Everywhere on Earth has its own flavors of greed, corruption, and lies. And everywhere produces its own champions - beacons of light in the murk. In Sub-Saharan Africa, that champion is Anas Aremeyaw Anas - investigative reporter extraordinaire. Hiding his face behind a veil of beads during public appearances, Anas goes deep undercover to expose the rot at society's heart. In Part 2, Vanessa Kirby follows Anas and a rookie journalist, Henry Mhango, into a dangerous confrontation with a gang of unscrupulous ritual killers.
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True Spies Episode 127, Veil of Beads, Part 2: The Ritual 

++WARNING++ This episode of True Spies features accounts of violence towards children and murder. Listener discretion is advised. 

NARRATOR: Welcome to True Spies. Week by week, mission by mission, you’ll hear the true stories behind the world’s greatest espionage operations. You’ll meet the people who navigate this secret world. What do they know? What are their skills? And what would you do in their position? I’m Vanessa Kirby, and this is True Spies Veil of Beads, Part 2: The Ritual. In the deepest woods of rural Malawi, a confrontation is about to reach boiling point.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: A lot of people were coming toward us, we could hear the noise and we realized that it was getting pretty dark too.

NARRATOR: A besieged community on high alert after a spate of mysterious murders. A team of undercover reporters, bargaining for their lives.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: I tried to explain to them that we are journalists. I took out my BBC card and showed them. They said they don't know what a BBC card is. What they know is that people get killed here. What are we doing here? All this time, they had started throwing stones at us, hitting us left and right. 

NARRATOR: There are situations that even the most skilled negotiator cannot contain.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: Their attacks intensified because some people had made up their minds that they were going to kill us in the valley. I saw a very big stone that hit my head. 

NARRATOR: Thousands of miles from home, a man must face up to the very real possibility that he will never leave this village. For a decade already, he has courted danger yet he has never come so close to oblivion.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: We held each other together. We moved from one room to the other as the attacks kept on intensifying and the fire kept on blazing.

NARRATOR: Over the course of this long, terrible night, there will be moments of respite, between the attacks. Moments to consider the legacy that will be left behind, should the worst happen. And if there is any comfort to be found? Perhaps it is in this thought.

SOLOMON SERWANJjA: Anas Anas is one of the most respected investigative journalists globally. 

NARRATOR: Not that that matters to the people who want you dead. With his high-stakes undercover investigations - Anas Aremeyaw Anas has left an indelible mark on the continent of Africa. The veil of beads that disguises his face has become synonymous with a certain kind of journalism: deep cover investigations, like the one featured on the last episode of True Spies - in which Anas entered a psychiatric hospital, as a patient, to expose the widespread malpractice within. All of his work is motivated by a deep-seated desire to change the world. To make a difference. And, as he stares down the prospect of a life cut short, there can be no dispute as to whether he has succeeded in his aim.

SOLOMON SERWANJJA: He has done really some big blockbuster investigations that have led to resignations of top officials too. I think if you look at, for example, his investigations into the judiciary, that led to resignations of top judges.

NARRATOR: Solomon Serwanjja runs the African Institute for Investigative Journalism. He credits one of Anas' investigations, in particular, with cementing his reputation to near-superhero levels: an enormous deep cover study on corruption in Ghana’s courts. That investigation was known as ‘Ghana in the Eyes of God’.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: Judges are the Gods in the guise of men in our society. And if they turn their backs against the people who put them there, then you have a chaotic society. So when I was going in, my idea was not just about the judges, but it was also about the people who surround them because it's an ecosystem. And I wanted to be able to tell that story, not halfheartedly, but in a more holistic manner. So we went in for two years, filming secretly the activities - cases which bordered on life and death, cases of deep armed robbery, where people had robbed and killed…

NARRATOR: With his network of colleagues, Anas conducted a large format sting operation offering payment to clerks and judges if they could change the course of justice in cases around Ghana. As always, the exchanges were captured on secret cameras. The results were shocking.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: There was one particular judge who was giving a judgment and waiting for the money. And he's like, “If you don't give me the money, they will be jailed.” And in the middle of reading the judgment, when we brought the money, he stopped reading the judgment, came to collect the money, and went back and altered what he had read.

NARRATOR: When it was released in 2015, Anas’ investigation created an unprecedented scandal in his country.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: It was the first time in the history of Africa or perhaps even the world where a large number of judicial officials, over a hundred judicial staff were caught on tape, taking bribes, and a story where over 34 judges were captured taking money to exchange justice.

