The recent discovery of a badly mutilated body of a person with albinism (PWA) at Nambala Village in Kikwe Ward, Arumeru District, has created fear and dismay among the community in Arusha Region.
The body, which was discovered on 26th May 2012 by children was badly mutilated and left without clothes on, on a stone in the middle river Nambala.
Narrating the sad story, Jeremiah Thomas Ayo (59) who is the Mbughuni Ward Educational Officer and lives near the scene of the crime, says it was a strong smell, which raised the alarm that there was something wrong somewhere. “There was this pungent smell similar to that of a dead animal for about five to seven days before the body was discovered. At first I thought it was a dog or one of my animals,” says Ayo.
On 26th May before going to work he instructed his children and a worker that they should not rest until they found where the smell that made them uncomfortable originated.
The shocked children called him on the phone to inform him that they had found a body in the nearby spring river of Nambala.
Ayo went to the scene where he saw the naked mutilated body of a man aged between 25 and 30 with many of his organs missing. "There were no ears, the skin on his face had been peeled off, his hair shaved; arms hacked off, the tongue and the front part of his neck had been removed.
“Large parts of his bottoms and genitals had been chopped off. His trousers were pulled down to his ankles. The body was placed on a stone face down." Ayo narrated to the shocked UTSS staff, the Arumeru, District Commissioner, one Nyerembe, Police Officer and the Tanzania Albino Society (TAS) members who visited the scene of the crime.
He said that the Arumeru District Hospital doctor who arrived with the police, examined the body and confirmed that it was that of a man with albinism.
A dark blue T-shirt and a white china plate were also left there. Ayo said the T-Shirt belonged to the dead man, wondering why the police left some crucial evidence at the scene.
According to Ayo, the assailants carefully chose the location (where the body was found) because it was surrounded by thick bushes and a forest of old indigenous trees where they could remove the organs and then wash their clothes and hands without any problem.
Among the first adult witnesses to see the body was Mzee Joachim Phabian Shirima (72) who suggested that perhaps the stone was used as a table where the body was laid for easy cutting and removal of the organs they wanted.
“After finishing what they did, they just disappeared into the dark night without a trace. These killers have acted like animals. They did not even have the courtesy to cover the body,” Shirima says.
Shirima suggested that the murder could have taken place elsewhere and the body brought to the area for chopping off the organs. The police say that they are still investigating the incident.
He says that there was no evidence of any struggle on the grass and muddy area surrounding the stone where the body was placed. However he also says that many days have passed and that all the time it was raining in Nambala village. Shirima points out that it could have been the work of people who wanted to use the organs at nearby Mererani Tanzanite mines about 40 kilometers from the village or for use in witchcraft beliefs. He denies though that the indigenous people from the area use such witchcraft for riches and success. "We have been hearing from the media that albino organs are used in the minerals and also for making people wealthy and successful. But that is practiced in the Lake Zone not here in my village," he told the delegation.
Another witness, Beatrice (27) who lives in the area, says they were experiencing the same problem of a strong smell, which was felt in their house but did not know where it was emanating from.
She says although their house was near the place where the incident took place, they never heard any commotion when it happened.
The Nambala Village Chairman, Ramadhan Amani (53) says the killing of PWA was the first one in the village. He urged his fellow villagers to be vigilant when they meet strange people.
Amani remembers that a few years ago unknown people dumped a dead body of a Taxi driver from Arusha city in his village and he thinks the Nambala village forest is a hiding place for criminals.
Meanwhile, speaking at a press conference in Arusha City, the Tanzania Albino Society (TAS) Arusha branch chairperson, Godson Mollel says his association condemned the killing of PWA in the country and Arusha in particular.
He urged to the public at large who have lost a member of the family, a neighbour or a friend with albinism to visit Mount Meru Hospital to identify the body in the morgue and report to the police.
He said so far no one has shown up to claim the body for burial services, implying that the dead person may not be from Arusha Municipality and called on the media to publish the information.
“When we got the information, we knew he was one of us but we cannot say where he is from as the body has decomposed,” says Mollel.
Speaking to press, the Executive Director of Under The Same Sun (UTSS) Tanzania, Vicky Ntetema said the current killing of the PWA in Arusha was not the first, saying back in September 2007 an 18-month old child with albinism (CWA) was murdered by his own father.
She warned that persons with albinism are still not safe in the country and called on the government and the public in general to protect PWAs.
"It is our responsibility as Tanzanians to ensure that we make the country a safe place for all of us. It is very easy to control the killings and protect our brothers and sisters with albinism if we all put our mind to it.
“The ten-cell system should be used to count PWA and when they are missing from home or work it will be easy to trace their whereabouts, report to the police and conduct a search immediately," says Ntetema.
She added that the recent attacks against persons with albinism confirmed her concerns that albinism-related killings of PWA continue without being reported. She notes that within three months (since March 2012) there have been five attacks, including two albinism-related murders and three attempted murders. Also during this period there have been reports of an abduction and transporting of a boy with albinism allegedly from Tanzania to Burkina Faso.
On the state of the recently murdered Arumeru PWA, Ntetema admits that during her career she has seen many badly mutilated bodies, but the one at hand cannot be compared with any of those. "This is the most despicable crime against humanity she has ever come across. These butchers have to be found! Government leaders have to say and do something about this. These killings have to end!" Ntetema challenges the law makers and the government officials to stop the killings!
Sweeping the matter under the carpet for fear of "tarnishing the image of Tanzania" as many of you keep on saying will not help the country to be a safe enough environment for PWA to live in!", says Ntetema.