By Umaru Kashaka
KAMPALA - Justice and constitutional affairs state minister, Freddie Ruhindi, has called on the ministry of health to expedite the tabling of a Bill that will regulate the proliferation and operation of traditional doctors and herbalists in the country.
He appeared before the parliamentary committee on gender over a petition of the former students of the International School of Uganda against child sacrifice and ritual murders of children on Thursday.
Ruhindi wondered why the health ministry was still dragging its feet and yet Cabinet approved the Bill.
The spirit of the Bill is to sieve out quack practitioners from the genuine health workers, and also bring to an end the rampant increase of ritual murders often fuelled by wrong prescriptions by the quacks.
The practice of witchcraft is illegal in Uganda and any person who practises witchcraft or who holds himself or herself out as a witch, whether on one or more occasions, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years.
“You should summon the health minister (Dr Ruhakana Rugunda) here to explain why he has not yet brought the Bill to parliament. We don’t need a new law, but the existing law (Act enacted in 1957) is problematic to implement by the Constitutional Court because it’s impossible to prove that one is a witch. This Bill will make the existing law enforceable,” Ruhindi said.
Traditional healers smoke pipes during a meeting of traditional healers and herbalists in Jinja at Busoga Kingdom headquarters in Bugembe town council in 2011. PHOTO/File
The deputy Director of Public Prosecution, Amos Ngolobe, explained to MPs that the limited Police funding had curtailed efforts to speed up investigations into child sacrifice and other murder cases.
The leader of traditional healers in Uganda, Sylvia Namutebi also known as Maama Fina under her organization ‘Obuwangwa n’eddagala lyaffe’ recently said the current Witchcraft Act lumps them together with witches, yet their work is different in nature.
“The cases of child sacrifice have been tagged to traditional healers on several occasions but our practice does not allow us to spill human blood but animal sacrifice,” she said.
The MPs said that the killing of children for ritual sacrifice, with their organs removed presumably for use in magic charms is fuelled by witch doctors, but the current laws seem not to be tough enough to deal with the vice.
“The current Act was enacted by the colonial government and is old and outdated. It’s not specific, thus creating loopholes that are being exploited by the criminals,” noted the committee chairperson the Nakasongola Woman MP, Margaret Komuhangi.
In April, a new Police Annual Crime and Road Safety report showed that homicide cases as a result of ritual murders increased to 12 cases in 2013, from 11 cases in 2012.
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