Ethiopia: ‘cursed’ children were thrown to hungry crocodiles by tribal elders

Buko Balguda, 45, from Duss, a Karo tribal village in southern Ethiopia’s Omo Valley, is alone. The reason? Her seven sons and eight daughters were all killed at birth by village elders who decided that the children were cursed.

‘I lost five plus five plus five babies – 15 in total,’ she explains. ‘I had seven males and eight females. During this time, our tribal traditions were very hard. I did not respect our traditions, so they killed my children.’
And Ms Balguda is not alone. The concept of ‘mingi’ or cursed children remains a tenet of tribal life for the Hamer and Bana people, with elders insisting that mingi infants are killed before they can bring the rest of the tribe bad luck.

As a result – and despite efforts by the Ethiopian government to ban the practice – cursed children are murdered every day, whether by being left alone to be eaten by hyenas, thrown to hungry crocodiles or simply starved to death in a locked hut.

‘If the first tooth appears in the upper jaw, instead of the lower, the child becomes mingi,’ explains photographer Eric Lafforgue who has spent a considerable amount of time with the Karo and Hamer tribes. ‘This applies to the baby teeth and the adult teeth, so older children can be killed too.

‘Being declared mingi almost always means death of the child,’ he continues. ‘The tribe will leave the child alone in the bush without food and water or will throw the child in the middle of the river full of crocodiles.’

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They believe the cursed niglets will bring bad luck, like drought, famine, disease or even death.
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