The Tanzanian government has banned witch doctors in an effort to curb the wave of attacks and murders of albinos, whose body parts are used in witchcraft charms and spells claimed to bring good luck and wealth.
Albinos have a genetic disorder in which they are left with little or no pigment in their skin, eyes, or hair. Having the disorder leaves them vulnerable to superstitions in the East African country, where albinos are prized by witch doctors — who encourage others to bring them their body parts. In a gristly black magic practice, the witch doctors then grind up the body parts and add them to herbs, roots, and sea water to create “good luck” charms.
The Tanzania Albino Society reports more than 100 crimes against albinos over the past eight years – many of them killed and sold to witch doctors for black magic purposes. And according to the United Nations, of 72 reported murders since 2000, only five have resulted in successful prosecutions.
A United Nations report on crimes against people with albinism noted that children’s body parts are particularly prized, and that “some even believe that the witchcraft ritual is more powerful if the victim screams during the amputation, so body parts are often cut from live victims, especially children.”
The report also cites the superstition that albinos cannot die and that they just “disappear” as a contributing factor to a lack of empathy for the crimes.
The attacks against albinos has become so widespread that Richard Costar, an albino living in Tanzania, told Scientific America in a 2013 interview that, even at the age of 22, he fears traveling the streets alone and lives at home with his uncle for his own safety.
The government has been criticized in the past for its lack of efforts to stop the horrific practice, and Reuters reports that the U.N. urged government officials last week to step up efforts to end the attacks and discrimination after a 4-year-old albino girl was kidnapped from her home by an armed gang last month. The girl has still not been found.
The Tanzanian government has formed a task force of police and members of the Tanzania Albino Society to arrest and prosecute witch doctors who violate the ban.
Tanzania’s Home Affairs Minister, Mathias Chikawe, told reporters the following.
“We have identified that witch doctors are the ones who ask people to bring albino body parts to create magical charms which they claim can get them rich. We will leave no stone unturned until we end these evil acts.”
Chikawe said the operation will begin later this month, initially targeting the five regions in which the government believes attacks against albinos are most prevalent and expanding later.
Tanzania Albino Society spokesperson Ernest Kimaya said the following.
“I believe we can work together to end these acts of pure evil.”
Those accused of witchcraft are often persecuted in third world countries, as the Inquisitr reports in this recent article on Ghana “witch camps.” Rashid Mauwa, a traditional healer, told Thomas Reuters Foundation he feared that the witch doctor ban would lead to victimization of those such as himself who do not engage in witchcraft.
“I am not engaging in any witchcraft. I am only using traditional herbs to help people who do not respond to conventional medicines. Why am I being punished?”
[Image via Universal Initiative Foundation]