Albino Murders in Tanzania

The Albino Murders in Tanzania Get the Facts

In November 2009 a Tanzanian mother of seven, Mary Mathias, awoke in the middle of the night to find intruders in her home. One held a machete to the throat of her husband and ordered both of them not to move or make a sound. Their family was about to become another victim of the albino murders in Tanzania.

In the darkness Mary heard the sickening sounds of death coming from the room next door. As she lies helpless, two more intruders were hacking off the legs of one of the Mathias' albino daughters. When the group finally left, Mary found her 14-year-old daughter, Eunice, lying dead with both legs gone.

Unfortunately, Mary's story is not unique in a nation with an estimated 270,000 albinos. Some 53 murders have been reported across Tanzania since 2007, with potentially hundreds more going unreported. Then there are those who have survived the attacks, being left maimed in the process. It is a problem of epic proportions that is just now coming to light.

Witchcraft and the History of Albinism

The albino murders in Tanzania are a direct result of Africa's history with witchcraft. Though witchcraft is practised all around the world in many different forms, African witch doctors are some of the most respected and feared members of African society. They prey on albinos due to a misunderstanding of the condition.

In places like Tanzania people believe albinism is a curse or a punishment from God. Perhaps a child's mother was practising sorcery; perhaps she was having an affair or violating dietary laws. Regardless, the albino child is considered the product of illicit or unacceptable behaviour by his mother. Yet it doesn't stop there.

Albinos are also believed to be ghosts rather than human beings. Witch doctors believe, and convince others, that killing albinos and harvesting their body parts can make one wealthy and prosperous. In a country suffering from extreme poverty, the albino murders in Tanzania have become a way to make a living.

Finally, Government Intervention

Now that the issue has been brought to light Tanzania's government has been forced by international pressure to get involved. In recent months the government has taken steps to protect albinos including conducting a census to find out the real numbers and offering security to those whose lives are in danger.

Arrests and prosecutions have also picked up as well. Recently three men were arrested and convicted in albino murder cases, and sentenced to death. In 2010 a Kenyan man was also arrested and sentenced to 12 years for trafficking an albino man in Mwanza.

Unfortunately, the albino murders in Tanzania are likely to continue for some time because it is too financially lucrative. When a single arm or leg is worth some 2,500, anyone willing to do the dirty work can become very wealthy, very quickly. That in turn reinforces the notion that albino body parts can bring prosperity. It is a vicious cycle that is very hard to interrupt.

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