KATABI, Uganda — Jackline Mukisa sobbed as she described how her 8-year-old son was found in a nearby swamp in February without teeth, lips, ears and genitals.

“My innocent son died a painful death,” said Mukisa, 28. “How could somebody intend to murder my son?”

A motorcyclist offered John Lubega a lift as he walked back from school, according to fellow students who saw him last. His remains suggest he was slowly killed as part of a human sacrifice ritual performed by witch doctors, apparently to appease the spirits, said Mukisa, who filed a police report.

No arrest has been made so far.

In this landlocked country whose diverse landscape includes the snow-capped Ruwenzori Mountains and immense Lake Victoria, many believe sacrificial rituals can bring quick wealth and health.

Among those rituals, human sacrifice, especially of children, occurs frequently despite the government’s efforts to stop it.

Seven children and two adults were sacrificed last year, said Moses Binoga, a police officer who heads Uganda’s Anti-Human Sacrifice and Trafficking Task Force. Seven children and six adults were sacrificed in 2015.

But experts said the number could be much higher.

 

Times are tough in Uganda, and people are looking to sacrifices to improve their fortunes. The worst drought in over half a century has hit parts of East Africa, leaving more than 11 million people in this nation facing food insecurity and 1.6 million on the brink of famine, according to the Ugandan government.

“There is no food due to the ongoing drought, and some believe that this has been brought by ancestral spirits,” said Joel Mugoya, a traditional healer. “So there is a high desire for people to conduct sacrifices so that they come out of this problem.”