Friday, Tanzania’s government issued a strong rebuke against a long tradition that has claimed dozens of lives for over a decade. Thirty-two witch doctors were arrested as part of the east African country’s stance against ritual killings of albinos. It’s believed that witch doctor demands rise ahead of elections and the mass arrests are meant to curb sacrificial murders of those suffering with albinism, according to a Reuters report.
Tanzanian authorities, faced with growing pressure from human rights activists, and outcries from around the world, began what hopes to be a rapid end to the practice of murdering albino people and using their body parts as ritualistic charms for good luck.
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Since 2000, nearly 80 albinos have been brutally killed and dismembered by witch doctors in Tanzania. Jakaya Kikwete, the president of the embattled country, celebrated the arrests and said the widespread targeting by superstitious practitioners has placed the country in a negative light. President Kikwete, in an effort to curb the disturbing practices, has called for expedited executions of those already convicted of killing by human sacrifice.
Joseph Kony, a police chief in the north-western town of Geita, addressed the media about the witch doctor arrests.
“The witch doctors were arrested in possession of different items, including potions and oil from an unknown source,” the police chief in the north-western town of Geita, Joseph Konyo, told reporters.
The news about the intent to carry out capital punishment of those on death row comes as a surprise to many residents in the country because Tanzania has not executed a single person convicted of murder for over 20 years.
Ernest Kimaya, the chairperson for the Tanzania Albinism Society (or TAS) welcomed the news that a large number of witch doctors had been jailed. He and his group believe the executions should be done without delay
“We want all those convicted of killing persons with albinism to be hanged without delay in order to send a strong message that these attacks will no longer be tolerated.
“We made this appeal directly to the president during our meeting with him this week and he expressed his commitment to us that the government will expedite the process of carrying out executions of death row inmates convicted of such killings.”
It’s common for the numbers of albino killings to increase as October elections near in Tanzania. Officials say they correlate to a rise in demand for witch doctors, who are tapped for their services to improve a candidate’s chance of prevailing.
While the arrests of 32 Tanzanian witch doctors made the country’s headlines, apparently the practice of targeting albinos is widespread throughout Africa. Many hope the strong sentences against those behind the attacks will thwart the ages-old practice.
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