For those people in Omo Valley, children regarded as cursed, or ‘mingi,’ were thought to be responsible for misfortune and were killed

Mike O’Sullivan (Voice of America) |

Photographer John Rowe discovered a deeply held secret on visits to the Omo River Valley in southwestern Ethiopia, a place of traditional culture and spectacular beauty. Children regarded as cursed, or “mingi,” were thought to be responsible for misfortune and were killed.

“The reason why people get sick, the reason why there’s drought, the reason why there’s famine, is because of ‘mingi,’” Rowe explained.

If children’s teeth first appear on the upper gum instead of the bottom gum, or if they are born out of wedlock, disabled, or are twins, they are ritualistically murdered.

Rowe learned of the practice from Lale Labuko, his guide on his photographic journeys, and produced a documentary film about the practice called Omo Child.

At age 15, Lale Labuko saw a two-year-old child being drowned in the river and learned from his mother that he had also had two sisters who were killed before he was born.

One woman in the film recounts losing 15 children at birth, all declared “mingi” and snatched by village elders to be fed to crocodiles.

“I said, I want to stop these things,” Lale Labuko recalls in the film.

Lale Labuko was the first member of his village to receive an education at a missionary school. He asked Rowe to help him end the killings as he first persuaded young people, then the families of his village and tribal elders.

Continue reading this story on Voice of America (VOA)
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