Hunting down a witch doctor

As we piled into cars and drove on the bumpy dirt road in the middle of the night, I couldn’t believe I was part of this undercover operation.

By Rodney Callanan

It felt surreal – almost like I was in some kind of movie – but it was real. And we were on a mission to hunt down a witch doctor who had been on the run for many years.

This was my experience just last week as I spent time in Uganda with our partner Peter Michael. He runs Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM), which is involved in fighting against and rescuing children from witchcraft.

Unfortunately there are evil, depraved and violent men masquerading as witch doctors. They play on peoples’ fears, naivety and suspicions, promising them blessings of prosperity or cures from illness. The witch doctors tell their clients to bring them a human body part, blood or even a child to sacrifice.

Peter has been tracking down this witch doctor ever since he attacked a young boy named Allan Sebataya in 2009. When Allan was just 7 years old, he was castrated, his neck sliced and his head savagely cut open with a machete. He was in a coma for 2.5 months after the attack. Thankfully, in 2013, he was able to have reconstructive surgery in Australia to repair his injuries.

I was able to join Peter and the Ugandan Police in an operation to hunt down and arrest this man. It started with the police coming to our hotel and planning the ‘sting’. We studied mobile phone records and discussed the possible whereabouts with an informer. Then, when all warrants and court orders were secured, we set out on the 7-hour drive to the village where we believed he was hiding out. We arrived too late, but then set off again the next day only to be frustrated with bad intelligence and lack of resources – not being able to set up roadblocks where and when we needed them, and losing track of his mobile phone activity.

Just as we were getting disappointed and very frustrated, at about 11pm on the second day, we had a breakthrough and were able to locate him. We all piled into our cars and rushed out to arrest him at about 1am in the morning. We then brought him back to Kampala and handed him over to the police. He has been officially charged and ordered to stand trial.

It was such a joy and pleasure to be able to tell Allan and his Dad that justice will finally be served. Yes, Allan will have to face the past again during the trial, but he will finally be able to have closure in that area and be able to continue the healing process.

This kind of operation is by no means a common activity for DIAS or myself, but unfortunately, it can be for Peter and KCM. So, it was a privilege to be part of it, to experience what they go through, and to be able to fund the process.

Thank you to those who supported us in this operation. It is extreme, it is unusual for some to comprehend, but it is part of our mandate: to bring justice to the oppressed and to protect innocent children.

Rodney has recently returned from a two-week trip to Uganda with a Videographer from the SBS Dateline programme. A story documenting the capture of the witchdoctor will air in June.