20 October 2008

Tanzania: JK Orders Crackdown to Stem Murder of Albinos

President Jakaya Kikwete has called for a thorough crackdown on people behind the murders of albinos in the country.

His orders follow a countrywide outcry over the killings amid reports that more than 50 albinos were murdered since March last year.

The murderers are said to be using albino body parts in their superstitious search for riches. More than 58 people have recently been arrested in Mwanza, Mara, Kagera, Shinyanga, and Mbeya regions where the belief is rife among fortune seekers.

Some of the killings have been blamed on witchdoctors who recommend the use of albino body to those who consult them.

Yesterday, the President attended a protest march against the killings organised by the Tanzania Albino Society (TAS) in Dar es Salaam.

He dismissed as "utterly stupid" the belief that albino body parts can bring success to business people, and said the Government would hunt down the perpetrators to end the mess.

Protesters marched from the Uhuru Mchanganyiko Primary School grounds through Uhuru, Bibi Titi Mohammed, Azikiwe streets to Samora Avenue and gathered at the Karimjee Hall where the President addressed them.

He said he would make sure the albino association was properly funded to fight the killings, especially in the most affected regions.

"Riches are not acquired through the killing of albinos but by working hard," said President Kikwete.

He said efforts to deal with the network that was involved in the killings were going on, and urged people to shun secrecy and help the police.

Earlier, the albino association had accused the government of turning a blind eye to the killings. Seven children from the association recited a poem chronicling some of the murders, and urged authorities to take action.

Another poem by some elders from the Albino Revolution Cultural Group also grabbed the attention of people through highlighting the horrendous acts.

In the poem, the elders appealed to the President to save them from the ruthless killers.

Nominated Member of Parliament Al-shaimaa Kwaygir also participated in the protest march and said the killings were akin to terrorism.

She said people should live in peace, and urged authorities to deal with the murderers.

According to TAS, there are over 150,000 albinos in the country, but only 8,000 are registered with the association. Many are killed at birth.

TAS spokesman Josephat Torner said the claim that those behind the killings could not be easily tracked was not true.

He said authorities should thoroughly investigate the killings to protect local albinos.

The incidents took a rise last year with reports in some areas of people even exhuming dead bodies to cut off body parts. Some of the parts said to be mostly targeted are genitals, limbs, breasts, fingers and tongues.

The most affected areas are mining and fishing communities in the Lake Zone region, especially Mwanza, Shinyanga and Mara regions.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in every 4,000 people in Africa is an albino.

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