August 27, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —— JUBA –- Five people, including a woman, were arrested for torturing women in the garb of exorcism from Juba’s Serekat –Gumbo residential premises yesterday. The women, branded as ‘possessed’, were made to walk with footwear on their head and even mouth. They also made them drink water used to wash the footwear.
The practice of witch-hunting and torturing women in the name of being possessed by evil spirits is common among some communities in Juba areas. Although various steps have been taken both by Government agencies and NGOs to remove the social stigma, very little success has been achieved.
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The Gumbo police swung into action after a section of the local community members reported how women, branded as ‘possessed,’ were brought to the big dormitory from the area by their families for ‘treatment’. The ‘curing’ process reportedly drew huge crowd on weekends.
Gumbo police station police officer Benjamin Luka said the accused, commonly referred to as Fred Luewelo – pastor singers of folk deities from Nigeria Country – tricked people for money on the pretext of curing ailing women.
“The five Pastors — identified as Paulo Ojulou, Martha William, Beru Dubi, Panasiano Simon and Fred Luwelo — have been arrested under South Sudan laws (to prevent the commission of cognizable offences) and will be produced in a court soon. We are also interrogating them,” he said.
According to the police, as part of the ‘treatment’, the pastors made the women descend the two halls in their church chapel on their back that left them injured and their cloths tattered. Some were even beaten with shoes, while others made to walk for kilometers holding footwear in their mouth.
‘Widows, vulnerable women main targets’
Social activist Tereza Albino, who has been working in the community to raise awareness on the evils of witch-hunting, told Nyamilepedia that the practice was rampant in the Serekat and Gumbo areas. “It happens on a smaller scale in many areas in the Gudele and Munuki, but communities are a classic example. The Pastors conspire with community members and usually target women who are poor, vulnerable, who have small landholdings and mostly widows. Then they conduct a ritual and pretend to identify a woman who has been ‘possessed by evil spirits’. They charge anything between South Sudanese Pound only (SSP) 1,000 to 1,500 for curing her.”
“The women are often beaten brutally, abused sexually, their houses are wrecked and they are shunned from the villages. Three women in the last five years have been stoned to death in the region,” she said.