It is said that success is a journey; a process which takes innovativeness, assertiveness, persistence and grit. Such diligence is actually what explains why our country’s economy has continually expanded since peace and security were restored – to allow free enterprise to thrive.
Ugandans are inherently very hardworking people and have always taken every chance to work.
But whereas, for many, work/business is just about forces of demand and supply, some Ugandans strongly disagree. Even though they never say it out loud.
Witchcraft In Markets
“There’s more,” insists Nalongo Nakayiza, a vegetables seller in a fresh food market in Mukono Municipal Center. Nakayiza’s attitude is anchored deep in her belief that there’s always a negative force working behind the scenes to undermine people’s success.
This sentiment comes shortly after a local tabloid conducted a mini survey that revealed that more and more Ugandan businessmen are increasingly involved in witchcraft practices in their day to day activities than ever before.
In a snap street survey that we conducted this week, we have learnt that at least at 90% of Ugandan urban dwellers believe that witchcraft is involved in most successful businesses in Kampala, especially the indigenous ones.
Also, 50% of the respondents said a fair number of their workfellows in work places depended on witchcraft. But whereas 20% of them confirmed that people they know use it, some 30% believed their workmates used more professional competence than witchcraft to secure their jobs.
On whether respondents believed that witchcraft could aid one in a promotion at work, or cause success in business, 60% said yes, and if not for such limitations as their religion, they would happily use witchcraft to help themselves.
These figures, indeed, were quite as telling as the evidence on the ground. Early this year, it was reported in the media that due to internal strife, intrigue and power battles among some diplomats, witchcraft had set in as a means to protect their jobs. This revelation came after a family had pleaded with the Foreign Affairs ministry in Kampala to investigate claims that their daughter, [who had been flown back home on November 17, 2015, after doctors in Europe diagnosed her case as “psychotic depression”], had unknowingly been initiated into an underworld realm of spirits by an ambassador.
Witchcraft Among Diplomats
It is said that this woman, who resigned a banking job in Uganda to work as a “house help” in the home of one of the country’s envoys in Europe, told her parents that on arrival overseas in May 2014, the ambassador, that evening gave her a “vertically split unsheathed stick about five centimeters in length” to rub on her teeth, apparently to fight off fear.
And that only a while later, she began sighting serpents in bed and others of varying colors and sizes clinging on her body. The family said she saw pets and, in some cases, heard cats meowing in the dead of the night even when there was none in the house and that she often listened to footsteps of invisible people on staircases while others hummed away.
In a meeting held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Kampala, the girl’s family is said to have told human resource officials that what happened to their daughter was a “high class witchcraft being exhibited in high offices”.
Witchcraft In Politics
Last year in July, two employees of Luweero District local government abandoned their office citing witchcraft. The affected employees, Sarah Were, the Clerk to Luweero District Council and Safina Nassali, an attendant in the office of the LC V chairperson, Hajji Abdul Nadduli. This happened after Were found fetishes comprised of bird feathers and herbs under her desk.
Were consequently decided to abandon the office because this had been the second time this was happening. According to Were, she couldn’t leave things to chance for fear of being harmed by the fetishes. Safina Nassali on the other hand says she developed a strange swelling on her leg, which she attributes to witchcraft. She claims that she started feeling pain in the leg on the very day when she opened her office.
Witchcraft In Civil Service
Meanwhile in 2013, several officials in Lwengo district shunned their offices citing witchcraft, after Deo Kiberu, the district NAADS production and marketing officer, suddenly fell sick and was admitted in hospital.
That the incident had so scared Kiberu from returning to office that it took prayers and the intervention of top district leaders to convince him to return to office.
A week before this incident, Robert Wanzala had also quit his job over suspected witchcraft.
Apparently, there had been cases of unknown people entering offices after official working hours, to plant charms,as in 2010, when coffee beans in banana fibres and dead insects in bark cloth, were found in the drawers and ceiling in the office of the acting finance officer at the National Forestry Authority (NFA), Aidat Nandutu which forced the NFA prayer group, including some board members, to conduct prayers around the premises before they could resume business.
Purpose For Wizardry
These are just some of the many cases highlighting the year after year increase in witchcraft at the workplaces as employees try to harm, scare workmates, seek favors and power and also clear their way to success as well as seek protection from real or imagined powers.
