Kenya: Reality of a Man-Eat-Man World
The East African Standard (Nairobi)
4 December 2007
Vincent Moracha And Nicholas Asego
Shrouded in mystery, myth, symbolism, fear and speculation, cannibalism remains one of the ultimate taboos in most cultures.
The very thought of a man eating a fellow human being's flesh sends a cold shiver down the spine. This is regardless of whether the victim is a witch or a man gone bonkers.
A university lecturer once recalled the cannibalistic tendencies among a certain tribe in Western Kenya. "This was long ago when communities still waged wars against each other," she told an attentive class deviating from the normal literature lectures. "In this community, well endowed women were and are still highly regarded," she said. During times of war and in the event of famine the women were often forced to slice off a part of their fatty bodies to feed the warriors. "In this way they had share of the ultimate victory because they fed the warriors," she said.
Sometime ago a documentary titled, "Feeding on the Dead" was released that focused on a secretive sect of the Hindu ascetics who eat corpses. Their belief is that ingesting the dead flesh makes them ageless and gives them supernatural powers.
The 10-minute documentary delves into the little known world of the Aghori sect, whose holy men pluck bodies from the Ganges River in Northern India. Others like the Binderwurs of Central India ate their sick and aged in the belief that the act was pleasing to their goddess, Kali.
A P Rice, in The American Antiquarian gives an interesting account about Papua New Guinea. One of the New Guinea Papuan tribes has the custom of taking out its grandparents, when they have become to old to be of any use to the tribe, and tying each of them loosely to the branches of a tree. The populace will then form a ring round the tree and indulge in an elaborate dance, which has some affinity with the traditional Maypole dance. As they dance, they cry out in chorus a refrain that has a somewhat sinister double-barrelled meaning: 'The fruit is ripe! The fruit is ripe!' Then, having repeated this cry, they close in upon the tree and violently shake its branches, so that the old men and women come hurtling to the ground below, there to be seized and devoured by the younger members of the tribe.
These might sound like things that crawl out of one's nightmares.
Yet the question remains: Is cannibalism fact or fiction? Are there people who salivate at the very thought of roasted human flesh?
Allegations of cannibalism fly thick and fast among the Bagisu, the Kisii and some tribes in the Congo forest, regions of civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, Asia and Latin America.
A photographer and one of the writers once accompanied police on the trail of a suspected cannibal who had exhumed a corpse buried on August 9, 2006 in Malanga Village of South Uyoma, Bondo District.
Led by the Bondo Officer Commanding Police Division Mr Golucha Roba, the police nabbed the suspect.
Villagers stared in disbelief as the class six dropout was arrested with human brain in a bottle and the private parts of the deceased in a handbag.
The suspect said he had been advised by a traditional herbalist in Seme that human brain and private organs would cure his skin disease.
His explanations were spine chilling.
If I mix human brain and local herbs, I will be cured. Killing is a crime but exhuming a dead body is not. I have never killed people but I exhume a corpse after two months," he confessed.
The man later confessed before a Siaya Magistrate's Court that he had been exhuming and eating the brains and other body parts. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.
There have been reports in the local Press of people caught in various parts of Kisii in possession of hands, legs and other body parts.
"They eat the entire human body but keep the hands to stir local brews such as Busaa in the belief that the brews get tastier, attracts clients and sells fast," a Kisii resident says.
In June, the BBC reported that four men in Doha, Qatar, were charged with murder and cannibalism.
The incident came to light when one of them suffered severe reactions after eating human flesh and was subsequently rushed to the hospital. When X-rays showed what appeared to be a human finger in the man's stomach, doctors called police.
On January 13, Danish artist Marco Evaristti hosted a dinner party for his most intimate friends. The main meal was agnolotti pasta, topped with a meatball made with the artist's own fat, removed earlier in the year in a liposuction operation.
In September last year, Australian television crews from 60 Minutes and Today Tonight attempted to rescue a six-year-old boy who they believed would be ritually cannibalised by his tribe, the Korowai, from Papua, Indonesia.
In March 2001 in Germany, Armin Meiwes posted an Internet ad asking for "a well built 18 to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and consumed".
After killing and eating one Jurgen Armando Brandes, Meiwes was convicted of manslaughter and later, murder. The song "Mein Teil" by Rammstein is based of this.
In the Middle Ages, thousands of Egyptian mummies preserved in bitumen were ground up and sold as medicine. And the practice developed into a wide-scale business, which flourished until the late 16th century.
Two centuries ago, mummies were still believed to have medicinal properties against bleeding, and were sold as pharmaceuticals in powdered form.
