Persecution of People With Albinism - Tanzania


It is estimated that over 150,000 albinos live in Tanzania; 8,000 of these are registered with the Tanzania Albino Society (TAS). A number of albinos have fled to the Dar es Salaam area as they feel safer in an urban setting. Tanzania is thought to have the largest population of albinos in Africa.

In December 2007 the Tanzania Albino Society accused the government of inactivity in the face of four albino killings over the previous three months. While older albino women with red eyes had been at risk for being murdered sporadically in the past as witches, this killing spree may have been the beginning of the ongoing persecution of albinos with the intent to harvest the victims' body parts.

With escalating killings, President Kikwete publicly and repeatedly condemned witch doctors, their helpers and middlemen, and the clients, which include members of the police force, for these murders. Victims include children snatched or abducted from their parents. The killers and their accomplices use hair, arms, legs, skin, eyes, genitals, and blood in rituals or for witch potions. Fishermen incorporate albino hair into their nets in their hope to catch more fish from Lake Victoria or to find gold in the belly of the fish that they catch.

A number of steps were taken by the government to protect the albino population. The president ordered a crackdown on witchdoctors in the spring of 2008. In addition, an albino woman, Al-Shymaa Kway-Geer, was named to become a member of the parliament, the first albino in such a position in the history of Tanzania. Police have also been advised to generate lists of albinos and provide special protection for them.

To foil graverobbers, graves of the albinistic were to be sealed with concrete. However, by October 2008, killings had not abated, and while some suspects had been apprehended, no convictions had taken place. It was estimated that over 50 murders had taken place since March 2007, many of them in the mining and fishing communities near Lake Victoria, especially at Mwanza, Shinyanga and Mara.

In January 2009, "Prime Minister Pinda had declared war on the albino hunters, and in an effort to stop the trade in albino body parts he had revoked the licenses of all the country's witch doctors who use the body parts in their black magic fetishes."

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