Special Report: Witchcraft problems in the DRC

He was murdered in London, born and raised in France but Kristy Bamu's family came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, so that's where I travelled with African Religion expert, Dr Richard Hoskins to investigate the background to a practise which is known in the DRC as Kindocki.

The DRC is a country which has been devastated by civil war with millions driven from their homes and thousands of children abandoned, thrown onto the streets, not just because their parents are poor but because they believe their children are possessed.

Investigations have shown that rouge revivalist churches are often at the root the problem and more of these churches are now springing up right here in London

In my special report to be broadcast on ITV London Tonight this evening, Dr Hoskins says:

"It’s absolutely astonishing that parents in Africa who love their children can be persuaded in this way by pastors.

It's baffling as to why they believe these pastors but it’s just an ingrown belief system and no-one seems to want to stand up against these pastors and say actually this isn’t true and it’s wrong."

There are so many children abandoned because they've been accused of 'kindocki' on the streets of Kinshasa that Save The Children has set up specialised shelters offering them care and support.

We visited one of their centres on the outskirts of the city.

A boy of twelve was one of the first to tell me how he came to be living in the centre. The details were harrowing. He said:

"I was taken to a church and accused of witchcraft. Here they bit me on the stomach to suck out the witchcraft they thought lived inside me. They hit me to remove the evil spirits. They shoved sticks in my ears and they poured hot candle wax over my body and a liquid into my eyes that stung. So, I ran away from the church and ended up on the streets."

The shocking truth is children in the DRC and elsewhere are being accused of 'kindocki' for behaviours most parents would deem normal. A youngster who is not eating properly or a child who wets the bed or is cheeky and mischievous is often accused of being a witch and cast out of the family home.

Still, the children we met in the Save The Children centre were the fortunate ones. Many, many more were living on the streets doing anything they could to feed themselves. They are everywhere you go. The youngest we encountered was a little girl of seven but we were told about other children who'd been abandoned when they were much younger.

Churches are powerful institutions in the DRC and the fact that pastors are often involved in accusing children of being witches makes it difficult problem to root out. Several openly advertise exorcism ceremonies.

We discovered a revivalist church where a young girl was being prepared for a service to rid her of so called evil spirits.

She hadn't eaten or drunk anything for two whole days and had been made to sit outside without anything to shade her from the scorching sunshine.

The pastor told me this was being done 'In the name of Jesus Christ.'

He claimed she was possessed because she 'got up and walked around at night'. He refused to consider she may simply be sleep-walking and that this was quite common in young children.

What we saw in the DRC was not just disturbing, it was really upsetting. As journalists we're trained to be objective but when it comes to watching children suffer it is never easy- especially when you know they and their families are being exploited by those who should know better.

There is a law in DRC making it illegal to accuse anyone of witchcraft but it's rarely enforced and now the abuse has found its way to the London with horrific results.

BY RONKE PHILLIPS

CORRESPONDENT, ITV NEWS