NARRATOR: It was a scandal that spread like wildfire throughout Ghana. No corner of society was unaffected.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: When citizens begin to get the impression that justice is for sale, then there is a problem. When people genuinely own what they own, and somebody can tell them in their face that I'm going to pay to tilt the scale of justice against you. And they are truly able to execute it. There is a pent-up feeling within society that can lead to a huge explosion, burning every other thing within that society.

NARRATOR: For perhaps the first time - Anas felt the true potential of his journalism to short circuit problems often considered hardwired in his country.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: For me as an African journalist, I thought that if I wanted to broaden or to strengthen Ghana's democracy, I needed to leave that legacy of having dealt with the judiciary in the way I did. And I'm glad that this had a very huge impact on the Ghanaian judiciary. It led to proper reforms within the judiciary and proper reforms do not mean that still you won't get one or two judges still taking money today. But what we did was to set an example that yes, judges can be the Gods in the guise of men, but there are other people who can also play an effective watchdog role to ensure that whatever they do does not lead to the destabilization of our society.

NARRATOR: Anas is a man for whom scale and scope are everything. And in the endemic corruption of his country’s courts, he saw a story that would travel.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: That problem doesn't lie only within Ghana. It lies in Nigeria. It lies in Congo. It lies everywhere. 

NARRATOR: And so Anas’ reputation traveled, too - further than it ever had before.

HENRY MHANGO: I first heard about him with his investigation on the corruption in the judiciary in Ghana, and this is the investigation that [up to now] is still inspiring me whenever I'm thinking of Anas.

NARRATOR: The man speaking is Henry Mhango - a young journalist, born in rural Malawi. When Henry spoke to us for True Spies - he was on an investigation with patchy Internet. So we’ve re-voiced his contributions.

HENRY MHANGO: My interest in investigative journalism dates back to my school days. By then, I noted that there were a lot of problems that we were facing in our community and we had no one to speak out for us. We could see young children covering long distances to fetch water. We could experience cases of deformings, rape. We could experience cases of gender-based violence. We could experience problems of people dying on their way to the hospital because the distance from their homes to the hospitals was just too long.

NARRATOR: Just like Anas, Henry’s approach to journalism has been shaped by the problems he grew up witnessing.

HENRY MHANGO: I really felt like, as a journalist, I have a big job to do out there. And, at the same time, I had to come up with a different definition of journalism. I felt like investigative journalism should better be defined as some sort of audit journalism for the things that are happening in my society. He should no longer be looking at himself as a human being. He or she should be looking at himself or herself as an extraordinary creature that is even above the government.

NARRATOR: With ambitions like that, is it any wonder Anas' judiciary investigation struck a chord?

HENRY MHANGO: What inspired me so much about his work was the impact. So when I came across this investigation, this made me go through his background and some of the investigations that he has done out there, and something that was really inspiring me was that his work was not only impacting Ghana, his work was bringing a huge impact to the African continent at large. And the problems that he was covering in Ghana are the same problems that are happening all over the continent in Africa. 

NARRATOR: Henry had his sights set on exactly the same kind of reporting. And he thought he had the perfect story to cut through. One that had followed him since childhood.

HENRY MHANGO: I started hearing stories of people being killed when I was young. We could not go to school alone because our parents had fear that the moment these kids go alone to school, they would be kidnapped and killed by the end of the day. We could hear stories of gangs killing people and getting their body parts - like teeth and these other body parts. 

NARRATOR: Rural communities like the one Henry had grown up in had long been plagued by unexplained disappearances. Bodies turning up with limbs missing. Inexplicably wealthy figures, lurking on the outskirts of the village. Whispers of human harvest, ritual murders, and witch doctors. 

HENRY MHANGO: Malawi is one of the areas that really believe in witchcraft. It has hundreds of witch doctors. 

NARRATOR: Malawi also has a thriving culture of entrepreneurship and where these two worlds meet, chaos is born.

HENRY MHANGO: Witch doctors from Malawi had been telling business people from Malawi and the neighboring countries that, “If you want to get rich, then you have to kill someone. I have to use the body parts to make rituals for you.” And, little by little, politicians started to copy the same. They could go to witch doctors and say, “I want to win the election. What could I do?” Witch doctors could advise them the same. 

NARRATOR: Potions, concocted from the severed limbs of the missing were said to grant good fortune to the consumer. The existence of such rituals was never questioned in the rural communities being preyed upon. But when they reported crimes that appeared to fit the profile to the police, they were met with silence.

