Tanzanians Kill 350 Suspected Witches In 18 Months

Reuters, August 3, 1999

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania - More than 350 people have been killed by angry villagers in Tanzania in the past year and a half after being accused of being witches or wizards, a police report said Tuesday.

The killings, which took place between January 1998 and May this year, mean that an average of 21 murders a month are linked to superstition, said the report by Tanzania's Criminal Investigation Department.

"The murdered people, most of whom were old men and women, were killed by villagers who accused them of practicing witchcraft on them by allegedly killing their loved ones or inflicting curses which made them fail in business or reduced their harvests," said police sources.

Witchcraft murders have been reported recently in Mbeya, southern Tanzania, linked to a cross-border trade in human skin.

The skin is supposed to protect homes from demons and evil spirits and, when used in certain rituals, to increase harvests and lure clients to bars and shops.

Some old women whose eyes had turned red after years of cooking in the smoke-filled kitchens of their huts were also accused of being witches and murdered, the report said.

The report said 256 of the killings took place last year and 101 from January to May, a total of 357. Deaths were reported in 14 regions including Zanzibar.

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