United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay has condemned the abhorrent attacks on people with albinism in the country, saying the government ought to bring to just the perpetrators.
In a press statement released on Tuesday, Pillay said she was shocked by reports of an upsurge in attacks against people with albinism in Tanzania, and called on authorities in the country to take stringent measures to halt the vice and tackle the discrimination.
“I strongly condemn these vicious killings and attacks which are committed in particularly horrifying circumstances which have involved dismembering people including children, while they are still alive,” Pillay said.
Four new attacks targeting people with albinism, three of whom were children, were documented in Tanzania in a period of 16 days.
On January 31, Lugolola Bunzari, a seven year-old boy with albinism was brutally murdered in Kanunge village, Tabora region.
The attackers slashed his forehead, right arm and left shoulder, and chopped off his left arm just above the elbow. The boy’s grandfather, aged 95, was also killed in the attack as he tried to protect his grandson.
On February 5, a seven month-old baby, Makunga Baraka, narrowly escaped death after armed men attacked his home in Simiyu region. Villagers chased away the attackers and surrounded the house to protect him. The baby and his mother were taken to the police station the following morning and given temporary sanctuary.
Another incident was on February 11 this year when Maria Chambanenge, a 39 year-old woman with albinism being attacked by five armed men, allegedly including her husband, in Mkowe village, Rukwa region. They hacked off her left arm while she was sleeping with two of her four children.
The five suspects were subsequently arrested and the victim’s arm recovered. Their trial is reported to be under way.
Also on February 15, Mwigulu Matonange, a 10-year-old boy with albinism was attacked on his way home from school, had his left arm chopped off above the elbow by two unidentified men in Msia village, Rukwa region. Three people were arrested in connection with the attack.
The killing and dismembering of people with albinism is often linked to witchcrafts. Some practitioners allegedly also believe that witchcraft is more powerful if the victim screams during the amputation, which explains why the body parts are often cut from live victims.
The UN statement pointed out that successful prosecutions are extremely rare whereby out of the 72 murders of people with albinism documented in Tanzania since 2000, only five cases are reported to have resulted in successful prosecutions.
“These crimes are abhorrent…People with albinism have the right to live like anyone else, without fear of being killed or dismembered. The Tanzanian authorities have the primary responsibility to protect people with albinism, and to fight against impunity, which is a key component for prevention and deterrence of the crimes targeting this exceptionally vulnerable people,” said Pillay.
She urged Tanzanian authorities to strengthen their legal response to such crimes and to bring the perpetrators of the attacks and killings to justice.
“Apart from physically protecting people with albinism, the government needs to take a much stronger and more pro-active approach to education and awareness-raising campaigns to combat the stigma attached to albinism,” she said.
She also encouraged authorities to guarantee the victims' right to redress, and to provide them with medical and psychosocial treatment, as well as legal support.
“I am deeply alarmed by the general discrimination and social exclusion many people with albinism suffer, as a result of their skin colour, not just in Tanzania but in other countries as well,” Pillay said, noting that families of children with albinism frequently neglect their education.
She went on to state that, “People with albinism are a group with special health needs, they are, however, perfectly capable of looking after themselves, if their societies do not marginalize them. Much more attention needs to be devoted to their predicament in Tanzania, and elsewhere.”