Africans With Albinism Hunted: Limbs Sold on Tanzania's Black Market


"There was a man who was not a witch doctor himself, but he came up with the idea that an albino potion can make a person rich, so they started stealing body parts from the graves," said Kanyerere. "When they ran out of graves, they decided that now were going to hunt down live human beings."

The murders of albinos have shocked the international community and embarrassed the Tanzanian government.

"Can you imagine somebody chops off my hands, he just leaves me bleeding there, and he just runs away with the two arms, and damn the consequences?" Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda said in an interview with "20/20," his first with American journalists.

Pinda put out a plea and assured anonymity to anyone who could come forward with information about the killings of albinos.

"We simply cannot sit like this," said Pinda. "And we called upon the masses to come out. 'Please let us get an idea as to whom you think in your village is a possible suspect.' Now, you'd be surprised, people came out in hundreds."

Killings Spur International Outcry

Tanzania has taken other steps to address the killings, banning witch doctors' licenses and appointing a government representative with albinism, but the killings continue. More than 200 people have been arrested in connection with the murders. Last September, three men were sentenced to death by hanging for killing a teenage boy with albinism. This was the first prosecution since the murders began two years ago. Since then, six other individuals have been convicted in three different cases.

Pinda cites a lack of resources as a major obstacle -- 70 percent of the police officers in rural areas don't have access to vehicles -- and judges have to travel from village to village to try cases.

Staford says her attackers were caught the same day as the attack and arrested. Their blood-stained clothing gave them away. And though she knew and identified one of her attackers as a neighbor, none have been brought to trial. Recently, Staford was ordered to vacate her home, a temporary safe house provided by the government. She thinks she will have to return to the village where she was attacked.

To protect children with albinism in and around Mwanza, the government has started sending them to the Mitindo Primary School. In the last year, more than 100 children have joined the already overflowing classroom and dorms of the school, which has become a safe haven for children with albinism.

Under the Same Sun, a nongovernmental agency based in Canada, has traveled to the school to distribute supplies, but more help is needed.

"If you have albinism in Tanzania, you live in a constant state of fear," said founder Peter Ash, a former Baptist minister turned businessmen and philanthropist, who has albinism.

UNICEF has condemned the murders as a heinous and systematic violation of human rights.

"UNICEF, together with the entire U.N. system in Tanzania, will continue to urge and work with the government and other stakeholders to galvanize action to ensure that such barbaric and inhumane practices are stopped, perpetrators brought to justice, and ensure albinos like other citizens enjoy their fundamental rights to life, freedom and protection," UNICEF said in a statement.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...