Africa abounds with various forms of child abuses, most arising from prevalent poverty and ignorance. This notwithstanding, the paramount role of the child in the African setting has never been in question. However, the traditional African belief and attitude to children has been successfully fractured by those who have deliberately perverted traditional belief and infused it with a distorted dose of Christianity. In the words of Professor Richard Hoskins (Kings College University, London), a noted expert on the phenomenon of Child Witches, œthe phenomenon (of child witches) appears to spring from a new Frankenstein religion, an unholy marriage of perverted Christianity and an ingrained African belief in the spirit world, fuelled by the grinding poverty and desperate need of the people of West and Central African cities. Professor Hoskins did a lot of work on the phenomenon of œkindoki the Congolese Lingala language for witchcraft. It is perhaps apt at this stage to state that the concept of child witches could successfully spread like wildfire in Akwa Ibom and Cross River states of Nigeria, no thanks to the unfettered growth of the phenomenon in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The near constant strife and the desperate civil war in the Congo DR which has killed over 4 million people since the late 1990s, orphaned many children, while leaving other families intact but too destitute to feed themselves. This has a created a festering opportunity for shirking family responsibilities and the transference of frustration on innocent children. In the Congo Republic, a surprising number of children are accused of being witches, and thereafter, beaten, abused or abandoned. Child advocates estimate that thousands of children living in the streets of Kinshasa, Congo™s capital, have been accused of witchcraft and cast out by their families, often as a rationale for not having to feed or care for them. There are over 50,000 homeless children on the streets of that lawless city, stealing, begging, and selling anything they can find, including themselves. The true number is incalculable but this estimate is certainly conservative.
Many of these abandoned kids are Aids orphans. Others are the children of Congo™s desperate civil war, but a shockingly high proportion of these children are on the streets because of the mushrooming influence of the new revivalist churches who have comfortably carved a commercial niche for themselves in the business of œchild kindoki. Prof Hoskins stated that still more children are not on the streets but are held virtual prisoner in church compounds, apparently awaiting exorcism. In 2006, Congo™s social affairs minister, Bernard Ndjunga, estimated that as much as 50,000 children might just be illegally detained by churches specializing in the removal of kindoki.