Maama Fiina Speaks Out
According to Maama Fiina, these black magic ghosts are “bad winds” as opposed to the “good winds” which she is more farmiliar with.
Maama Fiina [Sylvia Namutebi], who is also known as Sophia since her recent conversion to Islam, is a traditional healer and currently the overall head of African Traditional Religion loyalists in the country. In a phone interview with us, the newly married diviner explained that something has gone amiss in how the African religion has been perceived in this new age.
“It was never meant to do bad to others,” she contends. “On the contrary, the only spirits that were ever invoked used to be the good ones only, mostly our departed ancestors who are always only looking out for our good; they bless, through dreams they guide us or through incantations they possess one of us, in the clan, or a certified spiritualist like me, to define for us a good path through life; say, for instance, educate us about which herb could heal an ailment.”
Maama Fiina fears people have instead become wicked in the course of their pursuit of happiness. “They’ll go any length,” she wails, faulting acts like bewitching workmates or business rivals and sacrificing children.
“The proper way would be to put a better service on the market other than killing innocent children,” she argues. Otherwise according to The Guardian, a British News Agency, child sacrifice in Uganda is more common than authorities acknowledge. Children disappear frequently, murdered or mutilated by witch doctors as part of ceremonial ritual.
Fate Of The Children
According to Ureport, SMS-based reporting system supported by Unicef and Brac: “10,317 youth in Uganda, representing every district in the country, confirmed they have heard of a child being sacrificed in their community”. A 2013 report from Humane Africa said that during their four-month fieldwork period from June to September 2012 there has been an average of one sacrifice each week in one of the 25 communities where the research was based.
The practice is rooted in the belief that blood sacrifice can bring fortune, wealth and happiness. The “purer” the blood, the more potent the spell, making innocent children a target. Witch doctors look for children without marks or piercings, so many parents pierce their children’s ears at birth and get their boys circumcised in an effort to protect them.
Children are either abducted from, or in some cases actually given to, witch doctors by relatives out of desperation for money. The rituals involve the cutting of children and the removal of some body parts, often facial features or genitals.
Social Activists Weigh In
Social commentators however, like Frank Gashumba, a self-styled activist, also faults the clergymen who have since turned into swindlers and conmen, caring less for the guidance of the stray public than their own stomachs, hence leaving Ugandan people like a flock completely without a shepherd. This comes only on addition to a complacent parenting of the era where the job of guiding the children is relegated to the schoolteachers, who are themselves disapprovingly too permissive to play substitute for the workaholic parents.
Uganda faces a demographics challenge and it is of the youths. According to the latest census figures, over 70% of Ugandans are youths. However, appallingly, over 83% of these are without jobs. This has consequently brought forth a whole part of society wallowing in demoralization, poverty and desperation. In the process of looking for what to do to survive, they end up at witch doctors’ places who give them some [strange] sort of hope. And for those that are employed, they work tooth and nail to keep their job; even if it means being a witch. And so they end up being exactly that.
Men and women of late move around with fetishes in their cars, shops, stalls and all the otherplaces of work. This apparently is their source of luck.
The other school of thought is to consider the fact that when the poor old woman sells her bananas in the market, she would never keep her money in her purse or pocket but in the very basket that carried her merchandise – notwithstanding that it could easily be stolen. In her belief, she could pocket away her fortune – which comes with the profits. It is not different from another, who wakes up to smoke the traditional pipe’s smoke [emmindi] in her entire shop or him, who never dares to peer back as he walks in the morning to work and never dares to work on Wednesday, well, because it is the day of “the spirit of death”. These are rooted deep in the African man’s traditional beliefs. More Ugandans get well acquainted with their cultural practices before they are ever conversant with their religion. For a survey conducted in 2010 by the US-based Center Pew Research Center indicated that two  out of every 10 Ugandans – believed in witchcraft or the protective power of sacrifices to the spirits or ancestors.
The African life is deeply anchored in sorcery; it is how we lay our bed so we must lie on it – especially if we are also mindful of the grounds of the law. According to the Witchcraft Act, practicing witchcraft is a crime punished with imprisonment exceeding five years on conviction.
As it is, beside the criminal ritual of human sacrifices, witchcraft beliefs have slowly but surely been taking a mainstream status and are poised to greatly interfere with the progress of the corporate sector as they are already ruining development in the informal sector.