Reasons to Kill:

Mass Murders in the Twenty-first Century

Mass murder is reasonably defined as the "act of murdering a large number of people, typically over a relatively short period of time." 1 History is ridden
with mass murders, from the religiously-motivated to the politically-motivated, with murderers ranging from individuals to states, with personalities diverse
as the Hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory to aspiring politician Ted Bundy. Today, many mass murders reflect culture combined with modern survival
concerns, reminding us that despite what some theorists posit, even the age of rapid globalization cannot simply erase ancient beliefs. And in some places, it
seems to be doing just the opposite. Here are some reasons for the prevalence of mass murders in the Twenty-first Century.

Reason 1: Superstition

City/Country: Tanzania
Victims: Albinos
Perpetrator/s: Witch doctors,
dealers, and common citizens.
Death Toll: According to
the International Federation of Red
Cross and Red Crescent Societies,
“As of November, the official death
toll now stands at 44 albinos killed
in Tanzania and 12 in the eastern
Burundian provinces. This figure
for Tanzania is given by police to
the special parliamentary committee
investigating the killings. Private
organizations and some media in
Tanzania have put the number at
more than 50 deaths.”
Context: In late November
2009, reports surfaced about the recent
surge of albino killings in East
Africa. The bodies of people born
with the congenital condition are
believed to have magical powers,
and each “complete dismembered
set” sells for as high as $75,000.
The body parts are then sold as
talismans, often to wealthy businessmen.
But according to journalist
Vicky Ntetema, “East Africa is
the only region where the story of
albino killings has been revealed
through the media. In some western
African countries albino babies
are killed at birth and older ones
are sacrificed to the volcano gods.
Also in China there are reports that
babies with albinism are murdered
at birth.” Of the 200 suspects in
Tanzania, 7 have been sentenced
to death by Kahama and Shinyanga

Reason 2: Organ Trafficking
City/Country: Haiti
Victims: Children and
Perpetrator/s: Allegedly,
Death Toll: No official
Context: As recently
as January 27, 2010, Haitian
Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive
admitted to CNN’s Christiane
Amanpour that live children and
adults are being trafficked for their
organs. It is claimed that Israelis are
responsible, and as Alison Weir of
The Washington Report on Middle
East Affairs notes, sometimes it is
done with the funding of the Israeli
government and the participation of
Israeli officials.

Reason 3: Ritual Sacrifice
City/Country: Uganda
Victims: Children and young
Perpetrators: Witch Doctors
Death Toll: 300 cases of murder
and disappearances in 2008, 15
murders and 200 disappearances in
Context: “This year [2009] we
have had more occurrences of people
attempting to sell their children
to witch-doctors as part of ritual
ceremonies to guarantee wealth and
prosperity.” (Kelly 2009) Officials
and NGOs attribute the rise in ritual
sacrifices to the looming famine in
Africa, as well as the rising unemployment
and poverty especially in
the Northern and Eastern regions.
Poor parents sell their children to
rich families who then ask witch
doctors to sacrifice them on their
behalf, in exchange for large sums
of money.

Reason 4: Alleged Misogyny
City/Country: Ciudad Juarez,
Victims: Women in their
teenage years to their late twenties
Perpetrator/s: Street gangs,
bus drivers, etcetera
Death Toll: "In 2009, more
than 100 women were murdered
in Juarez, which was three times as
many as were killed in the worse
years of 1990s of the so-called
'femicides,'" said University of Texas
at El Paso professor Dr. Howard
Campbell. (Roldan 2010)
Context: Most of the victims
are workers in maquiladoras, which
is, according to Amnesty
International, “factories
set up by US and other
foreign companies to
exploit cheap labour
and favourable tariffs in
the region near the US
border.” In 2008 Kent
Paterson, noted the diverse
theories about the
motives behind the killings,
from “Porno snuff
film rings to satanic
cults to angry machistas
driven to rage by the fact
that so many women in
Juárez, in a break with
tradition, are out of the
house and competing
in the workforce.” The
women’s bodies, if they
are ever found, are often
buried in shallow graves,
in vacant lots or in the
desert. The recovered
bodies show signs of
sexual abuse, torture,
and missing organs, and
police incompetence of
ten make matters worse for the surviving

Reason 5: Political Rivalry
City/Country: Philippines
Victims: Women, lawyers,
journalists, and drivers
Perpetrator/s: Andal Ampatuan
Jr., 100 men in his private army
Death Toll: 57 victims
Context: En route to filing
Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael "Toto"
Mangudadatu’s Certificate of Candidacy
(COC) on November 23,
2009, a convoy composed of Mangudadatu’s
wife, other women family
members, supporters, lawyers, and
journalists, were ambushed by political
rival Andal Ampatuan Jr.’s private
army. The event is considered the
worst case of election violence in
recent Philippine history. It is also
part of the long-standing rivalry
between the two families in the predominantly
Muslim region made up
of some of the poorest provinces in
the country.

Recent mass murders, while
some are more baffling than others,
are all linked to economic conditions.
Where they take place, and
more importantly, why they take
place, are driven by money or the
lack thereof. There are many other
cases, for example in the Democratic
Republic of Congo, where in 2003
reports of mass murder and cannibalism
emerged, due to the lack of
food in the region during the Hema-
Lendu war. They take place in areas
where government authority is arbitrary,
where justice is rarely swift,
and where economic scarcity drives
people to commit further violence.
It is with good reason that we can assume
that as the disparities between
the poor and the rich intensify, so
will these untoward circumstances.
It is anyone's guess as to how many
will die next.

1 Aggrawal A. (2005) Mass Murder.
In: Payne-James JJ, Byard RW, Corey TS,
Henderson C (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Forensic
and Legal Medicine, Vol. 3, Pp. 216-
223. Elsevier Academic Press, London

Article by: Mary Roseann Ramirez
Graphics by: Mark Sherwin Bayanito