Business in the body parts of persons with albinism (PWA) is increasingly becoming a cross border trade.
The founder and CEO of Under The Same Sun (UTSS), Peter Ash, told a press conference here yesterday that he has reasons to believe that an unidentified three-year old boy with albinism transported on a flight bound for Burkina Faso without any travel documents was a case of human trafficking.
He alleged that three men travelling with the boy were of African origin with French accent and were on transit from Tanzania heading to Ouagadougou.
“We have evidence and proof that there is a cross border trade where a PWA may be killed in one country and body parts sold in another, or may be abducted in one country and transported to another for one to be killed and so on,” Ash stresses.
He went on to say that the child was with three men who looked suspicious and were flying to Burkina Faso via Nairobi, Kenya. The child was said to be travelling with them on the flight to the West African country.
When asked by reporters how he got the information of the alleged kidnapped boy reached him, Ash said that UTSS office had received an email from one Dr Pius Kamau who witnessed the incident in Kenya. Dr Kamau is a Kenyan-American national who was at the airport on 18th April 2012 when the alleged incident took place. The reporter of this article has obtained the following extract from the email sent to Ash.
“I write to tell you about my recent experience at the Nairobi airport which has left me devastated, confused and uncertain about what to do with the hope that you perhaps can look into this and if possible save a life.
I saw a three year old African albino in the company of three really disagreeable men who were arguing with the airline attendant about the child's lack of a passport on April 18th at about noon. They had come from Tanzania and were headed to Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso. Eventually they were allowed to fly off with the child. Even though I wondered about the whole scene I did nothing and not sure I could have done anything. However, since last week I have been unable to think of much else other than the fate of the little albino boy, a likely sacrifice in witchcraft. I had heard of it before but seeing that child's innocent face and the three men's almost palpable sense of evil has brought it into focus for me. This is sadly on going in certain parts of Africa and is something I feel must be rooted out if we are to save albino children like the one I saw from unnecessary cruelty and inhumanity. I am not sure if there is anything you can do from that end and if you think I can help find this boy.
I am unable to forget this poor child's face. I was in Africa to continue to build a network of women scientists to come to the US for their PhD training and was on my way to Makerere College when I witnessed the incident I recount above. Many thanks. Dr. Pius Kamau”.
Ash said UTSS Headquarters in Canada has documentation of the killings from West Africa, South Africa and East Africa and that atrocities, discrimination and stigma against PWA is not a Tanzanian issue, but an African problem. “The killings of PWA, grave robberies and physical attacks that have been occurring in Tanzania have also been taking place in other countries of Africa and the world at large.”
Two weeks ago, the UTSS CEO contacted the airline concerned, Canadian High Commission in Kenya, The UN and several other agencies with the information in the hope of tracing the child with albinism. Hitherto, there has not been a single word from airline.
He wondered how a child of that age can travel without a passport, without a mother or without proper identification through an airport. “All the governments can point fingers at each other and everyone can try washing their hands that it is not their problem.
But who cares for the child, for his well being? Is he still alive? Is he dead? Have his body parts already been sold or is he being kept captive somewhere? What if that was your son?” Ash asks.
“I am a Canadian, as soon as I heard this information I couldn’t sleep, I kept emailing and phoning all night to find the whereabouts of the child. There is a tremendous lack of concern,” Ash told the press.
He called on the East African media to hold accountable the airline who he said have a CCTV footage at the airport, passenger manifest and flight attendants which could help in tracing the child.
Ash says he is sure there is a cross border activity and urged the Tanzanian Police, Interpol and Kenyan Police to work together on the issue.