Dar es Salaam. A coalition of non-government organisations (NGOs) warned here today, November 7, 2022, that people with albinism in Tanzania risk being persecuted if the government will not take “immediate and serious” measures to protect them.
Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition (THRDC) and Tanzania Albinism Society (TAS) made a joint statement following the death of Joseph Mathias.
Mathias, 50, died on November 2, 2022, in Mwanza after losing a lot of blood caused by the hacking off of his right arm by persecutors, something that the NGOs think was motivated by nothing apart from his albinism.
According to the United Nations, some 75 albinos were reportedly killed between 2000 and 2016 in Tanzania.
UN names the East African nation as one of the sub-Saharan African countries where ritual killings of albinos are prevalent, with estimates of 1 in 1,400 people being affected.
Thanks to coordinated efforts by authorities and NGOs, no incident of albino persecution was reported in Tanzania since 2016.
But stakeholders fear that if deliberate efforts are not taken, the relief people with albinism have been enjoying now will go away before very long.
LHRC Executive Director Anna Henga told journalists during a joint press conference at the centre’s office in Dar es Salaam that strict legal actions against all perpetrators of persecution of people with albinism need to be taken.
“These [legal] measures are important because they will act as a deterrent to others,” Ms Henga told journalists. “The perpetrators include the witch doctors. Deliberate efforts to disrupt the market of albino body parts should be taken.”
Actors like the UN have associated Tanzania’s spate of brutal attacks and killings of people with albinism with myths and witchcraft.
A complete set of albino organs in Tanzania is priced at about $75 000 by criminal networks serving wealthy clients, according to research by ENACT, an NGO that deals with human security.
A living albino costs $340 000, the organisation adds.
“These values make the illicit trade in albinos one of the most lucrative and harmful forms of human trafficking worldwide,” the organisation concluded.
“Tanzania needs specific legislation and increased local-level advocacy on organ trafficking to protect people with albinism,” it noted.
Mussa Kabimba, the chairperson of the Tanzania Albinism Society (TAS), thinks that the government leaves a lot of responsibility to stop the persecution of people with albinism in Tanzania to NGOs and not doing much itself.
“There also appears to be no national-level strategy on how the government is going to ensure our safety amid these constant threats,” Mr Kabimba told journalists.
“I cannot see a willingness on the part of the government to address this problem,” Mr Kabimba added. “I see only emergency plans. But what long-term strategies to deal with this problem? I cannot see any.”
Lukelo Francis is The Chanzo journalist based in Dar es Salaam Tanzania. He can be reached at email@example.com.