Woman's Own

December 21, 2019

Women, children, disabled, mostly victims of torture; accused of witchcraft —WHIRN Director

Leo Igwe addressing a community on witchcraft

Leo Igwe addressing a community on witchcraft

…as witch-hunters use it to exploit, manipulate people

By Elizabeth Uwandu

More often than not, alleged victims of witchcraft have been subjected to torture, abuse and most times ex- communication by the community who perceived them to be evil.

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However, a non-governmental organization, NGO, Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network, WHRIN, is set to change the narrative by giving a voice to people accused of witchcraft.

In an exclusive interview with Vanguard, the Campaign Director, WHIRN Leo Igwe speaks on  the activities of the organisation; the recent UNN conference on witchcraft and other issues.  Excerpt

Tell us about WHIRN

It is a non-governmental organisation that highlights and documents human rights abuses that are linked to manifestations of witchcraft beliefs. One of our major campaigns at the moment is to get the United Nations to pass a resolution against such abuses. WHRIN has an online petition, the witch way forward campaign, which interested persons could sign up to at  www.whrin.org.

What informed the creation of the organization?

Combating pervasive abuses of alleged witches including elderly women, children and people living with disabilities informed the establishment of WHRIN. Too often those who believe in witchcraft attack, torture and murder alleged witches. Witch hunters exploit and manipulate people with impunity. Exposing these shady undertakings is part of WHRIN’s mission

What do you hope to change about the notion of witchcraft in Africa and in Nigeria in particular?

First, we wants to break the silence over the plight and predicament of alleged witches at local and international levels. Second WHRIN hopes to change the attitude of Nigerians and Africans towards witchcraft, from an object that is feared to phenomenon that is understood and adequately situated. Or better still, WHRIN wants Nigerians and Africans to understand that witchcraft is a form of myth and superstition.

How do you feel about Nigerians’ reaction to the proposed Witchcraft conference in UNN, Nsukka

I feel utterly disappointed. First of all, the protests and oppositions were uncalled for and they indicated a dark and disturbing trend in the educational system. I mean it’s difficult to comprehend the threat and attempts by clerics to stop the holding of an academic seminar in a university. I am dismayed by the misconceptions that informed the protests.

CAN, PFN and other religious bodies should know, and operate within their limits. They have no business interfering in academic debates and discourses. Universities are not the extension of churches and mosques. Religious students should be mindful of these clerical busybodies. They should not allow themselves to be used and manipulated to further bigotry and anti-intellectualism on campuses.

An alleged witch

Why do you  say that witchcraft is superstition or myth?

Yes it is. Witches are imaginary beings. Witchcraft is an imaginary crime nobody commits it. It is a narrative that people use to make sense of their misfortunes especially those misfortunes that they find strange or difficult to explain. It is the device that charlatans use to manipulate and exploit ignorant, gullible folks.

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What about those who confess

No sane mind confesses to witchcraft. And anyone who does so should be sent to a psychiatric hospital for medical examination. Witch confessions are made at the instance of a threatening mob or a witch hunter. Those who embark on extracting such confessions, those who induce  children and the elderly to make such extraordinary disclosures  are those to be excoriated and sanctioned.