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Slaying of Albino Sparks Calls for Witch Doctor Ban Enforcement

  • VOA News

Tanzanian police found the body of a one-year-old albino boy, who was kidnapped from his home overnight Saturday, in a nearby forest, his arms and legs hacked off.

The killing of the albino toddler, likely slain for his body parts which are prized for their use in black magic, led to calls for greater enforcement of the country’s new ban on witch doctors, who have been accused of fueling attacks on albinos.

It is the second abduction of an albino child in Tanzania’s northwestern area in two months. A four-year-old albino girl was abducted in December by an armed gang accompanied by a traditional healer from her home in Mwanza region. Multiple arrests were made in the incident, but the child has not been found.

In the most recent attack, men wielding machetes seized the boy from his mother in his home in the Geita region.

Joseph Konyo, Geita police commander, told Reuters the mother, Esther Bahati, 30, is in a serious condition at a hospital with machete cuts to her face and arms after she tried to protect the baby.

Konyo said in both kidnapping cases police arrested the father of the abducted child. No charges have been brought in the current case and investigations continue.

Albinism deaths

Albinism, characterized by lack of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes, is a congenital disorder that affects about one in 20,000 people worldwide, according to medical authorities. It is, however, more common in sub-Saharan Africa, affecting an estimated one Tanzanian in 1,400.

The U.N. human rights agency said more than 70 people with albinism have been killed in Tanzania since 2000. Their body parts are used to make charms and spells that witch doctors claim bring good luck and wealth. The community faces rampant discrimination, as well as a high threat of skin cancer.

A U.N. report said albino body parts sell for around $600 in Tanzania, with an entire corpse fetching $75,000.

Vicky Ntetema, executive director of Under The Same Sun, a Canadian nonprofit working to defend albinos, told Reuters families were often involved in abductions with high prices paid on the black market for the body parts of albinos.

"Albinism is not a disease. People must understand albinos are normal people like everyone else and the government has a role to play to ensure this education reaches many people since most of the killings involve members of the family,” Ntetema told Reuters.

The U.N. said it fears an increase in attacks against albinos could be linked to looming general and presidential elections in October 2015, which could lead some political campaigners to turn to sorcerers for help.

"These attacks are accompanied by a high degree of impunity, and while Tanzania has made efforts to combat the problem, much more must be done to put an end to these heinous crimes and to protect this vulnerable segment of the population," U.N. country chief Alvaro Rodriguez told the French news agency AFP.

Some material for this report came from Reuters and AFP.

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