HENRY MHANGO: Our communities are living in denial. Government cannot really believe what these people are reporting to them. And they can't even take action to serve them. Yet these people are dying like chickens. I felt like, “No, enough is enough. I can't allow my people to be suffering like that. Now that I'm a journalist, I know my whole community believes that I have a voice for them.” And I felt like this is the high time that I take action on this. 

NARRATOR: With his reporter’s credentials, Henry began digging into the phenomenon of the murders.

HENRY MHANGO: I started recording the death cases that had been occurring in the community in my district and other parts of the country. I started recording the cases that had been registered by the police. I started recording the cases of suspects of these murders, and I was even assessing that, "Okay, fine. These are the people that we have been reporting to the police for so long, but what has happened to them?" I would always feel bitter when I would see them still driving Porsche cars, living that expensive life.

NARRATOR: Henry also discovered that the scale of the crisis was bigger than he’d realized.

HENRY MHANGO: There were so many cases of women [having their breasts cut off]. I also got so many cases of men being cut off their private parts. So I just realized that the problem was very big. If we may put it in the figures, I would say that I discovered that thousands, thousands of people had died in these killings.

NARRATOR: The problem was that, as a relative rookie, Henry was uncertain how to approach the investigation. His family was terrified he was putting himself in danger even making inquiries.

HENRY MHANGO: My parents were saying, “No, my son. The moment you explore this story, then you put us in danger. The moment these people have recognized that you are the one pursuing this story, they will kill you.

NARRATOR: And so Henry kept the story in his pocket, unsure of how to handle its explosive potential. Until word of Ghana’s masked reporter reached him in Malawi in 2015.

HENRY MHANGO: I said, “I have read a lot about Anas. I know how courageous the guy is. I know the passion that this guy has to save Africa as a whole, to fight for the rights of the underprivileged out there.” And I said, “I think this is the right time that I try to get in touch with him and tip him about the story.”

NARRATOR: Henry reached out to Anas via mutual contacts at the BBC and, soon enough, he was making his pitch to the masked man himself. He brought up another investigation Anas had conducted into the murder of albinos in Tanzania.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: Henry had seen me in The Spell of the Albino, the story I did where human limbs were chopped in Tanzania, albino limbs, for supposed ritual purposes. And Henry told me, “Look, this is even on a wider scale at my place.” And what Henry was telling me was something that I could mirror in Nigeria, something I could mirror in Ghana, something I could mirror in Kenya. So I felt that this was a story that would send a signal to all parts of Africa, that we are not asleep. We are aware that human sacrifices are going on and society is not happy with it. 

NARRATOR: Anas knew the potential impact of a story like this. He also knew that nothing short of hard evidence would change the chorus of silence around the killings.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: Sometimes we pretend that certain problems don't exist. To catch those problems on tape in real time - hardcore evidence - goes a long way to educating our people that look, these things are real in society. And that when we see signals of it, we have to act promptly and do whatever we can to make sure that those people who commit such crimes are behind bars. I think Malawi was telling a story of a society that had seen a lot of ritual murders. And yet the state apparatus was adamant in [not] taking any step to help them. So it is not just a perpetrator story for me in Malawi, but also the societal story of how the government can neglect a group of people who have complained that our kids are going missing. Our siblings are being murdered. Their body parts are being cut [off] and yet the government turns a blind eye to it.

NARRATOR: Both men were well aware of the dangers implicit with entering this world and documenting its secrets and yet they knew it was a job worth doing.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: It is a life-and-death situation whenever you are dealing with ritual murders because when they are skilled killers and it's something that they do daily, they can turn their anger on you at any time. So the dangers were clearly alive. We knew that we had to be extra, extra careful, and we knew that that is the reason why people are unable to tell stories of ritual murders, but it was a story that we had to tell.

NARRATOR: And so Anas traveled more than 2,000 miles from his home in Accra to co-pilot the investigation with Henry.

HENRY MHANGO: When Anas arrived in Malawi, to be honest, I had no idea how we could expose the story.

NARRATOR: Anas had enlisted the support of the BBC’s Africa Eye division for the investigation. They had just two weeks to build the story. There wasn’t a moment to spare.

HENRY MHANGO: So we had to sit down and start making a plan. 

NARRATOR: Fortunately, Henry’s initial research had given them a head start. He had already traced the outlines of a criminal network, built around the illicit business of rituals.

HENRY MHANGO: So when I was gathering information I had to identify a number of people who were directly involved in the killings. I had to find out the actual killers, who were being employed by different people to kill people for them. I also managed to find a witch doctor who was processing the rituals.

