Dar es Salaam — Human and media rights groups have appealed to Southern African leaders to protect people with albinism and prioritise the safety of journalists.
The call came at the 39th Southern African Development Community (SADC) heads of state and government summit in Tanzania
Held in Dar es Salaam until Sunday (today), the gathering coincided with rising attacks against people with albinism.
About 150 people with the condition have been killed over the past five years, most of them in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.
Tanzania has reported the highest number of killings (76) during period.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International's director for Southern Africa, lamented that people with albinism lived in fear of being killed or abducted for their body parts.
Attacks are fueled by false myths that albinos' body parts bring luck.
"SADC leaders must tackle the root causes of these targeted attacks to end the plight of persons with albinism who continue to be terrorised by criminal gangs across the region," Muchena said.
Halt Attacks AgainstDuring its 45th session in Mozambique in July, SADC's Parliamentary Forum adopted a motion condemning attacks, abductions, killings and discrimination against people with albinism.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) meanwhile urged governments in the region to uphold media freedoms.
Violations have been reported in almost all 16 SADC member states.
"Member states must ensure a free press so that journalists can work freely and safely, and citizens can access reliable information and make informed decisions," Robert Mahoney CPJ Deputy Director, stated.