We have all heard about wicked witches in fairytales that eat children, but most of the witches in America are peaceful pagans that would not even hurt a fly — even for a potion. However, in Africa, some of the witches there are harming people in order to make good luck potions, charms, and amulets for elite members of society, including politicians. In particular, Tanzania’s witch doctors are mutilating albinos — and this includes infants and children.
Sadly, the African witch practices have been reportedly taking place in up to 15 countries in Africa, with up to 200 deaths between 2000 and 2013, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. In particular, a majority of these albino deaths by witches have occurred in Tanzania. The Human Rights Brief lists “Nigeria, Uganda, Swaziland, Liberia, Botswana, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, and Zimbabwe” as countries that have witches that murder albinos for magical charms.
The Human Rights Brief also stated that the demand for albino human remains from witches is especially high during election periods in Liberia and Swaziland, when politicians are looking for good luck in the polls.
Why are witches doing this? The Human Rights Brief says, “Those who practice sacrifice and ritual killings believe them to be acts of spiritual fortification. Motivations to carry out these acts include the use of human body parts for medicinal purposes and the belief that human body parts possess supernatural powers that bring prosperity and protection.”
In many parts of South Africa, ritual killings by witches are not reported by the community because it is an accepted practice. In Uganda, witches are not arrested for doing child sacrifice for business people that pay for witches to do this in order to make them richer.
How bad is the situation in Tanzania between witches and albinos? The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, published a report in March, 2013, after three children (aged seven-months-old, seven-years, and ten-years-old) were dismembered over a two month period in early 2013. According to Pillay, many were dismembered while they were still alive. Furthermore, “Some practitioners allegedly also believe that the witchcraft is more powerful if the victim screams during the amputation, which explains why the body parts are often cut from live victims.”
Unfortunately, there is not much justice when a witch murders a person with albinism. The same report went on to state, “Authorities are investigating three of the cases, but according to the news release, successful prosecutions are rare. Out of the 72 murders of people with albinism documented in Tanzania since 2000, only five cases were prosecuted.”
In March, 2014, Pillay addressed the witches killing albinos situation once again, and said, “I urge the Tanzanian authorities to take urgent measures to assess and address the situation…”
As a result, the Daily Mail U.K. reported in January that Tanzania has banned witches and witch doctors altogether in an effort to stop the practice of killing or mutilating albinos. How widespread are witches in Tanzania? An American study conducted in 2010 says that 93 percent of the country is either Muslim or Christian, but many of this 93 percent believe in witchcraft.
Tanzania’s Home Affairs Minister, Mathias Chikawe, says, “We are against those who cheat people [telling them] that they will be rich by possessing charms, as well as fortune tellers and those distributing talismans. People should also be repeatedly told that the only way of becoming rich is through hard work and not possessing charms.”
The Daily Mail U.K. also quotes the Tanzania Daily News‘ editorial in January that said witches killing albinos was a “disgusting trade and… it [has] brought shame to the nation. The attackers ‘stalk unsuspecting people with albinism, pounce on them, hack off their body parts and run away with them.”
Despite the ban on witches, many albinos in Tanzania still feel unsafe. The Guardian U.K. recently reported on the issue and interviewed Zihada Msembo, Secretary General of the Tanzania Albino Society. Msembo said, “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. They [witches] are cutting us up like chickens” — and pointed to a picture of a mutilated albino that had their skin peeled off of them.
[All images from the referenced links. Featured image by Chris Jackson/Getty Images.]