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Why witchcraft will not help with the big questions of the day

A friend of mine working in Owino market tells me that witchcraft is quite widespread inside that market.

That competition for space and customers oftentimes takes the supernatural realm and vendors are not only procuring good-luck charms, but are also bewitching and killing each other. For all its worth, witchcraft is a question of power.

I have heard these stories in several other downtown places. As she sombrely told the story, I interrupted her, asking whether these vendors were never bothered with questions of governance and general politics.

Because there could be answers to their woes: “Don’t they want fortunes in the country to change; end corruption, end abduction, et cetera? Maybe then, they could make more profits,” I asked. “Why don’t they take loans and bewitch the bank?” I prodded further.

In response, she said, “politicians and those big bankers own the biggest witches and shrines in the country. You cannot beat them.” It was not necessary to ask her about procuring witches from abroad because this would have been met with the same response.

Quickly, I recalled that creepy picture of former speaker Rebecca Kadaga emerging from a shrine somewhere in the countryside. Then one even creepier story came to the fore: that at Entebbe International airport. The easiest way aviation people know Mr Museveni is flying out of the country is when they see an elderly woman—they think she is Museveni’s witchdoctor—walking the runway in the wee hours of the morning, sprinkling it with water using a broom or something like
a broom, and some feathers.

She does a little more wizardry before disappearing from wherever she would have come. Often with state security (wonder why she needs more security), she is never interrupted by aviation police as she goes about her business.

As anthropologists and filmmakers, we have been studying witchcraft for a long time. In Europe, especially in southern France, witchcraft is well-known among the Bocage, and other parts of France. And as Chinua Achebe would tell us, “New York is full of odd customs and superstition.” (Witchcraft isn’t limited to African contexts as our colonisers had made us believe).

These beliefs and practices are often used to explain causation of things, explain strange events and, sometimes, predict the future. African folklore is replete with magicians and fortune tellers, who also have supernatural powers to exorcise, kill or curse.

Again, access to power. Kings and queens, and princes and princesses often kept a witch in their backyard. Dear reader, my education as an anthropologist and cultural studies major, and my religious affiliation—as a Muslim—tell me evil spirits actually exist and can be summoned by humans towards different ends. And sometimes, there are good spirits, too! But the rate at which these evil spirits are mobilised in Kampala’s social and political interaction is mindboggling.

That Ugandans— politicians and local market vendors— have lost all appeals for reason and logic and have settled for the services of evil spirits actually bothers me, especially that we are still operating in a colonised context. See, the peasants who smeared themselves with some magic concoctions to stop the bullets from entering their bodies, having been convinced by the king to face off the coloniser, all perished.

And Chinua Achebe also reminds us with the story of Evil Forest in his novel, Things Fall Apart. When the white man came to Umuofia and asked for land to build a church, the locals decided to give him a part of the Evil Forest. The calculation was, the spirits of Evil Forest would be offended and would simply wipe the white man off the face of the earth.

The villagers looked on in anticipation as days became weeks, and weeks became months, and the white man’s church stood its ground, attracting more and more converts. It had to take the intervention of able-bodied men in Umuofia to do something on behalf of the Evil Forest.

In sum, these narratives (doesn’t matter to be true or false) and actual practices of witchcraft—which are frighteningly enormous—reveal a disturbing world at three related levels: (a) If our politicians have made good use of their witchcraft and Uganda is as it is today—a broke, indebted, Third World country—then witchcraft is terribly handicapped in the sense that it cannot imagine a better country.

It loves the ghettos and the potholes of Kampala, and cannot be used in transforming Uganda into a New York or South Africa.

(b) It also speaks to the small dreams of our politicians. Because their obsession with witchcraft is to only enable them secure their small positions, and perhaps enable them some monies, which might look big against the rest of their compatriots, but are small in the general view of things.

Perhaps I am appealing to men and women with big shrines, to use them for even bigger things, such as ending autocracy. Let the big shrines compete, and we see which hut is the strongest.

(c) Thirdly, it seems clear to me that witchcraft will not answer the big questions of the day such as a peaceful transition, ending corruption, ending kidnaps, or ending our tight control by the white man.


The author is a political theorist based at Makerere University.


+10 #1 Immaculate Nambi 2023-02-01 12:49
After a lot of pondering about the affairs of Uganda, I came to the conclusion that we, as a people are bewitched.

Like Lukwago, I am baffled by what we have become as Ugandans. I don't believe that there is a people as docile. Yes, witchcraft is real and Exhibit No. 1 of this is Ugandans.
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+4 #2 Lakwena 2023-02-01 18:07
Dr. Dr. Yusuf Sserunkuma, that spooky Old Witches and/or Wizards on the Entebbe Airport runway or not, at dawn clearing the way for the safe flights of the power that be; is a national humiliating tell-tale.

The truth is: since 9th Oct 1962, there is no such a thing as "tight control by the white man". But the "tight control of a few criminal black-men", of their fellow countrymen, women and children.
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+3 #3 Lakwena 2023-02-01 18:40
In other words, that there is need to end the tight control by the white man, is the lamest excuse and blame-game that can't fly, especially after 60 years of Independence.

