Malawi rounds up ′vampire′-killing mob

Scores of Malawi vampire-hunting vigilantes arrested

Police in the southern African country have detained 140 people linked to mob attacks on people accused of being "bloodsucking vampires." Nine people have been killed after rumors of evil spirits spread.

Authorities in Malawi rounded up dozens of people linked to attacks on people they accused of being vampires. On Firday, Malawi police inspector general Lexon Kachama said further arrests were expected.

Kachama said 140 people were being held as authorities attempted to regain control of spiraling hysteria in southern pockets of the country that followed rumors of "blood-suckers" on the prowl.

In the latest case, a man with epilepsy was burned to death on Thursday in Blantyre, Malawi's second-largest city. Another person there was stoned to death.

The large number of arrests took place after angry mobs clashed with police and blocked main roads in the city.

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In total, nine people have been killed over the past month in mob attacks on people who local residents say were trying to obtain human blood for voodoo rituals.

Vampire hearsay

Rumors of vampires allegedly originated in neighboring Mozambique and spread across the border to a country where education standards are low and where belief in witchcraft is widespread.

Malawi's President Peter Mutharika has appealed for calm and vowed that his government "will offer protection from these alleged blood-suckers."

Read more: Malawian albinos under threat

Authorities have imposed a nighttime curfew and say they are keen to ensure the mob attacks don't spread to other cities. The United Nations — which is involved in food aid and agricultural programs in the country — has pulled its workers out of some areas for safety reasons. 

Police say thieves and robbers have taken advantage of the fear in some communities and have stepped up their harassment of local residents by mounting illegal roadblocks.

Politics

Voodoo public holiday

Benin's Voodoo Festival attracts followers of the traditional religion, tourists and people who are simply curious. Voodoo Day, January 10, was declared an annual public holiday by President Mathieu Kerekou in 1998. 

Politics

Ouidah Voodoo Festival

The biggest of Benin's Voodoo festivals is held in Ouidah, the country's center of Voodoo worship, near the Point of No Return monument. The gate signfies the end of the old slave route, which runs through the city and has been proposed as UNESCO World Heritage site.    

Politics

Walking on stilts along the beach

There is plenty to see along the Ouidah-Cotonou beach route during the Voodoo Festival. The emphasis is not just on religious rites or ceremonies but also on public festivities. For some local residents, this is one of the most important days of the year.

Politics

Every village has its own ceremony

Voodoo plays a key part in Benin's national life not only along the coast, but also in the interior as well. Small ceremonies are held in many villages, such as here in Kpetepa, near Abomey, which was once the capital of the former kingdom of Dahomey.

Politics

Voodoo: simply a part of everday life

Nobody knows exactly how many followers of Voodoo live in Benin. One official estimate put the figure at 1.2 million, but the true figure may be a lot higher, It is not unusual in Benin to claim to be a Christian while practicing Voodoo at the same time.

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God of smallpox

Because Voodoo is so widespread, nobody is suprised by the numerous Voodoo altars found in most villages. This one is devoted to Zappata, God of Earth - and of smallpox.

Politics

Beer and spirits for the Gods

Altars on their own are not considered a sufficient sign of respect for the Gods. Ceremonies and offerings are also important. In order to placate the Gods, it is acceptable in Benin to bring them spirits, beer and cigarettes. Or perhaps a chicken or a goat. Every God has his own preferences.

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Fortune telling

Those who want to know what the future holds, can consult the Fa oracle. Not every question is permissible. You are not allowed to ask when you are going to die.

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Keeping traditional medicine alive

But there is more to Voodoo than ceremonies or oracles. There is also a fund of knowledge of medicinal herbs, which includes a centuries-old treatment for malaria. Victor Adohounanon is seeking to preserve such knowledge.

Politics

Voodoo cliches

Fetish markets appear to conform to the usual cliches about Voodoo and for visitors they are often taboo. But that doesn't apply to the market in Lome in neighboring Togo. Here you can find everything you need for Voodoo ceremonies, leopard skulls included.

Politics

A souvenir to take home

This is perhaps a better souvenir than a leopard's skull. It's supposed to bring you luck if you're in a long-term relationship and was probably made specially for tourists.

Politics

Voodoo and politics

Voodoo makes its influence felt in many walks of life, including politics. Daagbo Heounon, Ouidah's highest Voodoo representative, says all candidates ask for his blessing before elections. Asked whether he exerts political influence himself, he declined to comment.

mm/aw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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