Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tanzania bans healers to curb albino murders

Tanzania has revoked the licences of all its traditional healers in a drive to stop killings of albinos by people who use their body parts for witchcraft. The move came just days after the latest murder of an albino man in the northwestern Mwanza region, a remote area bordering Lake Victoria where old superstitions run deep. That brought the national death toll to at least 40 since mid-2007. Police and albino rights groups say the killers sell body parts including limbs, hair, skin and genitals to witch doctors for use in rituals. "These witch doctors are big liars. If they were genuine healers many diseases would have been reduced," the Citizen newspaper quoted Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda as saying in Shinyanga, one of the worst hit areas. "Instead, the country has many diseases and worse, they are fanning albino killings." Albinos lack a pigment in their eyes, skin or hair which renders them especially vulnerable to skin cancer and burns, and makes life particularly difficult in sun-drenched east Africa. The Tanzanian authorities have arrested more than 90 people in recent months - including four police officers - who are suspected of killing albinos or of trading in their body parts. There are thought to be more than 200,000 albinos in the country, which has a total population of 40 million. The violence has also spread to neighboring states, with at least one albino murder each in Burundi and Kenya in 2008. Police in those countries say the killings were ordered by Tanzanians.

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