Child sacrifice on rise in election run-up

Child abduction, which is already a serious problem in Cote d’Ivoire, may worsen in the run up to presidential elections later this year as political hopefuls using traditional myths of human sacrifice to improve their electoral chances will fuel an already significant market for stolen children, according to the Ivorian police.

“[Child abduction] is something that needs urgent attention especially in the run-up to the election because a lot of things are going to happen like human sacrifices and other rituals where the organs of children will be particularly in demand,” said Sergeant Antoine Goua Bi, a spokesperson for the child protection unit of the Ivorian police, who says child sacrifice always increases around election times.

“The number of children disappearing in Cote d’Ivoire has already reached extremely worrying proportions,” said Jean-Michel Boka, coordinator of the Ivorian non-governmental child protection organisation Roxal. “Every day we register three new cases – that adds up to between 60 and 90 cases per month.”

Organ traffickers, who slice out hearts, kidneys, lungs and other body parts for sale to medical facilities and soothsayers are the main culprits, Bi said. The children are also taken to work in the sex trade, for use by illegal adoption rings, and for work on plantations, he said.

Parents’ chances of getting their children back once they have disappeared is slim. Boka at the NGO Roxal estimated a recovery rate of just one in 20.

Kouassi Bâ, coordinator of the international NGO Save the Children in Korhogo, northern Cote d’Ivoire, said they are working alongside the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF) and International Labour Organization, to raise awareness against child trafficking, but that there is no specific project against child abductions.

However on 30 May the representatives of nine West African countries governments met in Grand-Bassam in southern Cote d’Ivoire to sign a joint accord to harmonise their laws against child trafficking.

The Ivorian ministry of family, women and children said in a statement that it is taking the situation “very seriously” and that further measures against child abductions will be announced shortly.