Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tanzanian albinos are living in terror following 30 murders in the east African nation by people apparently seeking their body parts for witchcraft

The government says most of the killings happened in the last 10 months. The latest three occurred just after a rally held in Dar es Salaam in October 2008 to denounce the practice. "Our biggest fear right now is the fear of living. If you leave work at night as an albino, you are unsure of reaching home safely. When you sleep, you are unsure of waking up in one piece," said Zihada Msembo, secretary general of the Tanzania Albino Society. "We marched, the president (Jakaya Kikwete) received us and we said 'now we can have some peace' and slept soundly that night. Next morning, we hear yet another albino was killed that very night." The government says most of the murders occurred in western Tanzania. Police have arrested 53 suspects. The killers sell body parts such as arms, legs, hair, skin and genitals, according to police and albino groups. Those involved in witchcraft, especially in mining and fishing industries, believe these will enrich them, President Kikwete said in October 2008, calling it a "stupid belief." Local media have reported several incidents of victims left to bleed to death. "They are cutting us up like chickens," Msembo said, while pointing to a picture on a wall in her cramped office of a limbless body with the skin on its face peeled off from an incident in 2007. Albinos lack pigment in their eyes, skin or hair, making their life difficult in Tanzania where there is plenty of sunshine and they are more susceptible to skin cancer and sun burns. Tanzania has more than 200,000 albinos in its 40 million population. Traditionally, midwives were known to kill albino babies, declare them stillborn and bury them secretly. Many other African societies shun albinos and treat them as if they bring misfortune or accuse them of being involved in witchcraft. The latest killings have brought Tanzania unwanted international attention. It was the subject of a September 2008resolution in the European Union parliament condemning the murders. Showing the traffickers' ruthlessness, a reporter who produced an undercover story on the albino body parts trade in late July 2008 went into hiding after receiving death threats. Msembo said many albino children were dropping out of school for fear of being kidnapped. Three albino murders have occurred in neighboring Burundi in 2008. Officials say the assailants were killing at the behest of people in Tanzania. Officials in eastern Burundi said that 24 albinos have fled their villages and gone into towns for fear of slaughter. Nicodeme Gahimbare, a public prosecutor, said the government had arrested two suspects over the murders. "The two who were arrested confessed to the crime and said they got 1 million Burundian francs ($840) from a Tanzanian seeking albino body parts," Gahimbare said. Police also arrested two elderly men. Gahimbare said they confessed to being in touch with a Tanzanian who had promised them three million francs for albino hair. Kazungu Kassim, head of Burundi's albino association, appealed to the government to boost their security. "We are human beings like others, we have a right to live," Msemgo said, adding they had been turned into a commodity. "Our country has earned a reputation that it is doing business with albino body parts, so people in other countries can kill and cross into Tanzania where there is a ready market."

Related: Diversity Is Strength! It’s Also… Witchcraft, Imported By Immigration. (And, Yes, From Obama’s Kenya Too)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Poor albinos... that's a sick practice. =/