World of Witchcraft 51:00, 2009 (Ref: AF09739)



In the Central African Republic every year thousands of men, women and children are arrested and tried for committing the crime of witchcraft. Belief in the power of witchcraft is pervasive and profoundly entrenched in many parts of Africa. However, in French-speaking CAR, matters are taken an extraordinary step further. Witchcraft is an enshrined element of their legal system – formally treated as a crime. We delve deep into the heart of the continent to investigate a nation that appears gripped by fear and persecution of witchcraft reminiscent of Medieval Europe. And astonishingly, the state plays a key role by arresting and trying the supposed witches. We travel through a neighbourhood where witch-hysteria has been hitting fever pitch. We film inside a court-room where a witch trial is taking place and visit a prison where men, women and children share the same miniscule space. Serving time in a Central African Republic prison is a gruelling ordeal, for anyone. But accused and condemned witches have to also deal with fellow inmates – who fear and stigmatize them and sometimes use violence against them. Prisons are so poor, they can’t afford to feed their detainees. So every day, prisoners are sent out to work, and the money they bring back is used to feed them. Accused and condemned witches – however – stay behind, for if recognized in town, they risk being beaten, tortured and killed by the community. Hundreds are executed each year for being a witch. We also speak with traditional healers who play a major role in fomenting witch hysteria. They are consulted by the local population for any real or imagined ailment. They blame it on witchcraft and point the finger at other family members, usually those who are old and alone, or young and defenceless.When it comes to witchcraft, angry mobs frequently take the law into their own hands.  An example is a woman accused of witchcraft who was tortured. They made her swallow razor blades. She was old and she died in a horrific way. One night someone saw an old lady coming out of the toilet. People thought she was coming from a witchcraft walk. The village chief tried to help her by taking her to the council but people followed them, broke open the doors and windows, got the woman and burnt her. Another person accused of witchcraft was tortured and named two other people as witches. The population found those two other individuals. They took them in front of the national flag opposite the police station. They sang the national anthem. They tortured them and killed them. Powerful & visual.