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2007 Ethnic violence in Vanuatu

Filed under: General,global islands,ideology,vanuatu — admin @ 4:42 am

Almost 200 people have been arrested in Vanuatu after tribal violence flared amid claims of black magic.

Three people have been killed in the South Pacific island nation.

A state of emergency has been declared after fighting broke out at the Blacksands squatter camp on the outskirts of the capital, Port Vila.

The fighting – sparked by accusations that a sorcerer had used witchcraft to kill a rival – escalated rapidly and spread through the settlement.

Blacksands is home to thousands of people who have migrated to the capital from other parts of Vanuatu.

Villagers from the islands of Ambrym and Tanna fought with machetes and knives. Local police said the ethnic violence was the worst the Melanesian nation had ever seen.

It left three men dead and others seriously hurt. Dozens of people have been arrested, including a number of tribal chiefs.

A state of emergency has been imposed and public meetings have been banned for the next two weeks.

The country’s unarmed police officers have been given special permission to carry weapons just in case there is more trouble.

Many residents across Vanuatu’s archipelago have been forbidden from travelling to Efate, the main island where Port Vila is located.

Although Christianity has strong roots in this corner of the South Pacific, witchcraft and superstition remain powerful forces.

On the island of Tanna villagers worship a mystical American called John Frum, while others believe that the husband of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is a god. Vanuatu’s Great Council of Chiefs is expected to meet next week to look at ways to defuse tensions between rival tribes in Port Vila.


One of the many unique aspects of kastom is the bulu scar. Believing they are vulnerable to an attack from a devil while walking alone through the forest, the people from this highland tribe of Vanuatu go to painful measures to do what they believe will protect them. Taking a burnt thorn from a sago palm, they push it into their flesh and then set it on fire. It sears the flesh, festers, and then forms a scab which will heal into a bulu scar. They do this because they believe that by enduring this pain they arouse the compassion of a powerful spirit they call Taute, and in turn Taute empowers the bulu to ward off evil spirits and damate (ancestral ghosts) when they travel through the jungle.

A boy receives his first bulu when he is five to seven years old. At that time, a minimum of five holes are burnt into the flesh of his biceps and as many as thirty if he can endure the pain. Since they believe a protective spirit enters each wound, they feel the more the better. After receiving their bulus, the boys are lowered into a pit where they live in isolation for ten days surviving only on wild yams that have been cooked in bamboo. During these ten days the boys are forbidden to leave the pit for any reason. This period of isolation is believed to be a form of rebirth and spiritual growth.

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