African business, politics and lifestyle
East African albinos fear witchcraft murders
In Burundi, 11 albinos have been killed since last year. In Tanzania, over 40 have been killed since mid-2007 by people who use their body parts, including hair, limbs and genitals, for witchcraft.
It is not clear why there has been such an upsurge in murders although Tanzania’s government and albino groups blame people involved in fishing and small-scale mining, an industry that has been booming.
The graves of albinos had long been plundered for the gruesome trade, leading to them being filled with concrete to prevent robbery. The killings are more recent.
Burundi has arrested at least eight people who were found with human bones, saying the killings are being carried out at the behest of people in neighbouring Tanzania. In Tanzania, at least 90 people – including four police officers – have been arrested on suspicion of killing albinos.
Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete has called the killings stupid and superstitious, but some people clearly believe that using the parts of the murdered albinos will help them to achieve success.
Even if the murders can be stopped, how can such beliefs be challenged?
A woman holds her albino child before registering him at the office of the Tanzania Albino Society in Dar Es Salaam October 30, 2008. Reuters picture.