Imagine crossing the countryside by moonlight, constantly looking over your shoulder in fear of being abducted, murdered, and your body parts harvested for “voodoo magic”. That is the fear thousands of albinos live with on a daily basis. Some African nations have a long history of hunting down those with albinism. With corrupt politicians looking to boost their chances of re-election to the lay person looking to cure a disease, albinos continue to live with the risk of death everyday.
Albinos are considered “magical” in some regions of Africa, their body parts are highly sought after ingredients with which witch doctors perform various rituals, mix potions, and concoctions for their customers claiming to give a more powerful result if the right ingredients are used.
History of Albinism in Africa
In Malawi, albinos have a fearful and, often times, short lived life due to the paleness of their skin. Over the years, albinism has gained a reputation for providing “powerful” magic to local witch doctors, causing a surge in murder, abduction, and disappearances. With an average of only 10,000 reported albinos in Malawi, many are worried that “total extinction” is a real possibility if government officials don’t step up and enact change.
The BBC News reported that “Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries and the sale of body parts of persons with albinism is believed to be very lucrative.” Combined with the popular belief by many of supernatural properties, the increase in killings of albinos like animals has become prominent.
The Safe Harbor
Over the years, many albinos have searched for a new place to call home, a place they can rest their heads at night without the fear of being abducted and provides the potential for a long and prosperous future. But Malawi is a small country, only about 45,000 square feet, and is landlocked between Zambia, Mozambique, and Tanzania, making it quite impossible to find a safe haven.That hasn’t deterred those fighting for the rights of this minority to give up hope, in fact, there is a small island off the coast of Lake Victoria that has opened its land to the fleeing population.
Yakobo, a resident of Ukerewe Island, tells the Daily Nation, “There were times when I was afraid in the past, but now I thank God because we can sleep at night without a gun…Here, we are safe, we are surrounded by water, no one can commit a crime and escape easily.” Yakobo lives on the island with his eleven children, due to his own personal safety, he and his family continue to live on Ukerewe Island.
Is It Really Safe
Many people living on the island agree that their lives have been totally transformed. With nearly no history of violence on the island, the risk of being abducted in the middle of the night is virtually non-existent. But how truly safe is the island?
Over the last few years, many African nations have taken a much harder stance against witch doctors in the area, reporting over 200 prosecutions for albino-related crimes. Combined with the growing population on the island, many believe that the island truly does offer a safe haven for its residents.
As with any “lucrative” business, people will still try to maneuver around security measures and legal actions, but as it stands today, Ukerewe Island offers the safest location in Africa for albinos and boasts the largest albino population in the region.