Oluwatooni Akanni

Oluwatooni "Tooni" Akanni (Gideon Foundation): Tooni was born in Nigeria and raised in Minnesota. She received her BA in Psychology and African Studies from the University of Minnesota in 2008. At the time of her fellowship she was pursuing her Master’s degree at New York University Center for Global Affairs, concentrating in International Development and Humanitarian Assistance. While at NYU, Tooni also interned at the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund. After her fellowship Tooni wrote: “This fellowship has been a life changing experience for me. I see the world in such a completely different way. My field experience can be a book all by itself. I learnt so much information in such a short time in Uganda. What I've learned within this fellowship is invaluable and priceless and it’s something you can't learn from the books or in the classroom.”

First Impressions: Uganda, The Pearl of Africa

23 Jun

It’s my first week in Uganda and it already feels like home! Within the short time I’ve been here,  I’ve maneuvered through traffic on the back of a motorbike with my luggage by my side, cooked chapatis from scratch, fetched water from the local well, and trekked 3km to town, which is about 2 miles. The hospitality of the people, the vibrant culture and the beautiful scenery are just some of the few reasons why I admire Uganda.

On my way to Soroti from Entebbe, I got the chance to understand why Uganda is called the Pearl of Africa. The stunning green valley, snow capped mountains, crystal clear lakes and the rich mosaic of cultures convey the true beauty of Uganda. However, within this beautiful country lies a serious issue that has brought me all the way from the States. This issue is defined in two simply words: Child Sacrifice.

Having spent a part of my childhood in Nigeria, I’m very familiar with the practices of witchdoctors, which ranges from herbal medicine to human sacrifice.  However, the extent to how these rituals have been embedded in the Ugandan culture has baffled me. The rituals of witchdoctors in Uganda are embraced and accepted by some of their citizens and even high officials in the government. While talking to some of the community members, I was shocked to hear that during last year’s presidential election, President Yoweri Museveni hired hundreds of witchdoctors from around the country to pray for him, so that he could win the election. I was even more shocked when I came across an ad in the newspaper of a witchdoctor advertising his business.

Some people still believe that child sacrifice is something that took place in the distant past. But the sad reality is that child sacrifice is extremely alive and well in Uganda. For the past few days, I’ve gotten the chance to hear story after story about children who have been killed or had their bodies mutilated by witchdoctors. One of which is the horrific story of Santos and Leah’s only son Gideon, whom the organization is named after.  In my next blog, I’ll talk more about The Gideon Foundation and the founders.

Those of you who know me know that I’m very passionate about the work I’ll be doing this summer.  My work in Uganda is the beginning of a longtime commitment to social justice and advocacy against child sacrifice. My summer work-plan will be filled with interviewing police officers, former witchdoctors, church leaders and families who have been affected by child sacrifice. In addition, I’ll be putting together a quilt that would allow those families to tell their stories and convey their message.

Here’s a short video I put together that shows my journey from Entebbe to Soroti:  httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bHkaSdJsQc&feature=youtu.be

I end this blog entry by saying Ayalama Noyee, which means thank you in Ateso. Ayalama Noyee to those who have supported me on my journey to Uganda.

Until next time!

Posted By Oluwatooni Akanni

Posted Jun 23rd, 2012


  • Heejung

    June 23, 2012


    Tooni-so glad you got to uganda and enjoying your time there. You are already increasing the public awareness of child sacrifice and i look forward to learning more about the issue as you continue your journey. Blessings!

  • Laolu

    June 24, 2012


    The scenery reminds me so much of Nigeria. Praying for direction for you; that you be the solution to this issue. Well written blog, Tooni. Keep them coming.

  • Foluke

    June 24, 2012


    Nice video of your journey to Uganda and your experience so far. I am proud of the work you will be doing at Soroti. Its sad that many hold witch doctors at high-esteem when they are killing a generation of children, hopefully your work there will make a dent in this practice

  • Karin Orr

    June 26, 2012


    Tooni, I didn’t realize that witch doctors were also endorsed by government officials, that raises some incredible challenges. It makes me wonder whether they can just as easily be lobbied to outlaw the practice. Also, witch doctors are associated with ‘culture’, so how do we separate the violence from these ‘cultural practices’ while changing the minds of influential people?

  • Jesse Cottrell

    June 26, 2012


    Fascinating. The contrast between the beautiful land shown in your video and the practice of child sacrifice is compelling.

    Juiced to hear more about what you’ll be doing this summer. Seems like a huge issue. Good luck.

  • Bayo

    July 1, 2012


    Fascinating video Tooni. Looks like you’re already doing an impressive job. Uganda is fortunate to have people like you who want to make a difference and finally bring an end to this travesty.

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