Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ugandan "Ritual Killer" a Fake

Last month while I was in the hospital a BBC-produced documentary aired in which Pollino Angela, a traditional African witchcraft practitioner, claimed that he had murdered 70 people over the course of the last 22 years, including his own son, for magical purposes.

At the time I missed covering that story on the blog, but if I had I would have noted that Pollino's claims sounded pretty fantastic, were filled with moral panic elements, and were overall pretty hard to believe. As it turns out, it sounds like I would have been right.

The documentary, aired by the BBC on January 10-20, is estimated to have been watched by about 65 million people around the world.

But a statement released by the head of the Anti-Human Sacrifice and Trafficking Task Force in the Police, Moses Binoga, who investigated the matter, said Angela’s story was false.

“He confessed that the whole story, as quoted by the British journalist, was false and said that he had been promised funds from donors to run his Fr. Russo Foundation if he gave a fantastic story about traditional healing and human sacrifice in Uganda,” Binoga said.

The Police officer said that Angela was paid Shs 200,000 while other “actors” in the documentary were each paid Shs 50,000 for their role.

Binoga said that Angela told Police in Lira that his son, whom he claimed in the documentary that he killed, actually died of natural causes and had been “decently” buried in a family cemetery.

Angela is still in trouble with the law, but for making false statements rather than for murder.

Police said the man will now be charged with giving false information. “More investigations are going on with the Inspector General of Police and a more conclusive report will be submitted very soon,” Binoga said.

Binoga accused the BBC journalist of “editing the documentary to make it seem like child sacrifice is at its worst here [in Uganda], which is not the case.”

The BBC journalist who produced the documentary insists that the report is accurate and that Angela is lying to the police now to cover up his involvement in the murders. However, even over the course of 20 or more years 70 murders is a pretty big number. It's hard for me to believe that nobody would have said anything about it until a camera crew came around to interview them.

I'm not trying to claim that human sacrifice is never committed in the course of African folk magick. There's plenty of evidence that it does sometimes happen, as the well-documented albino killings in the rift valley region attest. My point is this: according to the article 29 people are believed to have been the victims of ritual murders in Uganda in 2009. 70 murders over 22 years means 3-4 murders a year, which would make this one man responsible for more than 10% of the ritual murders across the entire country.

I don't find that sort of percentage very credible, and it makes a lot more sense to me that he was exaggerating for the camera, bribe or no bribe.

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1 comment:

Jason Miller, said...

Actually one person accounting for %10 of the ritual murders, which I am sure are a very small percentage of the total murders, across a country as small as Uganda is entirely believable.