In Europe during the Great Famine of 1315-1317, at a time when Dante was writing one of the most significant pieces of literature in Western history and the Renaissance was just beginning, there were widespread reports of cannibalism throughout Europe.
Cannibalism was also reported in Mexico, the flower wars of the Aztec (man eating tribes from South Mexico) whose empire was considered a massive manifestation of the practice.
Research accounts indicate that cannibalism was practiced among prehistoric human beings, and it lingered into the 19th century in some isolated South Pacific cultures, notably in Fiji and in Arabia.
Nothing is shocking as the gory details prior to 1931, when a New York Times journalist, William Buehler Seabrook obtained from a hospital intern at the Sorbonne a chunk of human meat from the body of a healthy human killed in an accident, and cooked and ate it. He reported:
"It was like good, fully developed veal, not young, but not yet beef. It was very definitely like that, and it was not like any other meat I had ever tasted The roast, from which I cut and ate a central slice, was tender, and in colour, texture, smell as well as taste, strengthened my certainty that of all the meats we habitually know, veal is the one meat to which this meat is accurately comparable."
The cross-cultural evidence for cannibalism among societies in Papua New Guinea, such as the Gimi, Hua, Daribi, and Bimin-Kuskusmin, suggests cannibalism is linked to the expression of cultural values about life, reproduction, and regeneration. Flesh is consumed as a form of life-generating food and as a symbolic means of reaffirming the meaning of existence.
In other areas of Papua New Guinea, the same cultural themes are expressed through pig kills and exchanges. Cannibalism was a means of providing enduring continuity to group identity and of establishing the boundaries of the moral community. But it was equally a form of violence meted out to victims deemed amoral or evil, such as witches who brought death to other people.
According to a BBC report on Cannibalism in war torn areas of Africa:
"Typically, cannibalism is apparently done in desperation, as during peacetime cannibalism is much less frequent. Even so, it is sometimes directed at certain groups believed to be relatively helpless, such as Congo Pygmies."
It is also reported by some that witch doctors sometimes use the body parts of children in their medicine.
At the height of a famine in 1996, defectors and refugees reported that cannibalism was sometimes practised in North Korea.
Despite cannibal records some people have even acquired celebrity status. For instance, Issei Sagawa met a 25-year-old Dutch student called Renee Hartevelt in Paris, who eventually went back to his appartment where he shot and ate her in 1981. He was caught, and because of injury to the prefrontal cortex was judged legally insane and unfit to stand trial. He was eventually deported back to Japan in 1986 where he still lives in Tokyo. He is now a Japanese celebrity.
Paul Raffaele, an intrepid reporter on a cannibals trail mixed with New Guinea natives who say they still eat their fellow tribesmen.
It is, however, not clear whether he ate or saw them feasting on human flesh from his tale, despite the fact that today the Korowai are among the very few tribes believed to eat human flesh.
The French philosopher Michel Montaigne long ago disabused society of the Western-centered notion that eating human flesh is somehow barbaric and exotic:
"I consider it more barbarous to eat a man alive than eat him dead," he wrote
How one interprets cannibalism is thus always circumscribed and inflected by a culturally shaped morality.
For many researchers, then, the issue of whether cannibalism was ever a socially sanctioned practice is of secondary importance.
From available evidence, scholars have gleaned a seemingly reliable historical account of how cultures have constructed and used their concepts of cannibalism to provide a stereotype of the "other."
Many historical texts are compromised by Western prejudices, so that cannibalism emerges more as colonial myth and cultural myopia than as scientifically attested truth.
December 18 2007 at 09:32AM
The body of a 70-year-old man was found with his testicles and one arm missing, KwaZulu-Natal police said on Tuesday.
Umfolozi police spokesperson Captain Jabulani Mdletshe said Johannes Mchunu's body was found on the Umfolozi river bank on Monday, a day after he went missing.
It is believed that he went to see an Inyanga (witch doctor) on Sunday and never returned home.
"The family became worried when he did not return home and began searching the pathway he took to the Inyanga's home," said Mdletshe.
A case was opened with police and Mchunu's eldest son Bongani continued the search with other community members on Monday.
"He found his dad's body in a donga on the Umfolozi River bank... and Mchunu was already dead," said Mdletshe.
He said the man had several open wounds on his head which suggested that he was hit with a sharp object.
"Mchunu's arm was amputated and his testicles were sliced off... Both have not been found as yet."
Umfolozi resident Ntokoza Thabethe told Sapa she had assisted in the search.
"It was horrible... That poor man's arm and privates were sliced off while he was alive... he must have been in a lot of pain."
She said Mchunu was a well-known and respected elder in the community.
"We know who did this... We have not been able to locate the Inyanga and we are thinking of holding a kangaroo court soon," she said.
