6-Year-Old Albino Girl Killed for Body Parts
Posted by shadmia on November 19, 2008
I had no idea that in the 21st century witch doctors still made magic potions – out of human body parts. I did not know that they use body parts such as arms, legs, hair, skin and genitals to concoct their potions. I did not know that albinos were considered choice candidates for making these magic potions. I also did not know that in some parts of Africa, albinos are considered less than human and that killing an albino was not even considered a capital offense in Tanzania – until very recently. I did not know that “at least 27 albinos, mostly women and children, have been killed in different parts of Tanzania over the past year“…..for their body parts. I did not know that “discrimination against albinos is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa”. I did not know that “traditionally, midwives were known to kill albino babies, declare them stillborn and bury them secretly”. These are some of the things I learned after reading the following story:
In Ruyigi province, Burundi, a 6-year-old girl, named Cizanye, was murdered in front of her family because she was an albino. A gang of armed bandits broke into the family home; they tied up the girl’s parents and shot the little girl in the head. They then cut off her head and both her arms and legs and left with the body parts. The attack took place at the family’s home in Bugongo, more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) east of the capital Bujumbura. Police said they suspected criminals of hunting albinos to sell their organs and limbs to witch doctors in Tanzania who use them for lucky charms.
“This little girl is the third albino victim of such barbaric crimes in our province since September. We are doing everything we can to find the killers,” Ruyigi province prosecutor Nicodeme Gahimbare said.
The recent attacks against albinos had prompted the local authorities to set up a shelter where the albinos in Ruyigi province were invited to gather. In neighboring Tanzania, at least 27 albinos, mostly women and children, have been killed in different parts of the country over the past year alone.
In Burundi, officials said they made two arrests related to the killings of albinos in that country.
“The two who were arrested confessed to the crime and said they got 1 million Burundian francs ($840) from a Tanzanian seeking albino body parts,” Gahimbare told Reuters.
Police also arrested two elderly men. Gahimbare said they confessed to being in touch with a Tanzanian who had promised them three million francs for albino hair.
In the meantime, officials in eastern Burundi said that 24 albinos have fled their villages and gone into towns for fear of slaughter. Kazungu Kassim, head of Burundi’s albino association, appealed to the government to boost their security.
“Our biggest fear right now is the fear of living. If you leave work at night as an albino, you are unsure of reaching home safely. When you sleep, you are unsure of waking up in one piece,” Zihada Msembo, secretary general of the Tanzania Albino Society, told Reuters in an interview.
“We marched, the president (Jakaya Kikwete) received us and we said ‘now we can have some peace’ and slept soundly that night. Next morning, we hear yet another albino was killed that very night.”
Msembo said many albino children were dropping out of school for fear of being kidnapped. Many albinos have sought refuge in urban centers, which are relatively safer. She said “They are cutting us up like chickens” while pointing to a picture on a wall in her cramped office of a limbless body with the skin on its face peeled off from an incident in 2007.
“We are human beings like others, we have a right to live,” Msemgo said, adding they had been turned into a commodity.
“Our country has earned a reputation that it is doing business with albino body parts, so people in other countries can kill and cross into Tanzania where there is a ready market.”
Olalekan Ajia, a communication specialist for UNICEF in Burundi, said the Government of Tanzania has started to take some action:
“Now the Government of Tanzania quickly took action and made it a capital crime for anybody to kill albinos,” he said. “And the witch doctors and so on moved on to Burundi, where there’s a lot of poverty, and got some people who are completely dislocated mentally and psychologically to begin to hunt for albinos.”
“……we are working with [the] Government to raise awareness around the country to explode the myth that using body parts or blood can make anybody rich.” said Ajia.
He also said Burundian authorities have responded swiftly to the recent wave of attacks, passing laws similar to those in Tanzania and offering a safe house in at least one province for albino children. He noted that many albinos remain extremely fearful about their safety and are asking the Government to do more to protect them.
In another incident police caught a man in Tanzania trying sell his albino wife for $3,000. He allegedly tried to make the sale to two businessmen from Congo, police say. His wife did not know she was about to be sold. Police arrested the husband, a fisherman, after receiving a tip. The businessmen, though, escaped and are thought to have returned to their native country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tanzania has asked the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) to help find them.
Councilor Joseph Manyara told a rally organized by the Tanzania Albino Society (TAS): “It is utterly stupid for some people to believe that albinos have magic powers and their parts can make them rich.”
“People should be provided with education to understand that it is only through hard working that they can prosper in life and not through selling albinos’ body parts.”
Albinism is a congenital lack of the melanin pigment in the skin, eyes and hair which protects from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. For further details click here. Albinos are vulnerable to medical complications and social discrimination in Africa. Many African societies shun albinos and treat them as if they bring misfortune or accuse them of being involved in witchcraft. Below is a special report on the plight of albinos in Tanzania: