21.10.2008 Africa

Albino Girl Killed For Witchcraft

By Sky News
Albino Girl Killed For WitchcraftAlbino Girl Killed For Witchcraft
21.10.2008 LISTEN

A gang murdered and mutilated a 10-year-old albino girl in Tanzania - because they wanted to sell her body parts to witch doctors.

Esther Charles was killed in Shilela in the western region of the African country on Sunday.

She died just hours after President Jakaya Kikwete called for a crackdown on gangs, saying the killing of albinos has "stained the country's good image".

At least 26 other albinos, mostly women and children, have been killed in different parts of the east African country over the past year.

Albinos lack melanin pigment in the skin, eyes and hair, which protects from the sun's ultraviolet rays.

But witch doctors believe they have magical powers to bring fortune, and discrimination against albinos is rife across sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2007, police in Tanzania reported several cases of people digging up the bodies of children to remove organs, in many cases the genitals and eyes, to make potions used in rituals.

Shilela councillor Joseph Manyara told a rally organised by the Tanzania Albino Society (TAS): "It is utterly stupid for some people to believe that albinos have magic powers and their parts can make them rich.

"People should be provided with education to understand that it is only through hard working that they can prosper in life and not through selling albinos' body parts."

Police said they have arrested 47 people suspected to be involved in the killings this year.

But TAS chairman Ernest Kimaya blasted authorities over the speed at which the murders were solved.

He said: "We are yet to witness any convictions and incidents of the murder of albinos are on the rise."

There are about 150,000 albinos in the country, and more than 8,000 of them are registered with the TAS.

Some families kill albino babies upon birth, Tanzanian authorities say.

And authorities in Kenya and Burundi, where albino killings have also been reported in recent months, have started to give added protection.

Some reports say albino skin is prized in the Democratic Republic of Congo, another troubled African nation where superstition is high.