Police suspect the killing may have been muti related.
"At this stage, we don't know whether Mchunu did arrive at the Inyanga's home... if he did the inyanga may have been involved... but we are continuing with investigations," said Mdletshe.
No arrests have been made as yet.
It is not known why Mchunu had gone to see the witch doctor. - Sapa
State frees Mulanje businessman implicated in boy mutilation
Nyasa Times Reporter 10 June, 2008 01:40:00
A Mulanje business man who was in prison after being arrested in relation to private parts mutilation of an 11-year-old boy last October at Muloza border in the district has been released.
Patrick Murama proprietor of Zikomo Ambuye Investments was seen moving about in Mulanje from weekend.
"On instructions from above, we have released Mr Patrick Murama," said a Chichiri prison official who refused to be named.
Murama was arrested together with Peter Namanja Chakwamba after a mutilated boy who now faces life of disfigurement was able to mention his assailants immediately when he regained his conscious.
Home Affairs Minister, Ernest Malenga could not immediately disclose why Murama has been released in wake of threats that the 14-year-old Mulanje boy currently admitted to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) after his private parts were chopped off is receiving "threats".
Murama's release is said to be "politically connected".
Namanja was sentenced to 20 years in prison with hard labour after pleading guilty to acts intended to cause grievous harm over the incident in which he amputated the genitals of the Mulanje boy.
He confessed that he indeed mutilated the boy's private parts and revealed that he was sent to do the job by Murama who reportedly bought the genitals.
There is a demand for sexual organs in Malawi as they are used in witchcraft rituals that are supposed to bring wealth.
Murama was also in prison for an unrelated murder.
The victim will live without sexual organs for the rest of his life as hospital authorities said a transplant is impossible.
"Sexual transplant is not a possibility to the boy who will stay for the rest of his life without sexual organs," said Thom Chisale hospital administrator at QECH.
However, they boy will be able to urinate but he will not engage in sexual intercourse.
Tongue, genitals removed
September 06 2007 at 03:43PM
The mutilated body of a 17-year-old boy was found near Pella Village in Madikwe on Thursday, North West police said.
Superintendent Louis Jacobs said the boy's body was discovered along the side of a road by a passer-by early on Thursday morning.
His tongue and genitals had been removed. It appeared the boy was attacked, mutilated and killed somewhere else and his body dumped along the road, Jacobs said.
He was last seen alive on Wednesday morning and lived with his two brothers nearby.
Police were trying to locate his parents to inform them of the incident.
Meanwhile, a 13-year-old boy who was found mutilated on August 5 near a village outside Rustenburg remained in a serious condition, Jacobs said.
Police were investigating the incidents.
Jacobs said he could not speculate on what the motives were when asked if they were ritual attacks. - Sapa
Mutilated bodies found daily in Lagos
By Jossy Idam (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Saturday, December 15, 2007
The jigsaw puzzle about where missing persons go to in Lagos metropolis may have fallen into place. Saturday Sun has it on good authority that ritual killers lurking around hack people to death, dismember their victims, neatly pack them in cellophane bags and drop along major roads and streets of the place famed and praised as the City of Excellence.
In an interview with Saturday Sun , the managing director of Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), Mr Ola Oresanya disclosed that the agency's street sweepers are at pains and having a hard emotional time collecting and disposing of decapitated chunks of human flesh daily. "We pick trash on Lagos roads and I can tell you that no day we don't pick up mutilated bodies neatly packed inside nylon bags and dumped along the roads and streets," he revealed with an emotion -laden voice.
Ritual killers on rampage
Asked to explain further, the LAWMA boss pointed fingers at ritual killers in the state. "people are perhaps being killed for rituals and put in nylon bags or in LAWMA refuse bins," he said.
He also directed his anger at trado- medical centres in the state which he accused of dumping pathological waste and placentas on the streets. With a deep seated anger he said.: "We also pick pathological waste from all these trado-medical homes. You see them- they will deliver women and throw the placentas on the street. They also cut off parts of infected people and throw them on the streets".
Headless infant found
July 11 2008 at 08:51AM
A man and his sister-in-law made the grisly discovery of a decapitated newborn baby girl near a graveyard in Soweto.
This was the second baby girl to be found in two days. Another one was found in a plastic bag under a bridge in Zola.
Percy Thusi, a father of 10 children, was shocked and angered about Thursday's discovery.
The 58-year-old man had accompanied his sister-in-law to cut grass in the veld next to the Doornkop cemetery in Jabulani when he saw children calling each other, which prompted Thusi to go and investigate.
"I decided to go and see what was going on, and that was when I saw the baby. She was lying naked on the ground with her head next to her body. I informed the cops."