In Kyenjojo, cannibalism is not news. Everyone seems to know a person they allege was eaten and the suspected eater. In a continuation of the cannibalism series, Saturday Vision brings you tales from the western Uganda district.
By Hope Mafaranga & Rogers Sunday
"Cannibalism? Oh yes! I witnessed a cannibalism incident that I will never forget,” said Brother Leonard Oketch who works at Kyarusozi Parish in Kyenjojo district. “We buried Yoram Imulika, the son of Edward Bagyenja. The next day, the grave was empty.
I knew Imulika because he used to repair the parish vehicles. I wondered how people penetrated the cement grave! I now believe cannibalism exits,” he narrated, before directing us to Bagyenja’s family.
Jane Kanema, Imulika’s sister, said her brother was sick for two days. “He was vomiting blood. When he was rushed to Buhinga Hospital in Kabarole, the doctors pronounced him dead on arrival” she narrated.
“But his body remained warm, soft and it was sweating!” Imulika was buried on July 26, 2008. Kanema said the clothes in which her brother was buried were found at the roadside the next day!”
The family then called for a priest, Fr. Peter of Kyarusozi, to conduct prayers to send away the curse. Margaret Bagyenja, Imulika’s mother could not hold back her tears.
“Take them to the grave,” she tearfully implored her daughter.
Kanema led us to the grave yard, and pointed at what was supposed to be Imulika’s grave.
At Kyarusozi Parish, a man who did not want to be named said he ran away from his village in Kyongera because his neighbour, Margaret, allegedly wanted to eat him.
“When my friend, Patrick Mugisa, hanged himself, Margaret approached me, requesting for Mugisa’s hands for a ritual sacrifice, but I refused. She even offered me sh200,000, but I stood my ground.
“She threatened that I would pay for my stubbornness. I reported the matter to the Police and left the village.”
The acting officer-in-charge of Kyarusozi Police Post, Fedson Nankunda, confirmed the incident and said Margaret was expelled from the village.
“Of about 20 cases of witchcraft we receive in a month, five to seven of them are cannibal-related,” he said.
“There are two people whom we found with human arms. They were prosecuted and convicted,” Nankunda said.
The Police in Kyenjojo said they were struggling to come to terms with the possibility that one of them could have been eaten.
A policeman at Kyarusozi, who did not want to be named, said the officer-incharge of their Police post, Joel Ndyanabo, died in a motor accident at Lugombe on Fort Portal- Kampala road. But a day after his burial, his body went missing from the grave.
“He was in conflict with timber traders who always threatened to cause him harm,” he said.
“Two days before his death, the traders told him it was the last time he was confronting them,” the Policeman added. He said cannibalism in the district was a reality, but they cannot do much because of lack of evidence.
The grave of Yoram Imulika. His sister says shortly after his burial, they found his body was missing. PHOTO/Hope Mafaranga
Jessica Abwooli of Katooke thinks her twins were eaten.
“In April I returned home and found my three-year-old twins were having difficulty breathing. When I rushed them to hospital, they were pronounced dead. Because there were no signs that my children were dead, I refused to leave the hospital till they chased me away,” she narrated.
She refused to bury them until residents forced her to do so a week later.
“I kept watch over the graves. But when I fell asleep on the second day, I woke up to a caved-in grave,” she said before breaking down in sobs.
Visiting a suspect
We were directed to a man called Arafesi Karema who is suspected of cannibalism. When we arrived, he was seated under a mango tree in his compound.
“Before I talk to you,” he said, “I need to call someone to be my witness.”
He did not bother to offer us seats. I had to put down my lesu for us on which we sat. His son, Mugisa, brought a book for us to write our questions.
“So, you have been told that I eat people? I will show you what it means,” he said, quickly limping into the house. I had not known he was lame. One of our boda boda men rode off in fear. My colleague, Rogers Sunday stood up to take off.
He said he thought Karema would return with a panga.
It was a tense moment.
But he came back with a white kanzu, which is worn by believers of Owobusobozi Bisaka.
Bisaka is a self-proclaimed deity with a mass following. He is commended for drastically reducing cannibalism in the region by identifying cannibals and healing them. It is said that those who refused to denounce the practice mysteriously died.
“You know Bisaka does not tolerate cannibalism, don’t you?” he asked.
“There is no way I can possess his books and wear his attire if I was eating people. I am a strong follower of Bisaka,” Karema said.
“I do not eat people!” Karema declined our request to take his picture.
“There are some people who are working hard to damage my reputation. I have given you my time, but I will not give you my picture.”
However, Justus Kwehangana, the Kisenyi LC1 chairman, said all cannibalism cases in the area were attributed to Karema.
“Of the five complaints I get in a month, three are attributed to Karema!” Kwehangana said.
“Why would anybody hate him? We have resolved that if we get any other case linking him to cannibalism, we shall expel him from this village,” he said.
He said they recently expelled Seperansi Tiwanyima from the village because almost everybody suspected him of cannibalism.
“We don’t condone such behaviour. Tiwanyima’s house was set ablaze. If Karema does not stop and keeps masquerading as a Bisaka follower, he will regret,” warned Kwehangana.
They say . . .
My brother was vomiting blood. When we rushed him to hospital, he was pronounced dead upon arrival. We doubted because he remained warm and was sweating.
Two days after his burial, we found the clothes in which we buried him on the roadside
Brother Leonard Oketch
I knew Imulika because he used to repair the vehicles of Nyarusozi Parish. I was shocked by how people penetrated the cement grave to remove his body
Of the five complaints about cannibalism that I get in a month, three are attributed to one man. If he does not reform, we shall expel him from the village
Kibaale, the hub of cannibalism
Scary cannibal stories exposed in many districts