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Everything You Need To Know About Massacres And Mutilations Of Albinos In Tanzania And Burundi

Since 2007 in Tanzania and Burundi authorities try to stop trafficking of organs and albino members resulting from beliefs to the supposed magical powers of albinos.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010 Tanzanian court has sentenced to hang a man for 50 years for killing an albino girl in 2008. According to the prosecutor of the northern region of Mwanza witnesses told the court that the man had cut legs the girl with a machete at midnight and drank his blood.

A genetic abnormality

Albinism is a genetic disorder characterized by a lack of pigmentation of the skin, hair, hair and eyes. Albinos are born with very light skin color and hair almost white due to the lack of melanin which colors the skin, hair and eyes and also protects the skin from harmful effects of sun filtering UV rays . In highly sunny regions like Tanzania they are most at risk of skin cancer and burns related to sun exposure. They also suffer from a lack of vision. Albinism is recognized by the United Nations Organization for Health (WHO) as a disability. The gene responsible for it being a recessive albino child is born because it inherits this gene from each of its two parents. If the world the proportion of albinos is 1 person in 20 000 there are up to 1 200 albinos in Tanzania and 1 in 16,000 in Burundi.

Albinos objects many superstitions

In Africa a white child born to two black parents is a phenomenon that has always fueled many beliefs although they tend to disappear today. During the colonial period the children were seen as the fruit of adultery of the mother with a European settler even the ghost of a white.On one people to another one with the thought of mystical powers, immortal, possessed by a demon, with luck or a sign of a curse falling on the family.

Burundi and Tanzania for their body parts are sought for their miraculous powers assumed and some use them as human sacrifice following the advice of wizards who helped spread the belief that it would draw lucky in love, in business and in life. These healers concoct potions developed from a member, nose, tongue, bones, eyes or genitals they prescribe to their customers in search of success. These superstitions have created a market and are skilfully exploited by healers who have made their business. Tanzania charlatans started a  rumor that the blood of albinos could be used in the search for mineral deposits of gold and their members could be used to improve fishing fish. Whether businessmen or political, there are many who believe that albinos bring wealth and success.

These are supposed magical powers albino victim of ritual crimes. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said in  a report in 2009  that the market for albino parts exists mainly in  Tanzania , where a complete set of body parts can sell for 75,000 dollars.

Triggering a real hunt for albinos

Poverty, superstition and greed led to massacres and mutilations of albinos this region is now familiar. End of April 2010 in Cankuzo province in eastern Burundi ten assailants armed with guns and grenades killed a young woman, Susanne Vyegura and child 5 years old, according to Kassim Kazungu association of albinos Burundi and the local police. Both victims had their limbs cut off. The assailants also snatched the child’s eyes and cut off the breasts of the mother. A survey of the Burundian parliament has revealed the existence of a sub-regional market related to the employment of members and organs of albinos by healers and the involvement of fishermen and miners in the illegal trade. This traffic is concentrated mainly in remote areas bordering Lake Victoria, in the western part of Tanzania, one of the poorest in the country where the literacy rate is very low.

Atrocity stories of unparalleled barbarism fueling recent years the local press and  international. Between February and April 2010 Three albinos killed in Tanzania, during which four attempted murders were reported. These deaths and other recent attacks in Tanzania are part of a long list of acts of violence against albinos. According to the International Federation of the Red Cross at least 10,000 have been displaced following attacks against albinos since late 2007. There are officially since 57 albinos killed in Tanzania and 14 in Burundi after Vicky Ntetema former correspondent BBC in Tanzania and currently a member of the human rights NGO  Under the Same Sun  (UTSS). Albinos are forced to seek refuge in urban centers where they are safer. In Burundi many farmers have been forced to flee the villages to the cities to escape the attacks. This has created a climate of fear and insecurity in which albinos live and forcing them to minimize outputs to remain cloistered at home or to exercise extreme vigilance once outside.

According to the Association of Tanzanian albinos the price of a complete set of albino body including limbs, genitals, eyes, tongue, hair and blood from 75 000 to $ 200 $ 000. One member alone can cost 3000 dollars. It is an extremely lucrative business. Although a small percentage of that money back to the killers, the poor see this traffic a way to make easy money. At these prices people are more reluctant to exhume graves the remains of albino body parts to sell.

