Protecting children and realizing their rights are major challenges for African states. In addition to recurring issues like childhood marriage and excision, there is an increasing problem with child disappearances in countries like Benin. How is the problem manifested and what are its causes?
Missing children in Benin: The psychosis and causes of this phenomenon
For several months the people have helplessly watched the dramatic increase in a new phenomenon: the kidnapping and disappearance of children. How many children have disappeared so far? It is difficult to say when we know that not all cases are publicized. From the case of the 17-year-old girl, an apprentice hairstylist who was brutally murdered in the outskirts of Cotonou, to the very recent case of a 14-year-old 10th-grader who was kidnapped then killed, there is no shortage of examples. This phenomenon is more prevalent in the southern part of the country and in the cities and suburbs of the economic capital, Cotonou. However, it is happening everywhere throughout the entire country. This situation has inspired an outcry from supporters of children’s rights and to the drafting of a national petition to raise awareness of the issue. (Adéossi, 2016) In addition, the Comité de Liaison des Organisations Sociales de défense des Droits de l’Enfant (CLOSE) is assessing the situation.
The surge in kidnappings and disappearances of Beninese children is taking place in the context of a rise in cybercriminality in the country. Internet scammers looking for easy money combine their actions with occult practices that use human blood (Djogbenou, 2017). To perpetrate their crimes on peaceful world citizens, cybercriminals get a statuette of a god named Kenninsi. This statuette enables them to carry out internet scams worry-free. The only requirement is that they offer this god human blood. Cybercriminals who hold this demonic god must offer him human blood at least once a year. As soon as the time for making offerings to the god begins, both children and adults disappear. The blood of these victims is offered to the god, who in return, allows these scammers to succeed in their internet crimes and as a result, to make money. Targets are chosen in both cities and villages. Children are the cybercriminals’ favorite target, as they are defenseless and easy to kidnap, even though adults are also victims of this phenomenon.
Reassessing the sanctity of life
Those who are kidnapped almost always lose their lives, with their bodies drained of blood and at least one mutilated organ. These are unbearable images (Djogbenou, 2017). The sanctity of human life, even of children’s lives, loses its value. And society helplessly witnesses this elusive phenomenon.
The need to react
The number and brutality of the images on social media and in the media stoke the fear in both families and communities. Everyone wonders who will be next. It is a communal threat, so there should be communal reaction as well.
The authorities faced with this situation call for families to be vigilant and for people to turn in suspicious individuals in their neighborhoods. The country’s whole security approach is also being revamped, including the piloting of “community policing,” which aims to make every citizen an active observer (Fondation Hanns Seidel Bénin, 2015). Nobody knows how many adults and children will be victims in the future, so we have to act now. Time is of the essence.
Written by Patrice Affo
Proofread by Pauline Martinez
Translated by Beth Smith