BAMENDA, CAMEROON – When Sarah Ewang, 41, heard about the homicide and dismemberment of 18 young women in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, she cried and prayed to God to give strength to the victims’ families.
Ewang, a jewelry trader in Bamenda, the capital of the Northwest region, can understand the pain the girls endured during the moments before they were slain by alleged ritual killers.
“I came so close with ritual killers,” she says. “God delivered me from the hands of those evil men.”
During 2005, Ewang traveled from Bamenda to Douala, the capital of the Littoral region, to buy jewelry to restock her shop.
In Douala, she entered a taxi already occupied by two men, who appeared to be passengers. As they drove, another woman stopped the taxi.
Moments after picking up the second woman, one of the men in the car pointed a gun at them and ordered them to keep quiet.
“I tried to shout, but one of the men slapped me very hard,” Ewang says.
The taxi took a sharp turn off the main road and drove for more than an hour into an isolated forest. Eventually, the car stopped at a strange-looking hut, constructed of sticks, grass and old bags.
“I knew my life was coming to an end,” Ewang says, “and the next thing I thought of was my 3-months-old baby.”
She says she cried out and received a second slap from the man carrying the gun, causing her to pass out. When she awoke, she discovered that they had removed her from the car. The driver and one of the men walked into the hut, but the man with the gun remained with them.
She says they were ritual killers.
“They didn’t request for anything from us,” Ewang says, “so they didn’t look like armed robbers or thieves.”
Finally, the two men emerged, along with four other men carrying cutlasses. Desperate, Ewang cried aloud in her local dialect, Bakossi.
“‘Oh my God, I will die and leave my 3-months-old daughter to who?’” she says she cried. “‘Oh God, please come and help me.’”
Immediately after she spoke, the man with the gun walked up to her and looked her in her eyes but did not say a word, she says. He then led the other men back into the hut, where they remained for more than 45 minutes. Eventually, the man with the gun returned and asked her and the other woman to get into the car.
The men returned them to Douala and told them to walk away without causing any alarm.
As they walked away, the man with the gun spoke.
“‘Go and look after your 3-months-old baby,’” she says that he told her in Bakossi. “‘Extend my greetings to her. Tell her that her forest uncle sends his greetings. Your fluency in your dialect has saved your soul.’”
As soon as she heard the man speaking her dialect, Ewang stopped, fell to the