A court in Burkina Faso has handed a three-year suspended sentence to a well-known healer after a trial in which she was convicted of complicity in beating up a follower.
Adja, whose formal name is Amsetou Nikiema, has drawn thousands of followers to gatherings where she reputedly heals those who fall sick or are believed to possessed or cursed by bad luck.
After a day-long trial, a court in the capital Ouagadougou late Wednesday convicted the 20-year-old of complicity in bodily harm.
She was handed a suspended sentence of three years and a fine of a million CFA francs ($1,600), which was also suspended.
Prosecutors had sought a two-year term, with one year suspended, and a fine of three million francs.
In July, a video spread on social media of a middle-aged man being tortured at a location near Ouagadougou by men who said they were associates of Adja.
She was arrested but managed to flee with the help of soldiers.
Armed troops surrounded the court where she and the other defendants were awaiting transfer to preventive detention and demanded she be handed over to them, prosecutor Laurent Poda said.
She later turned herself in to a military prison in Ouagadougou, where she was then detained, rather than surrender to a civilian jail on the grounds of what she called “safety reasons.”
Traditional healer apologises
In court, Adja apologised for the ill-treatment, which she said had been inflicted without her knowledge.
“All I can do is ask the prosecutor and everyone for forgiveness — my mission is to care, not to punish,” she said.
Eight associates were sentenced to four years in jail and a fine of 500,000 francs on charges of illegal detention, bodily harm and complicity in a crime. Both sentences were also suspended.
They each said they had acted on their own initiative and had not received any orders from Adja.
“When she heard that we had beaten up one of her patients, she got angry with us and fired us,” said one of the defendants, Adama Barry.
The alleged victim, Hamidou Kanazoe, declined to join the case as a civil plaintiff, saying a settlement had been reached out of court.
– Popularity –
Adja came to national prominence three years ago when word spread that the young woman had carried out miracle healings.
Speaking to an AFP reporter at one of her gatherings in March, she said she was haunted by visions during her childhood in rural Burkina, and suffered cruelty as a result.
She said she administered healing through traditional medicine and what she described as a spiritual guide.
She did not charge for her services at the gathering, but donations and other offerings were discreetly encouraged, the reporter said.
Officially, just nine percent of Burkina Faso’s population say they are animist.
But this figure is widely considered to be an underestimate. Traditional beliefs run deep, often co-existing among the country’s Muslim majority and Christians, and the authorities are tolerant of claimed healers.