NARRATOR: First, there were the killers who would kidnap and harvest the limbs of unsuspecting victims. Then, the witch-doctor, who would take those body parts and create potions for a client. If the investigation was to succeed, they would need to capture both in the act.

HENRY MHANGO: So the plan that Anas developed was that he pretends to be an international businessman whose business has, of late, not been going well. And he wants to find out from this witch doctor what's wrong.

NARRATOR: Henry was to play this businessman’s Malawian point-person, attempting to track down a witch doctor who could change his boss’s fortunes - for a cost. It would be his first ever undercover operation.

HENRY MHANGO: I'm telling you, I had a lot of fears. So even though I'm excited that I've managed to meet Anas in person, I think the assignment that we're taking is risky. So I was asking questions like, “What happens if they discover that I'm a journalist? What happens if these guys discover that I'm using a camera?”

NARRATOR: Fear of exposure loomed large in Henry’s mind but he knew this was his best shot at finally holding authorities accountable for the murders that had plagued his community. And so, he traveled to the depths of the forest and began to make inquiries with a suspected witch doctor. From his very first meeting with the man there was little cause for concern that he’d pegged the wrong guy.

HENRY MHANGO: When I was meeting the witch doctor about the problem of my boss, I mean, he openly told me that I think the only solution to this is to sacrifice a human being. The witch doctor told us that he had killed a number of people. He gave us details of the people that had been getting rich through his rituals. He told us about the politicians who had won elections because of his rituals. And he even assured us that the moment my boss comes and meets him and gets the ritual, it won't even take long. “You'll find that within a short time, his business will go up massively.”

NARRATOR: Imagine a climate so hospitable to murderers that one can declare himself a killer, brazenly, with no fear of repercussions. But it’s one thing to declare capacity; another to prove it. The witch doctor said he would need to consult with the troubled businessman directly before moving ahead. And so Henry sent for Anas. 

HENRY MHANGO: The first time we went to the witch doctor's house, he was very happy to see us because all he was seeing was a potential business deal. And when he was looking at Anas, the witch doctor was confident that he's dealing with the right person. 

NARRATOR: Assured of his client’s legitimacy, the salesman begins his pitch anew.

HENRY MHANGO: All of us had put on secret cameras and were able to film him as he was chatting with us. He took us to the place where he processes the charms, using human body parts, and this is just close to his house. And I even saw a small bone. And when we asked him, he said this was a human part that he extracted from one of the patients. 

NARRATOR: All signs pointed to the witch doctor meaning business. Conversation moved on to the particulars of what he could offer his new clients.

HENRY MHANGO: The doctor told us that there are two ways, based on his prescriptions. The first option is for us to bring a person or to bring the human body parts that he will need to process the ritual. The second option is for him to find the body parts himself. 

NARRATOR: In fact, the witch doctor had invited an associate along who could help in the matter.

HENRY MHANGO: He told us the amount of the money we need to pay if we are to bring a human ourselves, or the amount of money we need to pay him if we ask him to kill the man himself.

NARRATOR: The witch doctor and his associate were poised to pluck an unsuspecting victim from thin air and kill them in the most brutal manner imaginable. It would be no trouble at all.

HENRY MHANGO: But Anas was quick to tell them that he has brought a person from abroad and is keeping them in the nearby city. And that when the time is ready, we will bring the person to the place so that these people can kill him.

NARRATOR: Hands were shaken, a price agreed. The entire thing caught on film. Damning evidence against the witch doctor for whom life and fortune were commodities to be bought and sold. But what about the associate who professed to kill for a fee? How could they catch him in the act, without endangering a life? Henry told the witch doctor they would need proof he was up to the task of killing their victim in waiting.

HENRY MHANGO: And the witch doctor said, “Ah, no problem. For me to prove, we have to take you to a village where we take the people that we are killing and where we do our actual killings.” 

NARRATOR: A meeting was set for the next day.

HENRY MHANGO: The doctor proposed that we go there in the evening because he didn't want people to see him there during the daytime.

NARRATOR: Anas was to drive one car with the other members of the production crew, all posing as his colleagues. Henry would drive another.

HENRY MHANGO: I used my car to pick up the witch doctor and his associate, and they gave us the direction to the village where they do the killing. It was a typical village, with scattered settlements, a very remote area.

NARRATOR: In other words, it was a community just like the one Henry had grown up in. He recognized the atmosphere of terror immediately.

