HC Deb 26 July 1883 vol 282 cc543-4

asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether he is now in possession of any official information respecting the alleged burning alive of fifty persons in the Sherbro country?


Sir, when my hon. Friend about a month ago asked me about this matter, I had no information to give; but since then we have received from Chief Justice Pinkett, the Administrator of Sierra Leone, a despatch, dated the 26th of June, from Sierra Leone, in which he makes the following Report:— In May last I received intelligence from Native traders that a 'witch palaver' was being held at Bonjaima, in the neighbourhood of the Bagroo River, and that it was likely that many lives would be sacrificed. I at once sent up a letter to the assembled Chiefs, pointing out the folly of such proceedings, and advising them, as a friend, to put an end to them. On the 18th instant I received a letter signed by all the Chiefs assembled at Bonjaima, saying that, before the arrival of my messengers, they had already burnt 34 persons, who had confessed to witchcraft and cannibalism, but that on reading my letter they had liberated the rest of the captives, who would otherwise have shared the same fate. The Chiefs promised to abstain from such practices in future, and I wrote back to thank them for so promptly meeting my wishes, and again expressed the abhorrence entertained by the British Government of such barbarous customs. I think my hon. Friend will agree with me that the influence of the British authorities has been well and wisely exercised in this instance.