The media coverage of these massacres by NGOs such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Under the Same Sun (UTSS) and their struggles to require that severely punished the perpetrators pushed the Burundian and Tanzanian authorities to take drastic measures to eradicate this problem. These authorities are particularly stresses that this media gives their country an absolutely calamitous image. To this must be added the initiative of a victim of this barbarity  Mariamu Stanford  who the attackers removed both arms in an attack in 2008 and has since traveled the United States and got a member of Congress  Gerald Conolly  asks Barack Obama to increase pressure on the Burundian and Tanzanian governments.


Campaigns earnest government and NGOs to stop this cycle of assassinations

Burundian and Tanzanian governments have taken quite similar measures to protect albinos and in particular that of children. In Tanzania the government instituted a census of albinos.The establishment of a police escort service for children going to school and the use of structures such as boarding schools to give them refuge are all measures that have been taken to restore some form of serenity for many parents anguished. Police were invited to intensify the hunt for witches employing albino remains and a national campaign of anonymous denunciation of the perpetrators of killings of albinos was launched. Some children have been equipped with mobile phones to contact the Police as soon as possible in case of attack.

The key measure of the law enforcement aspect of the battery of measures taken by the Tanzanian government is the introduction of the death penalty by hanging albino killers. By this law the Tanzanian authorities declared war on albino traffickers. The first Tanzanian Minister Mizengo Pinda made the eradication of these massacres a national cause. Despite the slow pace of justice at least 12 people have already been sentenced to death since 2009, the latest being that of Tuesday, July 27, 2010 a man of 50 years for the murder and mutilation of a girl albino in 2008. More than 27 other cases are still under investigation by the Tanzanian justice.

Mizengo Pinda has decided to May 4 a national day of commemoration in memory of the men and women albino victims of the barbarity of those guided by superstition have an attempt on their lives. A day that every Tanzanian is invited to reflect on the path still to be done to eradicate these horrible murders. On this occasion the government as the Tanzanian people must renew their commitment to guarantee all albinos in the country the right to live without fear. In January 2009 the first Tanzanian Minister also took the unilateral decision to revoke all countries healers licenses because of their responsibilities in the sacrifice of albinos. A decision criticized by the association of traditional healers who blasted the amalgam of healers who provide services to 30% of the country’s population and officials of albinos traffic.

In 2008 Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has instructed the MP  Shaymaa Kwegyir itself albino conduct awareness campaigns. The latter also chaired a commission of inquiry on the responsible for the killings of albinos in Tanzania. Since Shaymaa Kwegyr around the country to fight the deeply held beliefs in the popular consciousness and change attitudes towards a better integration of albinos in society. This work of sensitization and education of the population undertaken by the MP also committed by local associations and NGOs like Under The Same Sun installed in the capital Dar Es Salem.

Educational programs but also medical assistance to albinos

NGOs such as the IFRC, UTSS and local associations albino assistance play an essential role in the observed decrease in homicides suffered by albinos and their families. These organizations serve as sentinels by alerting the authorities on the evolution of abuses against albino and advocating for the perpetrators accountable for their acts before the judiciary. This results including monitoring of police investigations and records in the hands of Tanzanian and Burundian justices. Because for many superstitions and the influence of the healers on the Tanzanian and Burundian society alone can not explain all of these horrible crimes, the fight against ignorance and poverty of the population has also become a way to tackle this problem. Because of that better education of local people is another imperative taken to heart by those organizations.

Thus the associations for the albino trying to implement educational programs for population, health personnel training programs or internships for teachers and parents to sensitize them on the need to help children albinos to protect from the sun through the glasses, hats or long sleeves. Documentaries about the fate of albinos are also disseminated to the public. Given the risks of skin cancer due to sun exposure in this very sunny area of skin protection lotions, sunglasses and hats are regularly provided to this population. Medical aid to victims of the attacks albino is also provided by these organizations in these mostly poor families whose grants can not bear the cost of medical care and yet indispensable protection means.

The harsh measures taken by the Burundian and Tanzanian authorities involved in the action of NGOs and albino support associations have helped reduce murders and mutilations that have grown past 3 years. These measures, however, face the beliefs and superstition ingrained that these companies can quickly get rid of. Another obstacle is the poverty of the local people that push people still continue to perpetrate attacks against albinos, without mutilating their victims take their lives to be spared the death penalty in case of arrest . In a highly religious country, the undeniable influence on all strata of society even those who develop other potions and amulets made from remnants of albinos show the authorities and associations struggling to stop these atrocities that healers can not be removed from the range of solutions that will solve this problem.


Written by How Africa

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