The Tanzania government is not only aware of the seriousness of witchcraft, but many still practice this ritual in today’s politics. The Deputy Home Affairs Minister, Pereira Silima, recently warned politicians that the use of Albino parts for witchcraft would not win them an election. With the Tanzania government having to issue a widespread statement to fellow politicians about the on-going practice of witchcraft, the region is no stranger to the myth of supernatural powers possessed by this minority.
History of the Persecution of Albinism
Persecution of people with albinism (otherwise known as PWA) occurs for a variety of reasons. One belief is that certain body parts of albinistic people can transfer magical powers. Specifically popular in today’s society, the Great Lakes Region of Africa continues to be exploited by witch doctors claiming prosperity to those who use potions and rituals including albino body parts.
As a direct result, albinos have been killed, dug up from their grave, and even dismembered to further this ritualistic practice. In addition, the same people have been ostracized and killed based on the presumption that they are cursed and can bring bad luck. The highest prosecution rates occurring in Sub-Saharan African communities, including East Africans.
Rise of Vigilante Justice
More recently, many people are seeking justice for the persecution and murder of their family members who have this condition. As vigilante justice increases, particularly in Tanzania, many villagers are being reported of attacking women whom they believe are witches. In 2015, over 200 villagers attacked and killed 58 year old, Jane Faidha Bakar. After hacking her with machetes in her own home, they followed by burning her alive in the village.
This story is not uncommon for the area and with the government being blamed for not taking action for apprehending the very witch doctors who are killing their family members are a direct relation to those feeling the need to take justice in their own hands and take retribution for their innocent family members.
It was reported by the Tanzanian Albinism Society that over the last 15 years, at least 74 cases of albinos being killed in Tanzania have been documented. Out of those 75 cases, only 10 people have officially been convicted of the crime. Since the ban of witchcraft in January 2015, the government has stepped up its commitment to eliminating the practice of witchcraft and the killing of albino’s reporting to have prosecuted and put to death 17 witch doctors accused of killing albino’s for their practice.
In addition to the local murders, Albino organs reportedly go for hundreds of dollars on the black market, making this a widespread concern and threat. With a population of 50 million people in the country, only 33,000 people are affected with albinism, making them a prime target.
The Albino community has struggled for equal rights, personal safety and protection from their countrymen and government, but history has proven that many still believe in this mystical power and with so many people looking for ways to better their own lives, including the people in political power, the continue prosecution and oppression of this group of individuals will only continue.