Thursday, 4 May 2017

TANZANIA: Witchdoctors And Traditional Healers Arrested Cracking On Murder Of People With Albinisim

More than 200 witchdoctors and traditional healers have been arrested in Tanzania in a crackdown on the murder of albino people.

The killings have been driven by the belief by some witchdoctors that the body parts have properties that confer wealth and good luck.

President Magufuli Pombe has described the murder of albino people as an "evil" that has shamed Tanzania.

Nearly 80 albino Tanzanians have been killed since 2000, the UN says. A one-year-old albino boy, killed in north-western Tanzania a few weeks ago.

The government banned witchdoctors in January as part of its efforts to prevent further attacks and kidnappings targeting people with albinism.

According to the Red Cross, witchdoctors are prepared to pay $75,000 (£50,000) for a complete set of albino body parts.

Tanzanian police arrested 225 unlicensed traditional healers and soothsayers across the country.

Some of those arrested were found in possession of items like lizard skin, warthog teeth, ostrich eggs, monkey tails, bird claws, mule tails and lion skin, police spokesperson said.

Albinism is particularly prevalent in Tanzania with one in 1,400 affected, according to a 2006 BMC Public Health report. This compares with one in 20,000 in Western countries.

Malawi Police in Kasungu are keeping in custody four people for allegedly transacting in tissues extracted from a corpse of a person with albinism.

The police said the four are Daglous Chikuta, 46, Kelvin Mvula, 59, Mikayele Zimba, 67 and Samuel Kamanga 32.

According to Kasungu Police Public Relations Officer, Edna Mzingwitsa, the police arrested the four on suspicion that they had bones alleged to have been of two people with albinism murdered in Zambia last year June.

She said case files of murder were opened in Zambia and inquiries were carried out and this led to arrest of 3 Zambian nationals who were found with four bones suspected to be of people with albinism.

Upon interrogating them she said they revealed to have murdered a person with albinism in Lundazi,

The people told the police that they took the bones to Malawi, at Chisinga in Kasungu where they met Chikuta, Mvula and Zimba to assist them in finding customers for the bones, according to Mzingwitsa.

She said the two groups failed to agree on the commission that would be given after the business is done, so the Zambians returned and then were arrested by Zambian police.

The Zambian police jointly worked with Malawi police and this led to the arrest of the four at Chisinga.

The four have been charged with transacting in tissues extracted from a corpse of a person with albinism contrary to section 224 of the Penal Code.

Chikuta hails from Kapichira Village, Mvula hails from Nkhuzikuzi Village, both in Traditional Authority (TA) Chulu, Zimba hails from Chinkhande Village, Sub TA (STA) Chisinga and Kamanga hails from Mandaza Village STA Mphomwa, all in Kasungu District.

DO not call me an albino, I am an African man living with the condition of albinism.

These are the words of Thubelihle Sibonakaliso Mpisi, a 24-year-old commercial law attorney who was born and bred in Gamalakhe and now works for Adams & Adams Attorneys.

Thubelihle was approached by this prestigious South African law firm in 2013, when he was still at university. I just couldn’t say no to this offer of a lifetime, he said.

There is a difference between wanting a job and wanting to work. Adams is a firm that has people who are pioneers in their own capacity as individuals. It’s a great platform for people who are focused, but also have a great sense of legal creativity and most importantly, have purpose. So I thought it’s best I join them, he added.

Thubelihle has described working for the law firm as stressful at times but very rewarding.
He has had the privilege of being involved with major cases such as the Nkandla constitutional issue as well as the Robert McBride case.

It has taught me a lot about human relations and built my esteem as a young lawyer, said Thubelihle.

Thubelihle is proud of his ability to not concern himself with the stereotypes of albinism, pointing out that with or without the condition, one will always face challenges in life.

My approach has always been to say that as people, we will always accentuate fundamental and necessary biological differences such as race and skin colour.

My simple view is that, it starts with equality and ends with equality. Pigment is just but one part of human biology, he said.

He firmly believes that perceiving success with reference to assets is a narrow understanding of success.

While I consider myself to have achieved some success, which I have worked very hard for, I do not consider myself to have attained this out of greed but out of the ever-evolving dynamic nature of success, you have to keep working towards building and getting more, said Thubelihle.

He also feels strongly about making the most out of the present moment and making it count, without expecting to derive anything from it.

He says the biggest achievement you can ever have in life is knowing that you have lived up to your full potential.
I am currently working towards obtaining my doctorate in law, perhaps once I have done that I can say with more certainty that I have made it, said Thubelihle.

With all this said, albinism is not a disease or a plea for pity but rather a human condition that does not prevent anyone from reaching their full potential and excelling beyond society’s expectations.

Thubelihle Sibonakaliso Mpisi is living proof of this truth.

Mohamed Mabula does not have it easy. He fends for his family with a small bicycle taxi business in Ndembezi, a village in northern Tanzania. Money is always scarce because two of his six children require special protection. Four-year-old Shija and six-year-old Dotto suffer from a skin pigment disorder known as albinism. It's dangerous to live in Tanzania with this diagnosis.

The reason is superstition stirred by business people and traditional healers. They believe albinos have magical powers. They say special medications can be obtained from their bones. According to experts, body parts of albinos sell for hundreds of euros on the black market and people can be sold dead or alive for up to 65,000 euros.

That's the reason why albinos are often victims of attacks. United Nations figures show that at least 75 albinos have been killed in Tanzania since 2000, dozens more have been mutilated.

Many consider albinism to be a curse on the family.

Attackers dismembered the hand of a 30 year-old woman in the western region of Katavi. Eight suspects appeared in court. Mabula is afraid for his family, who live in Ndembezi,. I live in a simple hut. I am asking the government to help me build a safe house so that my children can sleep peacefully.

Due to the high number of attacks on albinos this year, Tanzanian authorities carried out raids, in which more than 200 controversial healers were detained. Tanzania President condemned the attacks as "disgusting and a disgrace to the nation".

Several NGOs such as the Tanzania Albinism Society work for the the protection of people with albinism. With the help of donations, they seek to break down prejudices through awareness-raising campaigns and to provide safe living conditions for albinos.

Their effort is already having an impact in various parts of the country. Police Chief Valentino Mlolowa said that the situation for albinos between 2006 and 2009 was especially bad in Mwanza on Lake Victoria.

Chief Mlolowa thinks measures such as the government program for district schools are much more important. The objective of this program is to improve the teaching of biology. School pupils are taught that albinism is a hereditary disease and unrelated to witchcraft.

The President has ordered all schools to be equipped with laboratories, Mlolowa says. The superstition will decrease with a better science education.

Despite all these efforts, a better life albinos in Tanzania is still a long way off. Many families still hide their children suffering from the skin disorder.

Others live in special centers where they are educated and protected,like the Mazoezi Kabanga primary school in Kigoma, western Tanzania. But for Hamida Ramadhani, a mother of three albino children, this is not a long term solution. She feels imprisoned at the Kigoma center and shunned by society. I feel bad because I hear people are still getting killed she says.

14-year-old Deborah Ruge also lives at the center. Since 2010, unknown assailants people have been trying to kill her. Even though she feels well cared for at the center, Ruge says she misses her family. I wish I could see my parents at least once,she says.

Berthold Alfred, also an albino, is a primary school teacher. His parents, who living in a village near the Burundian border, have not visited him in a long while.

Alfred strongly believes his help is needed at home. At home I could pass my education,he says. Alfred would like to set an example and help to break down the prejudices against albinos. But as an albino, he himself depends on the protection of the center.

Albinos could make significant contributions to strengthening their acceptance in society and help eliminate prejudices against them. Isaac Mwaura lives with the pigment disorder and he is a Member of Parliament in neighboring Kenya. He says he introduced a bill in Kenyan parliament that proposed life sentence for anyone involved in the murder of an albino.

With his organization Albinism Society of Kenya, Mwaura has raised up to 100 million Kenyan shillings (900,000 Euros) in donations to help albinos.

Mwaura uses the donations for practical purposes. We use the money to buy sunscreen, glasses and hats for albinos, he says.

Attacks on albinos are rife in Kenya, but for Mwaura, prejudice is deeply personal. His father left his family when he born with the disorder.He didn't want to believe I was his child,Mwaura says.