MP hosts Summit to end violent witchcraft abuse


London MP Chuka Umunna, the most senior UK politician of Black African heritage, has hosted the first ever House of Commons Summit designed to end child abuse resulting from witchcraft branding. Former Home Office Minister Meg Hillier said that the Home Secretary should consider using her power to refuse faith leaders who have branded children as witches from entering the UK.

Chuka Umunna’s position as Shadow Business Secretary and the only black member of the Shadow Cabinet means that he is the most senior politician in the UK who is of African origin. The London MP hosted the Summit in conjunction with AFRUCA, Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, to bring together policymakers, charities, faith leaders and community representatives in order to examine how best to curtail child abuse resulting from accusations of witchcraft or possession by evil spirits.

The Summit followed the conviction of Eric Bikubi and Magalie Bamu for the murder of Kristy Bamu on Christmas Day 2010. The Crown Prosecution Service said that Eric Bikubi inflicted ‘violence on an unimaginable scale’ and that Magalie Bamu ‘willingly subjected her 15 year old brother to extreme violence’. The teenager was found with 130 separate injuries and died from a combination of drowning and beatings to his head, chest and limbs.

The event was held in the Grand Committee Room of the House of Commons at the Palace of Westminster on the 18th April and, as well as Chuka Umunna and Meg Hillier, those speaking at the event included Tim Loughton MP, the Children’s Minister; Catherine McKinnell MP, the Shadow Children’s Minister; Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee; and Modupe Debbie Ariyo OBE, known as Debbie, Founder and Director of AFRUCA.

Speaking after the event former Home Office Minister Meg Hillier MP, who represents Hackney South and Shoreditch in the House of Commons and is Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Nigeria, said: “The Home Secretary has the power to refuse entry to the UK to anyone who’s presence in the UK is not good for our country. She should consider using this when faith leaders who have branded children as witches seek to enter the UK.”

The Hackney South and Shoreditch MP, who has campaigned on safeguarding for many years, is also pressing ministers to ensure that faith leaders are vetted in the same way as other people who work with children and vulnerable adults. She said: “Safeguarding is just as important in a faith setting as in a school. Faith leaders are trusted because of their leadership in their community. Parents and carers should be able to be reassured that their trust us well placed.”

The Summit featured contributions from around 50 community leaders, policy makers and other interested groups and issues raised included the content of some Christian TV channels, safeguarding practices in Churches, and possible changes to the Law which would explicitly tackle this kind of abuse.

London MP Chuka Umunna, who hosted the Summit, said:

“Children branded as witches or being possessed by evil spirits can face some of the worst abuse and neglect imaginable. As a society, we must face up to this and stop this abuse from happening. A lot of abuse happens under the radar which makes it all the more important that we put all our energies into hunting it out and putting a stop to it.

“We must send out the strongest message possible that there can be no excuse whatsoever for treating children in this way, branding them as witches or being possessed by evil spirits, and if you carry out these awful acts the strong arm of the law will be brought to bear on you.

“I am glad that so many prominent MPs attended this event – including the Children’s Minister – and that the community, policy makers and the third sector were able to come together in this way to agree a list of actions we will all take to prevent the abuse and neglect of our children and young people. The Summit was a good first step in bringing this issue to the attention of those in the corridors of power but it is only a first step – we need to ensure it is followed up with action.”

Commenting, Modupe Debbie Ariyo OBE, Founder and Director of AFRUCA, said:

“We are grateful to the MPs who attended and to Chuka Umunna for hosting this very important Summit. The huge turnout shows that AFRUCA clearly has the support of the African community in pushing for positive changes in the best interest of our children. It is totally incomprehensible that someone’s life can be ruined because someone thinks they are a witch. We will therefore continue to work to prevent children from being harmed as a result of witchcraft branding.”