News / Africa

Attacks on Albinos Surge in Tanzania

  • On February 11, 2013, Maria Chambanenge, a 39-year-old woman with albinism, was attacked by five armed men, allegedly including her husband, in Mkowe village, Rukwa region, Tanzania. (Under The Same Sun)

  • On February 15, two men chopped off the arm of 10-year-old Mwigulu Matonange in Msia village, Rukwa region, Tanzania. (Under The Same Sun)

  • A group of men almost killed Amadou Diallo in 1994 in Guinea. He is pictured here in Norway, where he sought asylum. Diallo now works for Under The Same Sun, a non-profit that advocates for people with albinism.
  • This file photo shows Said Abdallah, who lost his left hand in a April 10, 2010 attack, in the Morogoro hospital ,Tanzania.
  • This fie photo shows Muadhani Ramadhani weaving an Africa tradition carpet as part of celebrations to mark World Albino Day in Dares Salaam, Tanzania, 2007.
Mary Alice Salinas
Warning:  This story contains graphic content.

The United Nations is expressing alarm at a spate of recent attacks in Tanzania against people with albinism. The body parts of albinos - people who are born without skin pigmentation - are used by witchdoctors in ritual potions meant to bring power and wealth. Four such attacks took place in a 16-day period this year - three of them against children. Police in Tanzania say they are investigating the attacks, and also are appealing to the public to come forward with any information.

The U.N. human rights agency called the latest attacks on albinos "abhorrent." It urged the Tanzanian government to do more to end the violence and discrimination against the group.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
The string of attacks began on January 31 in Tanzania’s central Tabora region.

A group of men chopped off the arm of a seven-year-old albino boy, killing him and the 95-year-old grandfather who tried to shield him.

On February 5, in the northern Simiyu region, armed men attacked the home of a seven-month-old boy with albinism, but he survived thanks to villagers who rallied to protect him. Six days later, in western Rukwa region, five armed men attacked a 39-year-old mother, said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"Allegedly one of the armed men was actually her own husband and her left arm was cut off.  She was actually in the house with two of her children.  But she wasn’t killed.  Five suspects were arrested and her arm recovered with the money because the limbs are being sold."

In the same region only four days later, a group of men chopped off the arm of a 10-year-old boy as he was headed home from school.

An especially worrying trend, Colville said, is that the mutilations are taking place while the victims are alive.

"Some people believe the magic is stronger if the victim screams when the attacks take place, and obviously if you kill a person first they don’t scream," he said. "It would explain why you get these people having limbs cut off while they are still alive, which is what happened in I think three of these recent cases."

In Tanzania, where witchcraft is an entrenched practice, some segments of society believe people with albinism are less than human - even phantoms, who do not die but simply disappear. Aside from the discrimination, they face the constant threat of being attacked, mutilated and killed for their blood and body parts for use in witchcraft.

Amadou Diallo, a person with albinism, left Africa after he was nearly killed by armed men in Guinea.  He offered this plea to African leaders and citizens.

“We are different only because we don’t have pigmentation," said Diallo. "Beyond that we are human beings just like them, so we need them to accept us, to integrate us among them, to give us a job when there is a job available, to not discriminate.”

Diallo now works for Under the Same Sun, a Canada-based foundation that advocates for people with albinism, particularly in Tanzania. Founder Peter Ash said the problem exists in more than a dozen African countries.

"Some of the organs are shipped out of the country," he said.  "There is also a cross-border Internet trade of various African countries in these parts. This is not just a Tanzanian phenomenon.”

U.N. officials say they do not know what sparked the string of killings in recent weeks. A large surge in such crimes took place in 2008, when 24 people with albinism in Tanzania were killed for body parts.

In the murky and secretive world of witchcraft, so much remains speculative.  But one thing is clear: a good deal of money is paid out for the body parts, according to Ash.

"The people who are buying these organs are spending thousands of dollars," he said. "The arm or leg of a person with albinism sells for between $2,000 to $4,000. A complete set of organs of a person with albinism sells for over $100,000. Now you have to ask yourself, in such in a black market, who in a poor country like Tanzania has that kind of money? Very, very few people.”

U.S. human rights agency spokesman Rupert Colville urged the government to do more to tackle the problem.

“It’s not really clear why the sudden upsurge, and it’s very worrying, said Colville. "I think it is so abhorrent what is going on here - that people are attacked because of what they look like - that you know the government really does need to make an extra special effort to stamp it out once and for all.”

The Tanzanian government has in fact publicly condemned the attacks in recent years. It has also opened shelters for albino people, and called for the prosecution of witch doctors linked to killings. Those actions are believed to have helped lower the number of attacks - until now.

The U.N. human rights agency and activists are calling for the government to help deter further attacks by aggressively prosecuting witchcraft-related violence. The U.N. says out of 72 documented murder cases since 2000, only five have been successfully prosecuted.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: PermReader
March 13, 2013 9:57 AM
This one terrible feature of the " multiculturalism" which leftists spread in the West.Leftist "progressives" thus deny the "progress" of the western culture .


by: Diakite from: China
March 13, 2013 8:35 AM
The main reason of this problem is bad governance. The politicians are essentially the first customers of these dangerous people (witch doctors) just to remain at shifts or seats for long; they are followed by merchants or businessmen just to become richmen without use brain.
I ask to the president of ICC to think to solve this problem by intenational means. The african leaders and lowmakers cannot solve it because they are the first parteners of these betrayers.
Really i feel pity for these victims of barbarties recalling ancient human society. It is a dirty work.


by: Traveler from: worldwide
March 12, 2013 2:17 PM
One sure way to slow this problem is to put a bounty on the heads of all professing witch doctors. These crimes must be dealt with swiftly and without concern for the "rights" of the criminals...otherwise it will continue to plague the countries and people of these developing regions. Although it may seem like a drastic punishment for the criminal, it is not something which can be legislated and controlled with laws. Where there is no immediate access to law enforcement to secure the safety of those affected, local community members must be allowed to arrest, apprehend and execute justice when these types of criminals are caught in the act.

I'm sure this comment will disagree with many people in the West, but if you lived in these areas for a while, you might have a change of thought. These types of criminals are worse than child rapists and murderers...they have no moral balance - only sadistic and debased thought processes.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid