Elections bad news for albinos

2015-10-16 05:39
Mwajuma, an albino, stands in her home on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam. (Yasoyoshi Chiba, AFP)

Mwajuma, an albino, stands in her home on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam. (Yasoyoshi Chiba, AFP)

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London - Attacks on albinos in Africa are on the rise, linked to a growing demand from political hopefuls for body parts prized in black magic in the run up to elections in several African countries, a UN human rights expert said on Thursday.

The United Nations said that attacks on albino people, whose body parts are highly valued in witchcraft and can fetch a high price, have been reported in six countries in southern and east Africa since August.

In South Africa, a young albino woman's body was found in a shallow grave with most body parts and skin missing. A 56-year old Kenyan man with albinism died after some of his body parts were hacked off in an attack, the UN said.

"Persons with albinism are amongst the most vulnerable persons in the region," Ikponwosa Ero, the UN's first human rights expert on albinism, said in a statement.

"Today, their woe has been compounded by a constant fear of attacks by people - including family members - who value their body parts more than their life.

Witch doctors will pay as much as $75 000 for a full set of albino body parts, according to a Red Cross report, using them to make spells believed to bring good luck, love and wealth.

The United Nations warned in March that 2015 could be a dangerous year for albinos in Tanzania as politicians turn to witch doctors to widen their chances of winning the polls.

Tanzania, where attacks and killings of albino people are common, Mozambique and Central African Republic are among African countries that will hold elections in the coming months.

"I am deeply concerned at the highly disturbing pattern of increase in attacks when elections occur in the region," Ero said.

At least 75 albinos, including children, have been killed in Tanzania since 2000, according to UN figures, many hacked to death.

Some believe the limbs are more potent if the victims scream during amputation, according to a 2013 United Nations report.

Albinism is a congenital disorder affecting about one in 20 000 people worldwide who lack pigment in their skin, hair and eyes. It is more common in sub-Saharan Africa and affects about one Tanzanian in 1 400.

Read more on:    mozambique  |  tanzania  |  central african republic  |  culture

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