Khalfan Said/AP
Tanzanian albino Muadhani Ramadhani
weaves an Africa traditional carpet in
Dar es Salaam. (AP)

African Albinos Increasingly Under Attack for Body Parts

November 18, 2008 12:24 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Violent attacks on albinos, whose body parts are used in witchcraft, are spreading beyond Tanzania into neighboring countries.

Albinos Targeted in Several Sub-Saharan Countries

The latest incidents in Tanzania included attacks on two mothers by machete-wielding gang members who were after their albino children. On Nov. 13, police also apprehended a man who was trying to sell his albino wife to Congolese traders. At least 30 people with albinism have been killed in the country since March, reports the BBC.

The attacks were first reported in northwestern Tanzania. The Guardian reports that interest in albino body parts has spread, as buyers in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda are starting to show an interest.

On Nov. 17, a 6-year-old boy was killed and dismembered in Burundi. “The young albino was assassinated by two men who cut him into pieces here in Kinyinya district near the border with Tanzania,” said Remy Nkengurutse, a local administrator, according to Reuters. Also on Nov. 17, it was reported that a 6-year-old albino girl in Burundi was found killed, with her head and limbs missing, in the sixth attack on albinos in Burundi since September.

Belief in sorcery is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, where many believe that albinos have magical powers and that a potion made from their legs, hair, hands, and blood can lead to wealth.

Background: Tanzania’s Albinos under attack

A BBC investigation in Tanzania in July found that at least 25 albinos had been murdered since March in what local officials called a growing trade in albino body parts for use in witchcraft. One of the victims was a seven-month-old baby who was ordered killed by a witch doctor.

Many albinos in Tanzania, where it is estimated that about one in 3,000 people suffer from the condition, have gone into hiding. “I feel as if I am being hunted,” said Samuel Mluge, a 49-year-old resident of Dar es Salaam, to the newspaper Scotland on Sunday.

People with albinism have long suffered persecution in many parts of the world and continue to be the victims of both ordinary discrimination and violent atrocities. In the past, they were often included in circus sideshows and associated with superstitions and magical powers. It has been reported that albinos in Zimbabwe are suffering widespread rapes, due to the belief that having sexual intercourse with an albino can cure HIV/AIDS.

Albinism occurs when a genetic defect prevents the body from producing melanin, which gives color to hair, skin and eyes. It affects about 1 in 20,000 worldwide, and about 1 in 17,000 people in the United States. The condition is believed to be more prevalent in Africa than in other continents, and some researchers believe that the albino gene originated on the east coast of Africa. African music star Salife Keita, who is from Mali, is one prominent albino from the continent.

Related Topics: Albinos in pop culture

Reference: The National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation


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