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Saturday, January 27, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Calls going out to make accusing a child of witchcraft illegal

(ASSODIGITALE) Campaigners are calling for a change in the law to make it a criminal offence to demonise a child, after police told the BBC that they are unable to charge an African pastor who accused children of witchcraft in this country.

Pastor Dieudonne Tukala
was arrested on suspicion of inciting child cruelty last January following an investigation by the Today programme in conjunction with Newsnight.

Last year, a BBC investigation broadcast connected Pastor Dieudonne Tukala to a case where a father branded his son with an iron because he believed the child was a witch.

The investigation also spoke to other parents who said Tukala told them to send their children back to Africa where he could pray for them to die.

So called "child witches" have been murdered in some African countries.

The Metropolitan Police launched what it describes as a "robust and exhaustive" inquiry. But after ten months of investigation no charges have been brought. It is not against the law to accuse a child of witchcraft – neither is praying for a child to die.

Debbie Ariyo, Director of charity AFRUCA tells the programme "You're telling a child that you've been responsible for killing people, destroying people's lives – that does actually constitute emotional abuse."

Asked if it should constitute a criminal offence she replies " I think it should, because basically what we are doing, is that we are destroying children's futures we're destroying lives. So you know if we allow things like this to continue basically we're sanctioning what's happening..."

Questioned on whether she thinks these religious leaders should face jail Ms Ariyo answers: "I think they should because a church, a mosque, they are all places of worship, they are places of sanctuary.

"If there are pastors who are conducting activities that impact negatively on children, then they are committing an offence and they should be jailed – they should be punished."

Since January 2000, the Metropolitan Police has dealt with 88 allegations of what it calls ritualistic abuse.

The only cases to come to court have tried parents or carers – Victoria Climbie – Child B – and other cases of extreme violence. As yet no pastor has been charged as a result of their involvement.

In the interview with Tukala, reporter Angus Stickler asks him if he ever saw the boy who was branded with a steam iron. He answers, "no". Pressed on whether he himself had ever accused a child of Kendoki (witchcraft) he replies, "no".

Tukala is shown stills and photographs taken from a video of one of his services showing him boasting about how he had a child sent back to Kinshasa and of him recounting the story of a boy he accused of being possessed.

In the video he dangles a tangle of electrical flexes – satanic tools he says the boy was using to kill an unborn child.

Tukala says that Angus has been misled and that on this day he was preaching under the anointment of God and was not talking about Kendoki.