It is just like Gen Tibuhaburwa recently blamed his regrets on Emmanuel Mutebile (RIP) for the sale of the UCB to Stanbic Bank.

Besides, there is no such a thing as "big questions of the day such as a peaceful transition of power" is concern, because; during the colonial period, for the 70 years (Uganda Case), depending on which Political Party (Conservative/Labor) was in power in the UK, there had been the "tradition of peaceful handover and transition of power" in the respective colonies which the Africans did not learn a thing.

From one Governor (party) to another, and up to Independence; didn't the Brits peacefully hand over power to Obote (RIP) on 9th Oct 1962?
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+5 #4 Kidepwe 2023-02-01 18:42
We often were told that, when still in the thickets of Luweero in the early 80's, Museveni consulted and employed the services of Nadduli, who was a witchdoctor by trade, before going into battle or on risky missions like that.

Could it be that Museveni asked Nadduli (or Mama Fiina), to cast a spell over Ugandans, that has proved to be effective in turning us into morons?

I mean, how do you explain the "atufuze bulungi, kasita twebaka otulo" attitude many of Ugandans have, even when they go to sleep on empty stomachs?

Or the countless other abuses we have suffered at his hands, but applaud him at his speeches, with so many superlatives? With some claiming he is a God-send, and the best thing that happened to Uganda. My foot. There is something definitely wrong with us.
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+10 #5 Lysol 2023-02-02 07:22
Yusuf! You forgot the role played by some Evangelical churches who keep on praying and backing the corrupt killer regime to remain in power for ever.

Many of them are worst than those practicing witchcraft.

Uganda is a superstition country, because the citizens are hopeless and are in mental and physical pain due to Musveneni's long rule. They are tired and see no end in sight.
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+1 #6 Akot 2023-02-02 19:47
Lysol, thanks.

All the other tribes that UNITED to say NO to T.Okello/Acholi to bring in Museveni MUST REUNITE to say NO to him again!

Acholi understood all the other tribes wanted Museveni, so they ensured Kony didn't make Acholi land base to fight Museveni, reason Kony got so so angry with Acholi, set fire on villages before leaving!

Acholi joined Tanzania Army to help remove Idi Amin!

But with Museveni brought in by all the other tribes, only them can REUNITE to say NO to him, especially as there is no one fighting Ugandans, but them fighting one another to ensure Musevens lifetime rule & transfer of power to his son!

Until then, the migrant family owns Uganda & no outsider will help tribally divided powerless Ugandans keeping the evil family in power!
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0 #7 Akot 2023-02-02 20:05
Immaculate Nambi, thanks!

+36 years of Museveni isn't long enough for Ugandans just docile slaves ensuring Museveni family business;

- tribal leaders ensure tribal allegience,
- fake presidential, praliamentary, local elections
bolster, protect, officialise, legalise, constitutionalise
Museveni's ownership of Uganda!

Yes, as you say; [we, as a people are bewitched.]

Ugandans keepingn Museveni in power, waiting for his son to replace him finally can only be so if they are bewitched, so feel no pain, no suffering...just ensure Museveni's lifetime rule & wait for the son!

Let's pray no fake opposition comes out to run against demon Museveni, the only winner, owner of Uganda!
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0 #8 Akot 2023-02-02 20:24
Lakwena, thanks!

Ugandans have no idea of what having, belonging to their land mean!

The worse is it's powerless tribally divided ruled Ugandans to whom tribal lands that form the zone belong, fighting themselves to ensure their enslavement to the migrant family!

So, how & why will Museveni & family leave the zone that is now theirs?

- Dr Obote & Sir E. Mutesa ll put aside their pride &
gave chance to UNITY for peaceful transfer of
power from UK to Ugandans!

- E. Rugumayo & Binaisa gave chance to ensure a
peaceful start after Idi Amin was thrown out!

- T. Okello ensured Army stood down face to UNITY
of all the other tribes who wanted Museveni!

Yet, since 1986, Ugandans are powerless tribally divided ruled & slaves of migrant Museveni who owns tax money, controls every institution, but Ugandans just ensure their enslavement!
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0 #9 Akot 2023-02-07 14:43

Powerless tribally divided ruled Ugandans are ensuring Museveni lifetime rule & ware just waiting for the son to replace him! So those turning to witchcraft will have somethig to occupy them!

Turkye, Syria are hit with nature that killed many & their selfstyled lifetime rulers who believe they are gods, didn't see it coming & are powerless, but developed world is already sending help!

Ugandans are doomed for good, unless the tribalistic system that goes against developed world princfiple is brought down & Ugandans UNITE!

Who will teargas, harrass, arrest, kill...Ugandans if they UNITE against Museveni?

Why are Ugandans, even the educated, not concerned about Museveni's lifetime rule & his family owning Uganda?
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0 #10 SSEMMANDA HENRY JOSE 2023-02-10 11:02
i think witchcraft is an individuals perception of what they believe. in other contexts, to he who believes in African religion, Christianity, islam, budhism are all witchcraft tendencies. no matter the belief, all religions are looking to speaking to a supernatural being.
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