World News

Ugandan refugees stone, burn three "witches"

KITGUM, Uganda (Reuters) - An angry lynch mob stoned and burned to death three women they accused of being witches in a Ugandan refugee camp, police said on Sunday.

The police chief of Kitgum district, which houses hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Uganda’s two-decade war with the feared rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, said the three were attacked after the mysterious death of a motorcycle taxi driver.

“His skin started swelling up and blistering, he had pains all over,” Charles Oumo told Reuters. “He died in hospital after his condition worsened.”

Oumo said police did not know the cause of the man’s death, but locals assumed he had been poisoned.

“They thought he was bewitched by someone who had sprinkled a potion on his boda-boda (motorcycle),” he said.

In a harrowing echo of Europe’s witch-hunts in the late middle ages, camp elders conducted a “trial” in which they determined who they thought was the witch by secret ballot.

“They hunted down the top three and a mob descended on them. They beat them with stones, sticks and axes before setting them ablaze, still alive,” Oumo said, adding that he thought the attacks had happened early this week.

Belief in witchcraft is common in sub-Saharan Africa, where alleged witches are frequently blamed for deaths from sickness.