In this era of globalization and westernization, Africans are finding it hard to hold on to their cherished traditions. Many customs that were initially considered the African heritage have since been replaced by the Western way of life.
Even so, some African communities have remained steadfast in preserving their cultures, some of which are now considered retrogressive and inhumane. One of such traditions is the baby-killing ritual practised in several parts of the African continent.
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In southern Ethiopia for instance, the Omotic-speaking Karo and Hamar tribes consider children born with deformities impure and a bad omen. They believe such children have the ability to exert evil spirits upon others.
Therefore, all disabled infants, commonly referred to as “mingi”, are either offered as sacrifice for rituals or abandoned in the wilderness to be eaten by wild animals. Others are drowned in the river.
In addition to the disabled children, babies born out of wedlock, twins, those with a chipped tooth and those whose teeth erupt in the upper jaw before the lower jaw are also considered impure and must, therefore, suffer the same fate.
Although authorities in Karo outlawed the practice in July 2012, tens of thousands of people in the Omotic communities are still doing it in secret. Dozens if not hundreds of disabled infants continue to die at the hands of their parents for “crimes” they know nothing about.
Multiple-Birth Babies and Albinos
Baby-killing rituals are also rampant among the Bassa Komo people in Nigeria. In this minority ethnic group, which predominantly resides in Kaida village on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, twins are assumed to carry evil spirits that can bring misfortunes upon their families and communities.
Others that are labelled evil include, triplets and other multiple-birth infants, babies with cleft palates, kids with enlarged heads, albinos, and babies whose mothers die during or shortly after birth.
Such infants are killed through suffocation, crushing, poisoning or drowning. But nowadays some people prefer to give away their “evil babies” to witches and wizards for sacrifice.
“Our people believe that these children come from the evil one and no one wants it. We have a god we call Otauchi and we offer the children to that god. We suspect those children to be witches or wizards. That’s why we eliminate them,” a spiritual leader of Kaida recently told VOA.
Although African governments and human rights organizations are working tirelessly to deal with this menace, experts say the practice is deeply intertwined into the traditional and spiritual beliefs that make it difficult for authorities to wipe it out entirely.
So, other than creating harsh laws that will discourage communities from continuing with this tradition, it is equally important for African governments to educate their citizens on the importance of respecting and protecting human life.