During eleven days in August 2014, 3 brutal attacks, and 2 attempted attacks, were directed against persons with albinism, also known as “albinos.” The attacks result from societal stigma and the belief that the body parts of persons with albinism can bring good fortune when used by witch doctors to create good luck potions. This rampage of brutality has left the country’s population of people with albinism in a state of immobilizing fear. Since 2006 there have been at least 151 murders and attacks on persons with albinism in Tanzania. It is believed that most attacks go unreported.
On 5 August a 15 year old girl was brutally attacked at her home in Tabora Region as she ate dinner with her family. The assailants hacked off her right arm just below the elbow. The men disappeared into the darkness with her arm. The girl lost a lot of blood and was semiconscious when brought to hospital. Police have arrested three men in connection with the attack, including a neighbour who is a known witchdoctor. Eye witnesses who have spoken to police have since received death threats. “I am asking the police to move me to a safer place and protect me because bad men might come back to kill me” the girl said later. According to advocacy group Under the Same Sun (UTSS), a witch doctor had received an order from a wealthy client indicating a price of $600 USD.
On the same day as this attack, the girl’s uncle, who also has albinism, narrowly escaped an attempt on his life as he walked to his father’s village. He was chased by two men holding machetes. He said he heard the men shouting, “Let’s cut him! Let’s cut him now!” When interviewed, he indicated that they were the same gang that had attacked his niece. He ran as fast as he could and fortunately escaped.
A week later, on 14 August, a young man with albinism was found dead in Kinyerezi on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam. His mutilated body had been dumped in a swamp. Sections of skin on his upper torso had been removed. The skin of persons with albinism is in high demand for witchcraft rituals.
On 16 August a 35 year old mother of seven children was brutally attacked at her home in the Igunga District in Tabora Region. Two attackers cut off her left arm before fleeing. Her husband was beaten to death while defending his wife and two of their children sustained injuries. One suspect has been arrested.
Peter Ash, the founder and CEO of UTSS, and himself a person with albinism commented, “my brothers and sisters with albinism in Tanzania are facing an unprecedented crisis. They have no place that is safe. Law enforcement and the judiciary have been impotent in addressing this human rights crisis. Only 5% of the 151 cases of murder and attacks have reached prosecution in the Tanzanian courts to date.”