witch persecution is rooted in ignorance, superstition, and religious extremism. To end witch persecution, there is an urgent need for reorientation, education and enlightenment. It is pertinent to highlight the destructive impact of irrational and superstitious beliefs.

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The support of chiefs and the clergy is critical to eradicating this dark and destructive phenomenon because chiefs and priests are key players in the field of witchcraft allegations in Malawi. Witchcraft accusations happen mainly in rural communities. Traditional priests, Muslim or Christian clerics carry out witch trials and exorcisms. Abuses linked to witchcraft accusations take place under the watch of chiefs and other traditional/state authorities. It is pertinent to embark on civic education and engagement of citizens in affected countries and communities. Malawi is one of the countries notorious for witchcraft accusations and witch persecution.

Recently, a mob lynched a 38 year-old-man, Mike Mwaighogha, in Karonga. The deceased was accused of killing the brother through magic. Such misconceptions of the cause of death, diseases and other misfortunes underlie witchcraft accusations, witch persecution and killing.

As part of civic education and engagement, Malawians should be told that nobody could kill or harm another persons through magical or occultic means. Such a belief is superstitious and has no basis in reason or reality. A reorientation of the people has become necessary in the light of a recent UN resolution condemning abuses linked to witchcraft accusations and ritual attacks. The United Nations has asked states to take measures to tackle these violations. 

And a robust civic education that highlights the inhumanity, illegality and irrationality of witch persecution is a step in the right direction.
Leo Igwe.

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