HENRY MHANGO: We could even tell looking at the houses that would be seen here and there that this was a poverty-stricken area. This is an area where people have no voice.

NARRATOR: It was in this fraught context that Anas and Henry found themselves stepping out of their vehicles, getting ready to discuss the practicalities of murder.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: So we got there around 5:30 pm, 6 pm there about. It was becoming darker. They took us to the place. They showed us where they do the killing, how they did it.

HENRY MHANGO: They started narrating to us the A-to-Z process of killing a person, how they could handle the person. They would make him drunk, heavily. Then they would take him to the place while he is unconscious. Then they would cover his mouth with some pieces of clothes and finally kill him. So they gave us all the terrible details of how they do the actual killing.

NARRATOR: They filled in all the remaining blanks the investigation needed. Here was filmed testimony from the murderers themselves, in the midst of the very community they had made a business of hunting. Anas and Henry had everything they needed - but their nocturnal conference had somehow drawn unwanted attention.

HENRY MHANGO: As they were in the process of narrating to us, we started hearing some voices. And when we noted that, we decided to leave the place and move toward our cars.

NARRATOR: But when they reached the cars, they found a group of men waiting for them.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: The community had experienced their people, their kids and kin, being picked up by strange people. And then they found their bodies in this forest so they were already on high alert.

NARRATOR: With their community under siege, some locals had formed a vigilante group to patrol the forest. So what exactly were these strangers doing in their woods?

HENRY MHANGO: We said, “No, don't worry. We've come here to do our work, we are trying to work on something that is for the goodness of the community.”

NARRATOR: With two killers at their side, the undercover reporters could hardly give more information than that. But all the same, the vigilantes appeared to believe them. There was talk of consulting the village chief on whether to let them go. But as deliberations continued, more voices began approaching.

HENRY MHANGO: Rumors had started spreading all over the village that killers have been found in the village. Some people have found the killers. So people started coming in large numbers, with different weapons. Metal bars, knives, stones… 

NARRATOR: Soon the crowd began shoving. Stones were flying. In the heat of the moment - the witch doctor and his associate made a break for it - and managed to escape. Leaving Anas, Henry, and their associates at the mercy of the mob. But at least now they could reveal their true reason for being in the village. 

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: I tried to explain to them that, “No, this is what we came to do. We are journalists.” I took out my BBC card and showed them. They said they don't know what a BBC card is. What they know is that people get killed here. What are we doing here?

NARRATOR: The crowd couldn’t be reasoned with. Now, the only thing standing between the journalists and the mob was the group of vigilantes who had first reprimanded them and who still believed the problem should be taken to the authorities.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: They said, “Okay.” Now they will take us to their chief. Now the problem was whether we would survive before we got to their chief.

NARRATOR: Under the protection of the vigilantes, the crew began to move through the village. All the while, the attacks were intensifying.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: People were throwing knives. People were throwing stones. My friend Darius was bleeding seriously from the head. I had gotten a stab in  my back with a knife. 

NARRATOR: Fearing for their lives, Henry attempted to reason with the villagers in their local dialect, hoping for a glimmer of recognition from the crowd. And against all the odds, he found one.

HENRY MHANGO: There was this man who recognized me. And I remember he said, “I know this boy. He was learning together with my brother at this particular school. I was there.” So when I heard that from him, I thought this guy will support us, will protect us.

NARRATOR: But instead of appeasing the crowd, the recognition only fuelled their rage. Henry was taken for the worst kind of traitor, a local who would bring foreigners into the heart of his own community, to prey upon the weak. By this point, the vigilantes could do little to keep the attacks at bay.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: There was a valley before the chief’s house. So we got into that valley and the vigilante guy, one of them told us that if we manage to make it out of that valley, then definitely we will meet the chief. 

NARRATOR: The only thing standing between these men and their salvation was a final climb.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: We're all bleeding, body pains and all that, but we held onto each other and climbed. I saw a very big stone that hit my head from one of the guys. And it wasn't like anybody was hiding from you. They would come hit you with their sticks. 

NARRATOR: This story nearly ended in that valley but somehow, they found the strength to continue.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: We climbed a little bit up with a lot of difficulty and pain. Then we saw the chief's house.

NARRATOR: Outside the house, the chief was ready and waiting. He ushered them in, slamming the door on the mob behind them. Desperately, they explained the situation, the undercover operation, the escaped killers, the BBC credentials. And mercifully, the chief believed them.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: He said, ‘Okay.’ The passion was so inflamed. So what he could do was to take us to his room and when he gets to his room, then we can have some respite. 

