Mercenary Hair as Witchcraft Capitol in the Central African Republic

A recent report by Corbeau News Centrafrique, an independent Central African Republic (CAR) media outlet, has alluded to an increase in organ and bone trafficking incidents in the country’s western prefectures of Sanga-Mbaere and Mambere-Kadei. In addition to the cases of organ and bone trafficking, the outlet has noted a renewed interest in the Russian mercenaries deployed in the nation; particularly, an interest in the mercenaries’ hair. This development provides valuable insights into the nation’s shifting dynamics as a result of the Russian personnel’s entry into the CAR’s social fabric.

What You Need to Know:

According to Corbeau News Centrafrique, a belief has arisen among the populations of the Sanga-Mbaere and Mambere-Kadei prefectures that the hair of the Russian mercenaries, when used in witchcraft rituals, brings protection as well as magical and financial power.

A 2018 INTERPOL report on serious and organized crime in Central Africa confirmed the existence of a link between organ trafficking and ritualistic practices in the region, stating, “analysis suggests that Central Africans are involved in respective criminal organizations perpetrating so-called ‘crime-rituels’ (spelling in French), or cult crime, which involve killing young girls, prostitutes, or children and trafficking their organs for use in cult rituals.

However, it is unclear what age and gender the victims were in these recent organ trafficking incidents.

“Hair salons are now places of increased vigilance. If a Wagner mercenary comes to have his hair cut, it is carefully collected and sold. This practice has become so common that traffickers now prefer white people’s hair to human organs. Although the exact purpose of this hair remains unclear, local rituals and beliefs in its power are deeply rooted,” the outlet said.

As previously reported, witchcraft is heavily prevalent in Africa. In the Central African Republic, the practice is utilized by various types of practitioners, such as the Talimbi fishermen in Bangui, who are seen as positive practitioners, and the child witches of Bangui, who are seen as negative practitioners.

In the CAR, much of the population, when seeking medical aid, will consult a traditional healer, known as a Nganga, who makes use of both herbal medicines and supernatural elements to heal a patient.

It must be noted that witchcraft is tightly intertwined in the societal culture of the CAR, creating a ‘cultural truth’ due to the prevalence of the practice and psychological impact of the belief in witchcraft among the community.

The Details:

As outlined by Cassandra M. Moore in her 2016 dissertation on Witchcraft and Social Tensions in the Central African Republic for the University of Kent, there is a distinct connection between the emergence of new societal tension and the emergence of a new form or practitioner of witchcraft in the country.

Moore highlighted that at the same time that child soldiers began to be reintegrated into Central African society, so did emerge the ‘child witch’.

In essence, Moore argued that these child soldiers had perverted the country’s societal hierarchy, creating a fear among adults of the capabilities of the children, who had once taken on the role of soldier; traditionally a role reserved for an adult male. Claiming, “fear is legitimized through the explanation that these children’s real societal power is a manifestation of using supernatural powers.”

For many years, witch accusations targeted those on the fringes of Central African society, such as the elderly, widows, divorced, and childless women, as a way to “filter out the unwanted people,” as stated by the Borgen Project.

But, as seen through the high status of the Talimbi witches, adult fishermen practitioners that populate urban regions near the Ubangi river, not all witchcraft in the CAR is seen negatively.

Thus, one begins to see how in the CAR, links are drawn between one’s status in society and its subsequent positive or negative connection with the practice of witchcraft.

However, social dynamics have begun to change in the country as a result of the introduction of new players with new status in the social hierarchy. This is seen in the case of child soldiers and the simultaneous emergence of the ‘child witch’ as outlined by Cassandra Moore.

The latest perversion of the country’s social hierarchy is owed to the introduction of Russia’s Wagner mercenaries. Tasked with protecting the regime of President Faustin-Archange Touadera, the group also provides security to various mines in the country of which China and Russia are beneficiaries.

Outside of these objectives, Wagner has been accused of committing human rights abuses, including the extrajudicial killing of CAR civilians.

So, What Now?:

As a result of these activities, and as illustrated by Moore, civilians’ fear of Wagner personnel is legitimized through the explanation that the mercenaries’ real societal power is a manifestation of their holding supernatural powers.

While child witches are viewed as bringing bad luck or bad fortune, the hair of Wagner members, when used in a ritual, is thought to bring success, protection, and financial power to the recipient.

This is likely due to the status of the mercenaries in the country, seen by the populace as being above even the CAR’s own security forces, and holding their own wealth. Additionally, with the mercenaries being adult males, they in some aspects ‘fix’ the social hierarchy that became perverted through the introduction of child soldiers.

Despite this, Wagner itself has recruited child soldiers in the CAR, which is likely why the interest in the use of mercenary hair is at this stage, confined to the country’s western prefectures.

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.


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