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Friday, January 02, 2015
The Albino Witchhunts
People with albinism, a community of about 30,000, face prejudice and death in Tanzania.
Albino people, who lack pigment in their skin and appear pale, are killed because potions made from their body parts are believed to bring good luck and wealth. A representative of the Sengerema Albino Society, Mashaka Benedict, told the BBC that even educated people still believe that albino body parts can bring wealth. Benedict alleges that prominent people are involved in the "killing business" and this is why very few people have been arrested, charged, convicted or jailed. "How can a poor man offer $10,000 [£6,300] for a body part? It's the businessmen and politicians who are involved."
More than 70 albinos have been killed over the last three years in Tanzania, while there have been only 10 convictions for murder. In the most recent case, in May, a woman was hacked to death.
"We're being killed like animals," one albino woman sings, at an event called to promote the rights of albinos.
The chairman of the regional Tanzania Albinism Society, Alfred Kapole, an Ukerewe native, was forced to flee to Mwanza city.
"He was among the first person with albinism whose case reached the courts after a village leader attempted to kill him for his hair," says Vicky Ntetema, head of Under the Same Sun, a campaign group. "Last year his home was attacked. Luckily he was in Mwanza. There was another attempt on his life this year."
This is a common experience for albino people. "A family of a young girl with albinism had to flee their home twice, in 2011 and 2012, when unidentified men attacked them, saying that they were sent by the father of the home, a fisherman, to get the girls' hair.