Cameroon Determined to End Human Bone Trafficking

The Cameroonian Gendarmerie arrested an individual with a large number of human bones, stating that authorities are determined to eradicate the growing phenomenon of human bone trafficking

In Cameroon, human bones are attributed supernatural powers and a skeleton could sell for more than $25,000. (Photo: Rawpixel, License/OCCRP)

The arrest took place over the weekend during a routine night patrol on an artisanal mining site in the vicinity of the town of Ngoura in eastern Cameroon.

It was not immediately clear why the man carried the human remains with him but such incidents are not unusual in Cameroon, where human bones are attributed to supernatural powers and are priced highly on the black market for their use in occult rituals and traditional medicine.

In August last year for example, the police in the capital of Yaoundé arrested four individuals in the possession of an entire human skeleton, which they said originated from a desecrated grave in northern Cameroon, admitting they were hoping to sell the loot for a large sum of money.

According to previous testimonies by traffickers, one skeleton could sell for as much as US$25,500.

Cameronian laws treat the damaging of graves and desecrating human remains as a crime and the culprits can face three months to five years in prison and a fine between $170 and $1,700.

But the legal repercussions do not seem to be sufficient to deter bone traffickers lured by the promise of quick cash. The local media reported that grave robbing became so frequent that some families even resort to guarding the graves of their beloved ones.

A similar phenomenon has been reported in East Africa, where traffickers target albino human parts – believed to bring wealth and prosperity. Malawi, one of the most affected countries, has since 2014 reported over 170 albinos killed or maimed as a consequence of the practice.


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