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In a small courtroom in eastern Burundi, state prosecutor Nicodeme Gahimbare waves a bone at the judges and the eight men lined up in front of them, as he states his case.
It’s a human bone.
The eight men are on trial for murdering albinos and trying to sell their body parts across the border in Tanzania, where some people believe that using albino body parts in witchcraft can bring wealth and good fortune. Some of the body parts found are now on display for all to see.
The grisly case shocked people far beyond the courthouse in the Burundian town of Ruyigi, where three of the men got a life sentence and the other five got 20 years in prison for aiding and abetting.
For Kazungu Kassim, a spokesman for Burundi’s albinos, the sentences were a victory. “It gives the Burundi Albinos Association a lot of courage because it shows that the government is on our side,” he told Reuters Africa Journal after the trial. “I think it could reduce the amount of attacks on albinos and I also think it might discourage anyone who was intending to endanger the life of an albino in our country.”
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.