Ugandan Traditional Healer Advises Couple to Kill Nephew

A Ugandan couple has killed their nephew after a traditional healer advised them that they were unable to birth a son, meaning their wealth would go to their closest male relative, their nephew. 

What You Need to Know:

Busoga North Police have announced a six-year-old boy from Bukafika village in Uganda’s eastern Kamuli District was killed this week by his aunt and uncle, Fatuma Namulwasira and Salim Mpendo, who have fled the district. 

According to police, Namulwasira and Mpendo sought advice from a traditional healer, who informed them that they would not be able to birth a son following the births of their two daughters, and therefore their wealth would be passed onto their closest male relative. 

A 2012 report on Traditional Healing in Uganda conducted by M. Degonda and P. Scheidegger states, “traditional medicine in Uganda as in many parts of Africa is a holistic conception that places the individual in relation to other men, to nature and to the Universe.” 

“Traditional healers are often the preferred option over Western medicine, as they provide culturally meaningful approaches, are better accessible and less expensive than medical doctors (Traditional Healers and Uganda’s Success, 2003). In Uganda there is only one allopathic doctor for every 20,000 people but one traditional healer for every 200-400 people. 46% of the population live below absolute poverty lines (less than $1 per day) (WHO/AFRO, 2001, online).” 

The child, Rahim Kitimbo, was killed by the couple before they placed his body underneath their bed and informed the child’s grandmother he had died in his sleep. An autopsy to confirm the cause of death is yet to be conducted. 

Micheal Kasada, Spokesperson for Busoga North Police has stated, “we are hunting for the couple for allegedly murdering their brothers son, and the information we are getting suggests that a traditional healer asked them to do so because this son was likely to inherit their property since they had failed to sire a son.” 

The Details: 

Despite Uganda’s 1995 constitution guaranteeing that “[a]ll persons are equal before and under the law” and “shall not be discriminated against on the ground of sex,” succession laws still favor the oldest male descendant in terms of property inheritance. 

Last amended by General Idi Amin in 1972, the Succession Act Amendment Decree rescinds equal inheritance rights for spouses, as well as legitimizes devolution of the residential holding to the oldest male descendant. 

This succession Act, in conjunction with cultural beliefs particularly prevalent in rural Uganda, creates scenarios such as this, where murders are committed out of fear for  livelihoods. 

Furthermore, a Georgetown University article on inheritance law in Uganda touches on ‘primogeniture’ or the preference in inheritance that is given by law, custom, or usage to the eldest son.

“The rule of primogeniture is central to the customary law of succession in Uganda. Under this rule, the closest male heir is the “customary heir” and is both administrator and successor to the estate. If there are no male descendants, the deceased’s father or the father’s closest male descendant succeeds him. Women do not ordinarily participate in the intestate succession regime, and it is commonly believed that a woman should not own property. Consequently, most Ugandan women are landless and depend on others to house them. 

So, What Now?:

Uganda’s succession laws, coupled with the reliance of rural Ugandans on the advice of traditional healers, can often lead to undesirable results. However, given the context, the suspects, Mr Mpendo and Mrs Namulwasira, likely felt they had no other option. 

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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