By Fredrick Kiwanuka and Francis Ssenjobe
Residents of Luweero, Nakasongola and Nakaseke are living in fear over rampant cases of witchcraft that have led to loss of lives and property, and conmen who are raking millions from their victims.
Counter accusations of witchcraft and residents losing their loved ones to blood sucking creatures are a common occurrence and security operatives in the area are working overtime to prevent mob justice.
Victims of such senseless attacks are those who have amassed wealth and have booming businesses and are accused of using witchcraft to get rich while making their neighbours poorer.
victims narrate ordeals
Last Monday Nurdin Muyanja, the vice chairperson of the herbalists association that is tasked with exorcising spirits in Luweero and neighbouring areas fined a resident, Sebwato, sh1m after accusing him of sending demons that were strangling his neighbour's daughter.
Sebwato is a budding businessman in Kasana - Luweero. He was also forced to pay for damaged property including window panes and barbed wire that were destroyed in a scuffle to 'exorcise' demons. Suspicious residents however said the exorcism was all an act by conmen. Sebwato has still failed to comprehend what befell him.
In the same week on Monday night, chaos erupted in the village of Bugaramwa in Nakitoma sub county when police from Kafu in Nakasongola district was compelled to fire live bullets to disperse a rowdy crowd that had gathered to demolish a resident's house accusing him of sending demons that give them sleepless nights.
The victim, Joseph Ssembiro 30, was not home when residents struck and decided to demolish his house. They smashed his windows and doors and uprooted banana plantains from his compound.
Ssembiro, a cassava trader, was accused of procuring demons to 'give' him wealth though residents claim fate worked against him and he even fled his home. They claimed he no longer slept in the house and the demons even gave him a condition never to marry and put a woman in the house. Others claimed they often saw Ssembiro enter the house backwards.
Herbalists, on Police's watch, dug up fetishes which were believed to be the source of resident's troubles from Ssembiro's compound.
However one of the herbalists noted that there are conmen posing as part of their association who take these fetishes and plant them in people's compounds then claim to have found them there.
They put on a show and feign that they are posessed by the spirits which they later 'exorcise' and charge heftily for their services.
Ssembiro however says people who don't wish him well are the cause of his misery. " I have never brought demons to this village but I am a hardworking businessman who has made money,." he said.
The other week, a resident of Naabagaya in Luweero paid sh5m to a group of herbalists who claimed they had exorcised demons that had been terorrising his grandchildren.
Police speaks out
The Luweero district police commander, Godfrey Ninsiima, says they do not believe in witchcraft but are compelled to supervise the so-called exorcisms so as to prevent loss of lives and property when residents get unruly.
He also noted that in most cases those accused of witchcraft simply accept responsibility for what they are not guilty of to save their lives.
Religious leaders have condemned the exorcism arguing that the manner in which it is practiced is suspicious and are simply a ploy by conmen to make a quick buck.
The bishop of Kasana - Luweero diocese, Joseph Ssemwogerere says: "It is wrong for our people to believe in witchcraft because many of them fall sick yet these diseases can be medically treated but instead pot for shrines instead of seeking treatment."
"Herbalists have turned this into a money machine. It is very disheartening to see someone wearing a rosary believing in witchcraft.
Hajji Nadduli on spot
Religious leaders and human rights activists have accused the Luweero district chairman, Hajji Abdu Nadduli, of empowering these herbalists who are tasked with exorcising demons. Nadduli is accused of instituting a committee tasked with such responsibilities.
Johns Bakimwia, a born again pastor, from Kiwoko says many innocent people have lost lives in such cases. Nadduli however defended his actions arguing that demons do exist, citing the holy bible where Jesus was tempted by Satan during his forty days of fasting in the desert.
He argued that he instituted the committee comprised of specialists in exorcism to help residents. He however condemned the act of conning people of their money.