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Not Only in Liberia index

Not only in Liberia
Ritual Killing Lesotho (2 cases reported here)

Freedom of fear is a human right
Rule of law an obligation of the state


  1. Popo was sentenced to death last year by the Lobatse High Court for killing a Molepolole woman, Binki Balotlegi, in what was believed to be a ritual murder. He confessed that he was promised P1,000 for the murder.
    July 26, 2007

  2. Eleven murderers hanged (1953, Maseru)
    An African headman, Pheelo Smith, desperately needed a human sacrifice to save his villagers’ crops. He chose his father-in-law as the victim, and the whole of the village of Maseru in Basutoland (now Lesotho) turned out to watch the ritual murder.
    Forty-two people were charged with being implicated in the crime, although 11 were finally charged with murder. Eight of them made a break-out from custody and fought a pitched battle with the police before they were recaptured.
    All 11 – nine men, who included headman Pheelo Smith, and two women – were hanged on Thursday, August 20th, 1953, at Maseru Prison.
    August 20, 1953

Book on 'medicine murder'
Colin Murray and Peter Sanders, Medicine Murder in Colonial Lesotho: The Anatomy of a Moral Crisis (London, 2005)

"This book has appeared at just the right moment. We badly need an anthropological guide to the matter of medicine murder.

This book's main subject is a series of medicine murders, their detection and punishment in late colonial Basutoland, rather than any post-colonial phenomena.
They (i.e. the authors) offer a careful exploration of historical evidence which suggests that medicine murders had taken place intermittently for a hundred years at least. They offer detailed case studies of late colonial murders based on exhaustive research in the archives. Their book ends with a 122-page appendix which summarizes every case of suspected medicine murder between 1895 and 1966.
They (i.e. the authors) are concerned, of course, to explain why this was so. They reject any idea of a general African, or even southern African, ideology of human sacrifice. In every place where medicine murders took place, or became notorious--and they examine the crisis in Swaziland in the 1970s, in Venda in the late 1980s, in Ghana, in Nigeria--motives for murder could be understood 'only within local systems of belief that were difficult for outside observers to penetrate'.
In Basutoland the key parties to a medicine murder were the most powerful men in society, but they were not denounced by the impoverished young who took part in the murders. 
Book review by Terence Ranger




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