On Life, love and Politics

"Random musings about Life, love and Politics. Just my open diary on the events going on in the world as I see it."

10,000 Albinos In Hiding After Killings In East Africa November 29, 2009

Filed under: Society/Societe — kikenileda @ 12:11 PM


Kenya — The mistaken belief that albino body parts have magical powers
has driven thousands of Africa's albinos into hiding, fearful of losing
their lives and limbs to unscrupulous dealers who can make up to
$75,000 selling a complete dismembered set.

Mary Owido, who lacks pigment that gives color to skin, eyes and
hair, says she is only comfortable when at work or at home with her
husband and children.

I go people start talking about me, saying that my legs and hands can
fetch a fortune in Tanzania," said Owido, 36, a mother of six. "This
kind of talk scares me. I am afraid of going out alone."

Since 2007, 44 albinos have been killed in Tanzania and 14 others
have been slain in Burundi, sparking widespread fear among albinos in
East Africa.

At least 10,000 have been displaced or gone into hiding since the
killings began, according to a report released this week by the
International Federation for the Red Cross and Crescent societies.

East Africa's latest albino murder happened in Tanzania's Mwanza
region in late October, when albino hunters beheaded 10-year-old Gasper
Elikana and chopped off his leg, the report said. The killing left
Elikana's father, who tried to defend his son, seriously injured.

Albinism is a hereditary condition, but occurs only when both
parents have albinism genes. All six of Owido's children have normal
skin color.

African albinos endure insults, discrimination and segregation
throughout their lives. They also have a high risk of contracting skin
cancer in a region where many jobs are outdoors.

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Owido, a high school teacher in the western Kenyan town of Ahero,
says she was forced to transfer from a better teaching job on the
Kenya-Tanzania border town of Isebania in 2008 after an albino girl she
knew was murdered and her body parts chopped off.

The surge in the use of albino body parts as good luck charms is a
result of "a kind of marketing exercise by witch doctors," the
International Federation for the Red Cross and Crescent societies said.

The report says the market for albino parts exists mainly in
Tanzania, where a complete set of body parts – including all limbs,
genitals, ears, tongue and nose – can sell for $75,000. Wealthy buyers
use the parts as talismans to bring them wealth and good fortune.

"Albinism is one of the most unfortunate vulnerabilities," said
International Federation for the Red Cross and Crescent societies
Secretary General Bekele Geleta. "And it needs to be addressed
immediately at an international level."

The chairman of the Albino Association of Kenya, Isaac Mwaura,
called the murders deplorable but said the killings have given albinos
a platform to raise awareness.

Almost 90 percent of albinos living in the region were raised by
single mothers, Mwaura said, because the fathers believed their wives
were having affairs with white men.

"When I was born my father said his family tree doesn't have such children and left us," Mwaura said.

Some African communities believe that albinos are harbingers of
disaster, while others mistakenly think albinos are mentally retarded
and discourage their parents from taking them to school, saying it's a
waste of money, he said.

Due to a lack of education, many albinos are illiterate and are
forced into menial jobs, exposing them to the sun and skin cancer, he
said. Those who manage to finish school face discrimination in the work
place and are never considered for promotions.

"People are very blind to albinism but it is very visible. Now that
we have this issue in Tanzania is when people have started to talk
about albinism," Mwaura said. "Before there was a studious silence."


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