NARRATOR: Henry had called the nearest police station as soon as things took a turn. It might take them hours to venture out here, but at least the journalists could wait out their arrival safely in the care of the village patriarch. Or so they thought.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: So he took us into his room and we thought we had had the respite only to hear more noise. Many people had been assembled and this time they were burning the house of the chief. And they weren't going to kill us alone. They were going to kill the chief too, for trying to defend us.

NARRATOR: It appeared that the matter was settled. The mob outside would not rest until they had tasted blood. There was little to do but make peace with their fate.

HENRY MHANGO: Everybody reached a point of accepting that we're dying today. We felt like we were already dead.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: ​​We held each other together. We moved from one room to the other, as the attacks kept on intensifying and the fire kept on blazing.

NARRATOR: It was at the very brink of defeat that a final idea was proposed. It was either sit and wait to die - or make one last play.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: The vigilante decided that we had to drive out because the police couldn't come there. So one by one, we sneaked into the car.

NARRATOR: Under the cloak of darkness, Anas' team somehow make it into the vigilante’s vehicle but the instant the key hits the ignition, the mob is alerted.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: And the people were following us, throwing stones, throwing everything.

NARRATOR: Villagers run beside the car, banging the windows. The crowd threatens to swallow the vehicle whole.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: We may have driven like 400 to 500 meters away, that we now started hearing the police. And indeed the police knew that it was very dangerous to come to that setting. So they were very well armed and we heard them shooting while they were coming.

NARRATOR: Gunshots tear through the evening. The crowd scatters. The ordeal is over… at last.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: Immediately we had to go to the hospital and we had to be checked. And it was a difficult moment for me and my colleague, Darius. Darius had to be checked into rehab for quite a bit of time.

NARRATOR: Difficult maybe but all of the crew had somehow escaped with their lives and their footage in one piece. And while the true killers had escaped unscathed, their judgment day was not long coming.

HENRY MHANGO: After the broadcast of the documentary the police arrested the two suspects, but what happened? I still can't believe it until today. And I'm still shedding tears as I remember this incident. These people did not even go before the court. They were just arrested and sent to prison on remand. After staying for six months they were released. 

NARRATOR: Yet to end a story such as this with such a flagrant failure of justice would feel untrue. For Anas, this story was always much bigger than two suspected killers.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: I think the story was exactly the story that ought to have come out because that's the reality. Anytime I watch that film, I say to myself that this is the reality of society. We're not telling the story of only killers. We're telling the story of a tired community that has seen nothing from the ruling class, that has always been lied to, people who needed to survive, people who needed to take desperate measures to stop people from killing their kids. 

NARRATOR: And it is this story that has left a lasting impact in Malawi.

HENRY MHANGO: Since this story was out, since we exposed these acts, I have never heard of any incidents of such killings in the place where we're doing this story. I have also seen a reduction in the number of people being killed in similar instances. So I feel the investigation has brought a huge impact to the nation, to the people. I feel our work has saved hundreds of people who would've been killed by these murderers if we did not expose them out there.

NARRATOR: Which is just about as much as a young investigative reporter with ambitions of changing the world could hope for. In the final part of Veil of Beads, Anas takes on an investigation with powerful implications for his country.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: Football is a very important component of the average Ghanaian because football cuts across the rich and the poor. Football is what unites the country together for a common purpose. But an investigation into mass corruption in ‘the beautiful game’ comes at the cost of devastating, personal loss. We were working on putting evidence against one of the people in the football story. So that was the last discussion we had. And then when he left I sent him messages that evening about what to do. And then the next day he was shot and killed.

NARRATOR: And Anas must consider what it would take to finally make him hang up the mask.

ANAS AREMEYAW ANAS: It is not about taking off the mask, but it's about empowering more people to stand up and own their problems and not expect Western journalists to fly down, to want to be the ones telling the story.

NARRATOR: I’m Vanessa Kirby. 

Guest Bio

Anas Aremeyaw Anas (pictured) is famous in Ghana for his investigative journalism. His stories explore corruption and have exposed crime throughout Africa. Among his many assignments, Anas has gone undercover as a Catholic priest and as a bartender in a Chinese sex mafia ring in Ghana.

Henry Kijimwana Mhango is a Malawi news correspondent for international news organizations including The AfricaPaper and African Business. He has also worked as a freelancer for the local Guardian Newspaper, the Big Issue Malawi Magazine and Capital Radio Malawi.

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