"The police did all they could, but there were not enough of them to control the crowd’s anger"
The first ‘genital disappearance’ case in Koudougou [during the last decade] was on May 2. Since then, I have counted a dozen similar cases in the city. It’s always the same story: someone complains about being approached and touched by a stranger, someone not from the neighbourhood. Immediately, the alleged victims complain of lower stomach pains, tremors, and say they can’t feel their genitals anymore. This only happens with men, and I have been told of it happening in several different parts of town.After a fight at a restaurant, the alleged ‘penis thief’ was taken to the mechanic’s workshop before being apprehended by the angry crowd.On Sunday, there was an incident in which the police had to save an accused man from being lynched. Upset residents went to Koudougou’s central police station, where the man they accused was being kept for protection. Over the next few days, many people said that these “penis thieves” should be killed in order to discourage other alleged thieves. And that’s what happened on Monday. The police did all they could, but there were not enough of them to control the crowd’s anger. Later, when medical staff examined the alleged victims of “penis thieves” [including the one from Monday], they couldn’t find anything wrong with them.
A lot of people at the scene on Monday told me the alleged penis snatcher was a foreigner: some say he was Congolese, others say he was Rwandan or Burundian. Without any explanation, people blame “a foreigner”. It turns out that this person was a Burundian marabout [Muslim holy man] from Koudougou’s 8th district.
“Con artists often say they’ve stolen someone’s genitals in order to sell them a miracle product”
Often, con artists take advantage of people’s gullibility and scam them. There are usually two or three accomplices who carry out this scam in three parts: first, someone who claims to have magical powers touches a victim and persuades him that they’ve stolen his genitals. Then, another accomplice approaches the victim and drives home the point by saying that if the victim doesn’t buy a specific product, he’ll lose his ability to reproduce. Finally, the victim pays a hefty sum [Editor’s note: around 30,000 CFA Francs, or 45 euros] for a Viagra-like medicine that is supposed to make his genitals work again.
It had been several years since I had heard of any such cases in Koudougou. There were a few isolated cases in nearby areas about 10 years ago, but they quickly stopped. This time, though, the first cases in the beginning of May were handled very badly: local authorities didn’t intervene immediately to calm the crowds, and a lot of people were caught up in the hysteria. I don’t think the lynching of this man has calmed tensions.