After watching two late-night talk show hosts joke about penis thefts in Congo, I felt like I needed to figure out what was going on. It turns out that the real story is nothing to laugh about

Reuters reported on Tuesday that police in Democratic Republic of Congo have arrested thirteen suspected sorcerers, who have been accused of using witchcraft to steal or shrink men’s penises.  Joe Bavier reports,

Rumors of penis theft began circulating last week in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo’s sprawling capital of some 8 million inhabitants. They quickly dominated radio call-in shows, with listeners advised to beware of fellow passengers in communal taxis wearing gold rings.

If it seems like these accusations materialized out of thin air, they didn’t. Apparently it’s somewhat common for allegations of penis theft to surface in West Africa. Reuters also notes that belief in indigenous religion, black magic, and witchcraft, are pervasive, and “ritual killing to obtain body parts and blood still occur[s].” 

As panic set in, fueled by the dramatic response to the radio call-in shows, a number of men who were suspected of being sorcerers were assaulted. Fortunately no one was killed. This hasn’t always been the case. A similar situation in Ghana saw 12 suspects beaten to death by mobs. 

But what about proving a case against the suspects and rendering justice to the victims? Kinshasa’s chief of police, Jean-Dieudonne Oleko, had this to say, 

I’m tempted to say it’s one huge joke. But when you try to tell the victims that their penises are still there, they tell you that it’s become tiny or that they’ve become impotent. To that I tell them, ‘How do you know if you haven’t gone home and tried it’,” 

All I can say, is that I hope there aren’t men running around Kinshasa using penis shrinkage as an excuse to test drive their equipment.