Allyson Cartwright, Contributing Journalist
Last Modified: 22:25 p.m. DST, 19 May 2014
TANZANIA – On May 12, a Tanzanian woman named Munghu Lugata, 40, was viciously mutilated and subsequently died of her injuries in the small village of Gasuma in northwest Tanzania. Lugata was found with one of her legs sawed off as well as several fingers, according to BBC News. Tanzanian police suspect she had been the target of witchdoctors due to her albinism.
Two practicing witchdoctors, a man and woman named Gudawa Yalema and Shiwa Masalu, were arrested following the attack. This is just one of many attacks that have occurred globally against people with albinism.
People with albinism have been targeted throughout history because of the defect that leaves their skin, hair, and eyes without pigmented. There had been murders of albino people in the province of Simiyu where Gasuma is located; however the targeting of these people is an international issue. In many countries, the organs, skin, blood, and hair of albino people is believed to have curative properties.
In 15 countries there have been more than 200 reported cases of attacks against people with albinism between 2000 and 2013. “Under the Same Sun” (UTSS), an advocacy group that promotes anti-discrimination of people with albinism claims that most of the harvested albino body parts from Tanzania are being exported outside of the country. In one case reported by the UTSS, a Tanzanian trader was stopped carrying an albino infant head to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, claiming that he planned on selling it to a businessman there.
In Tanzania, witchdoctors promote the use of these parts of albino people for “success, wealth and election victory”, according to the Herald Sun. All Africa reports that at least 73 people with albinism were targeted for murder in Tanzania since 2000 and about as many have been targeted in vicious attacks. UTSS claims that murder rates could be much higher than this as most of the murders go unreported. UTSS also notes that describing these attacks as results of witchcraft only began in 2006, despite these types of attacks existing “beyond memory”.
Because of the severity of these crimes against albino people and it being a global issue, the United Nations is beginning to get involved. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, commented on the Lugata murder in a news release saying, “This killing and the terrible circumstances surrounding it sadly demonstrate that the human rights situation of people with albinism in Tanzania and other countries remains dire.” Pillay continued by expressing the widespread of the issue, “All over the world, people with albinism continue to face attacks or suffer terrible discrimination, stigma and social exclusion.”
The dangers that albino people will face are only worsening in Tanzania. In October local elections are held in the country. Because witchdoctors prescribe magic potions made from albino people for good luck, they will be in more danger than ever. The UTSS warns, “the black market demand for the body parts of people with albinism escalates during these times.”
Efforts to improve the discrimination against people with albinism have been made by the Tanzanian government and human rights groups. There have been movements to end the practicing of witchdoctors, who BBC News says receives certificates to practice from the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Also, a few years ago an albino Member of Parliament was appointed. However, as the discrimination of albino people persists, they will continue to be targeted by witchdoctors and black market traders.
- Two held over murder of albino in Tanzania (nation.co.ke)
- Tanzania arrests over albino killing (bbc.co.uk)
- Hundreds of girls raped, murdered in Tanzania for black magic AIDS ‘cure’ (omaymen.wordpress.com)
- People with albinism: Pillay urges more protection after barbaric killing in Tanzania (sundayshomari.com)
- ‘Witch doctors’ charged in albino murder (dailytelegraph.com.au)