Parts of the African country of Malawi have been gripped by violence, with rumors surrounding witchcraft and vampires leading groups of vigilantes to carry out at least five murders. Now, the country’s president is set to hold a press conference to debunk those superstitions and bring about a return to order.
The Malawian government imposed a 5:00 pm curfew after the killings, which began in September, began to ramp up in frequency. Stories of blood-sucking vampires and occult activity have taken hold in numerous small communities – particularly Mulanje, Phalombe and Chiradzulu, all three of which slated for an appearance by President Arthur Peter Mutharika.
On one occasion, a Belgian couple traveling from South Africa to Cairo in a 4×4 vehicle were attacked and “badly injured” after they were mistaken for “blood suckers,” the Malawi government said in a press release.
Mutharika plans to “address communities on fears of blood-sucking allegations” on Friday the 13th, a coincidence that seems likely to heighten superstitions even further.
In response to the chaos, the United Nations announced on Monday that it had withdrawn staff from two districts in southern Malawi where the rumors have proven most pervasive, Reuters reported.
“These districts have been severely affected by the ongoing stories of bloodsucking and possible existence of vampires,” said the UN Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) in a report about the region.
Acting UN Resident Coordinator Florence Rolle clarified that “some UN staff have relocated while others are still in the districts depending on locations of their operations,” adding: “UNDSS is continuing to monitor the situation closely to ensure all affected UN staff are in the field as soon as possible.”
In a statement, Mutharika labeled the vampirism rumors as “distressing and agonizing” and his office noted that “this development has been of grave concern to the President and his entire Government.”