Albinism is the low production or the absence of melanin-pigments in the skin, hair and eyes. Being an albino in Africa gives a certain concern – sensitivity to sun exposure and a high risk group for skin cancer – but when you are a Tanzanian, you probably find the dawning of each day a miracle, not because the heat intensity is going down but because Tanzanian people indulge in the despicable act of killing and attacking the albinos in their midst – young and old alike. It is believed that a part of their body possesses magical powers that can fetch you wealth. This is one of the most preposterous things to be happening in Africa at this time and age. Albinos all over the world battle with stigmatization but non compares to the sad possibility of waking up without an arm, a limb, raped, ostracized or even killed. It is unfair to us that we assert the beauty of the dark skin color but find it difficult to accept the albinos in our midst.
U.N. Human Rights Office records about 151 attacks since 2000, and 74 murders in Tanzania; non-governmental organizations record about 328 attacks in over 20 African countries. Countries like Tanzania and Burundi seem to have unleashed a deafening rise in the practice and ritual of witchcraft which makes albinos in these countries major victims. Tanzania has the highest rate of Albinos in Africa with about 17,000 registered Albinos.
Shinyanga and Mwanza, are the popular Tanzanian locations where witchcraft doctors sell amulets, potions and charms made from albino body parts. They have witchcraft markets where the body parts are sold for thousands of dollars- a complete set (an albino corpse) for $75,000. Buried albino corpses have been found missing the next day. Very sad, people go as far as robbing them of rest in the graves by exhuming their bodies when they die.
The plight of albinos in Tanzania is a very disturbing one. Already there are biological health risks that they worry about, the barbaric act of making them witchcraft instruments does not in the least bit help the situation. They worry about being accepted in a society that rejects and denies them quite a lot- from the freedom of expression, to movement , healthcare, employment and worse of all denies them education. The segregation of these group of people has done nothing but escalate crime in Tanzania and other similar countries. Albinos in Tanzania are potential victims of kidnap, mutilation, murder and rape as it is also believed that intercourse with an albino girl cures HIV/AIDS. If an albino was as much as a gold mine that they supposedly make from their body parts, I’m sure they’ll never be treated the way they are now. They would have been treated like their counterparts in Panama who see them as blessings.
Being an albino in a typical rural Tanzanian community means different erroneous things, first, your family is cursed, that’s why the albino “ghost that never dies” has been born into the family; secondly, the mother of the albino should be questioned and penalized for cheating on the spouse with a white man, thirdly, you are constantly going to be alone because you will definitely lose some friends. The only comfortable company you’ll have will be from faithful family member and fellow albinos. So you see the trauma goes round for every family member and friend of an albino, but nothing compares to the trauma of the core victims- the albinos themselves. Finding the words to explain the psychological trauma that they go through will take a very long time. They are treated as though they were lesser humans that should be quarantined. Being a Tanzanian albino is one of the worst conditions anyone can deal with, already you are born with some biological/health worries, culturally you are not welcome and can be attacked at any point in time, socially you are viewed as weird, there’s a whole lot of insecurities to battle with. To save their lives, albinos have resorted to migrating to urban cities where the evil tendencies are rare. Some are lucky enough to be adopted or catered for by NGOs.
The dastardly act of dehumanizing the albinos in Tanzania is a proof of ignorance and sheer callousness. Ignorance in the sense that if they were better educated and enlightened about possible variations in the skin conditions of a person/people, things would never get to this point.
The economic status of the country is a direct promoter of the persecution of albinos in Tanzania. If there was an equal distribution of wealth, I bet not many people will be going the extra mile of witchcraft to become wealthy. The Tanzanian Government however has seen reasons to stop this menace, so they have banned witch doctors and their craft, and also implemented registration and police protection of albinos. On 23 September 2009, Tanzania made her first conviction of three albino hunters, sentencing them to death by hanging for dismembering a 14-year-old boy. In contrast to this effort, it was noticed also that from the early part of 2013 till 2015, the period of campaigns and elections, that there has been a thundering increase in ritual attacks, most probably in the bid for politicians to achieve their political aim, come October 2015. So unbelievable that the government/politicians who should be protecting the citizens indulge in this kind of act.
In the midst of all these oddities, there is still practical sources of encouragement for the albino community. Salif Keita, a discriminated heir of Sundiata Keita, the founder of the Mali Empire lives as a testimony as to the unlimited attainable heights of anybody, albino or not, as long as you insist on disappointing majority thoughts that you are no good for anything. Salif is an international African musician and a proud African albino who is lending his voice to African albinos who suffer the same plight that he did. He has a foundation to that effect, and has personally been a devoted philanthropist in the purchase of sunscreen lotions and providing basic aids for people with albinism in Mali. The foundation has made the word ‘A.L.B.I.N.O.S’ an acronym meaning ‘A Living Being In Need Of Safety’, which also aligns with the objective of the organisation. It gives joy to also know the likes of personalities such as Al-Shymaa Kway-Geer -Tanzanian member of Parliament and Refilwe Modiselle- a South African super-model, who are successfully living their lives. While settling for the persecution of albinos is a no go area, albinos all over Africa should be treated as free citizens that they are and also encouraged to attain greater heights because they can. The society should endeavor to help build up the self-esteem of this beautiful group of people.