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Friday, May 02, 2008

Do you laugh, cry or recolonise?

It's hard to know what the correct response is, when you encounter a story as bizarre, shocking and innately tragic as this.

To summarise, dozens of 'witchdoctors' in the 'democratic republic' of the Congo have been arrested on suspicion that they have been using 'black magic' to shrink people's penises.

According to a report from Reuters correspondents:

Rumours of penis theft began circulating last week in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo's sprawling capital of some 8 million inhabitants. They quickly dominated radio call-in shows, with listeners advised to beware of fellow passengers in communal taxis wearing gold rings.

Purported victims, 14 of whom were also detained by police, claimed that sorcerers simply touched them to make their genitals shrink or disappear, in what some residents said was an attempt to extort cash with the promise of a cure.

This isn't just a Congo phenomenon. Previous outbreaks of penis-thievery have occurred in Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, in most West and Central African countries, in fact.

How do you respond to this in the 21st century? Do we laugh at the stupid, ill-educated, superstition-ridden Africans?

Do we lament their ill education, their superstitions, their poor democratic structures and their silly belief systems as we have done for decades?

Or should we maybe start looking at the weeping wound that is Africa, the prevalence of Aids, malaria, demogogues, lynchings, rapes, civil wars, famines, plagues and general horrors, and think about that great taboo - direct intervention by the West?

Recolonisation runs against the liberal principles of many people in the Western bubble of affluence. But they - we - don't have to live in the reality, in the squalor, under the fear of random murder, or rape, or incarceration in a squalid torture prison.

Not to mention the real and present danger of having your penis stolen.

Perhaps if we did, we'd be calling out for Africans to come and liberate us from ourselves?

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