Human sacrifice played a key role in shaping ancient societies: Brutal butchery of the lower classes created a hierarchy and helped the elite gain power


Human sacrifice may seem brutal and bloody by modern social standards, but it was a common in ancient societies.

Now, researchers believe the ritualised killing of individuals to placate a god played a role in building and sustaining stable communities with social hierarchies.

In particular, a study of 93 cultures across Asia, Oceana and Africa, has found the practices helped establish authority and set up class-based systems.

Human sacrifice was once widespread throughout these Austronesian cultures, which used it as the ultimate punishment, for funerals and to consecrate new boats.

Sacrificial victims were typically of low social status, such as slaves, while instigators were of high social status, such as priests and chiefs, installing a sense of fear in the lower classes.

Since the European colonisation of Central America 500 years ago – when Conquistadors were horrified by the Aztecs’ sacrificial practices – experts have claimed ritualised killings were a form of social catharsis.

They described them as a justification for political conflicts and even a source of protein when combined with cannibalism.

Researchers from the universities of Wellington and Auckland, the Max Plank Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, the Australian National University and the Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution in New Zealand set out to test the assumption they sanctified authority.

Joseph Watts, lead author of the study, published in Nature, studied the evolutionary family trees of 93 traditional Austronesian societies.


Pope denounces terrorism in Easter Mass amid tight Vatican security


Amid the tightest security ever for an outdoor Mass at the Vatican, Pope Francis on Easter Sunday lashed out at the “blind and brutal” terrorism afflicting Europe, Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

Five days after Islamic State attacks in Brussels killed 31 people, extraordinary security controls left some faithful waiting in line for hours and forced some to watch the Mass from up to three-quarters of a mile away from St. Peter’s Square. Even so, the ceremony drew as many as 200,000 on a sunny and crisp Easter morning, according to media reports.

Speaking from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis lamented the difficulties of political and economic refugees looking to settle in Europe, and he discussed the religious significance of the Jesus resurrection symbolized by Easter, something he called a “message of life” for the world.

“This day invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees, including many children, fleeing war, hunger, poverty and social injustice,” the pontiff said.

Terrorism was a dominant theme Sunday, from the scores of police and military personnel checking bags and scanning crowds to the pope’s message of rebirth, which he said he hoped would “draw us closer to the victims of terrorism, a blind and brutal form of violence.”

The Vatican and Rome have attracted repeated threats from extremist groups in recent years, something Francis has tried to confront in part by reaching out to other faiths. On Good Friday, for example, he washed the feet of Christian, Muslim and Hindu migrants. Francis, at the start of the fourth year of his papacy, has made repeated outreach to other faiths.

France to probe new child rape allegations in Central Africa


French investigators will probe new allegations by young children of sexual abuse by French soldiers in the Central African Republic, a judicial source said on Monday.

The allegations were made to UN investigators last month by a sister and brother, now aged seven and nine, the source said.

The children described being forced to perform oral sex on unidentified soldiers in exchange for water and biscuits in 2014, adding that other children were abused in the same way by several French soldiers on repeated occasions.

The Central African Republic is struggling to recover from a cycle of sectarian violence that exploded after a 2013 coup, pitting mainly Muslim rebels against Christian militias, but international peacekeeping efforts have been undermined by a string of sex abuse claims.

On Friday the Congolese government said it was investigating claims of abuse by members of the UN peacekeeping force known as MINUSCA.

The United Nations has said it will repatriate 120 peacekeepers from the Republic of Congo, after last month asking DR Congo to send home its contingent.

The EU’s EUFOR mission has also been targeted by similar complaints.

Among other claims, two teenagers said they were raped by EUFOR soldiers whom they believed to be from Georgia.

Last month, a hard-hitting report found the United Nations had grossly mishandled allegations of child sex abuse in CAR.

Southern Africa mining group warns of steep job losses


Falling commodity prices have led to 70 000 job losses in Southern Africa’s mining sector, with more on the horizon, the Mining Industry Association of Southern Africa (MIASA) said on Tuesday.

“MIASA notes with concern, the large scale retrenchments in the region as a consequence of depressed commodity prices on international markets. The mining industry has lost approximately 70 000 jobs across all commodities,” it said in a statement.

Congo-Brazzaville: Congo Opposition to Topple Nguesso

Former Republic of Congo presidential security affairs adviser Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko has added to the number of those seeking to unseating the long-serving President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

General Mokoko said his joining the race was informed by a strong desire by the Congolese to take charge of their destiny. The former security chief will be standing as an independent candidate in the March 20 presidential election.

“I think the time has come for me to be the voice of the voiceless,” he told Le Monde Afrique on Monday.

“Times are hard and the political situation in Congo keeps getting worse. We need to listen to the Congolese who want to take their destiny into their hands. Denis Sassou Nguesso has to listen and bow out of the race,” Le Monde Afrique quoted Gen Mokoko as saying.

The African Pivot and East Africa’s “Transoceanic Silk Road”


Whether it’s Al Shabaab, Burundi, or Zanzibar, a handful of regional issues are lining up to undermine East Africa’s stability and offset the most ambitious series of integrational projects in the continent’s history.

The five-nation East African Community (EAC) of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania plans to transition into a formal federation sometime in the near future, catapulting its significance from a regional to a global actor.

The integrational bloc is betting that its East African Railway Master Plan, partially financed and constructed by China, will not only do wonders for its own economic cohesiveness, but will stimulate broader sub-Saharan cooperation. The vision is that this strategic blueprint will link the prospective East African Federation (EAF) together with Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with the ultimate goal being to bridge Africa’s transoceanic divide by connecting to the Atlantic Ocean via the Congo River and the modernization and expansion of existing railway infrastructure in Zambia and Angola.

This enterprising and unprecedented endeavor is not without its fair share of risks, however, since the problems of Al Shabaab, Burundi, and Zanzibar might endanger the federalized integration of the EAC. Without the emergence of a coordinated geopolitical core to manage the region’s strategic infrastructural potential, China’s investments in East Africa might disappointingly fail in their forecasted multipolar function and never become anything more significant than a few scraps of steel.




It will be the first time the court has carried out an inquiry outside Africa.

In a statement, judges said there was reason to believe crimes against humanity, including murder and persecution, had been committed during the five-day conflict.

The statement said the probe would also cover attacks on peacekeepers, destruction of property and pillaging.

It added there were “no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice”.

Burkina Faso attack: At least 28 dead, scores freed after hotel siege



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Everyone was panicked and was lying down on the floor. There was blood everywhere, they were shooting at people at point blank,” said Yannick Sawadogo, who survived the siege.

Security forces entered the hotel early Saturday and freed 126 hostages, half of whom were hospitalized, according to Burkina Faso’s foreign minister, Alpha Barry.

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore told the nation 28 people were killed and 54 more were wounded. The wounded included two Burkinabe police officers, one soldier and one service member from France.

Two French nationals were among the dead, CNN affiliate BFMTV reported, citing the French Foreign Ministry. Canada said six of its citizens were killed. Two of the deceased were from Switzerland, that nation’s Foreign Ministry said.


UN peacekeepers ‘paid 13-year-olds for sex’



Now, officials have learned about what appears to be a fresh scandal. Investigators discovered this month that at least four UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic allegedly paid young girls as little as 50 cents in exchange for sex.

The case is the latest to plague the UN mission in the Central African Republic, whose employees have been accused of 22 other incidents of alleged sexual abuse or sexual exploitation in the past 14 months. The most recent accusations come in the wake of Ban’s efforts to implement a “zero tolerance” policy for such offenses.