New initiative launched to stop albino persecution

17Jun 2016
Henry Mwangonde
The Guardian
New initiative launched to stop albino persecution
  • The plan of action outlines a number of specific measures aimed at solving a problem that has haunted the country for almost two decades

THE United Nations (UN) has laid down a comprehensive plan of action with specific measures aimed at bringing to an end the continual mutilations and killings of people with albinism in Tanzania.

Ikponwosa Ero

The roadmap, according to UN independent albinism expert Ikponwosa Ero, will involve establishing a committee made up of representatives from various government ministries and other stakeholders.

The committee will be tasked with coordinating collective efforts to ensure serious and in-depth follow-ups on issues related to the welfare and rights of people living with Albinism.

In an exclusive interview with The Guardian yesterday, Ero said the proposed actions will be effected after broad consultations and in-depth information gathering.

The UN official is in the country to coordinate the first-ever UN Forum for Action on Albinism in Africa which opened in Dar es Salaam yesterday and winds up today.

UN officials estimate that about 75 Tanzanians with albinism have been killed since 2000, many of them hacked to death and their body parts removed. Scores have had their limbs mutilated and been left in agony.

According to Ero, the government, the international community, and Tanzanians as a people all have a role to play in conducting research to find out reasons and motivations for constant albino attacks, apart from witchcraft.

The roadmap also recommends that steps should be consolidated to ensure that people living with Albinism are well taken care of through creating a safe environment giving them access to police protection, communication and their secure homes.

“The aim is to make sure that in the next two to four years, there should be no any occurrence of such barbaric incidents,” she said.

Protecting the victims of such attacks will also be key part of the plan by ensuring they are given proper treatment and counseling to deal with and overcome the horrors they went through.

Ero said it was sad that incidents of albino attacks are now being reported with alarming regularity from neighbouring Malawi, saying this may me4an the problem is spreading across the continent.

On other underlying contributing factors to albino attacks, she cited poverty, ignorance and “lack of understanding on albinism, impunity and myths around albinism.”

On why the attacks remain more prevalent in Tanzania than in other African countries in Africa and the world over, she responded:

“It’s likely because of the uneasy transition from a socialist-type economy to capitalism. The apparent unfairness of capitalism probably frustrates many and makes them start embracing strange beliefs, greedy thoughts and get-rich-quick schemes.”

Asked to give her views on alleged laxity in the enforcement of capital punishment – a laxity which some defenders of people with albinism argue tends to encourage more attacks - Ero was emphatic in saying:

“I don’t support the death penalty. There are so many things wrong with it. Nearly 80 per cent of African countries have abolished the death penalty in law and in practice. There are other effective and far less problematic punitive and preventive measures to take.”

She expressed optimism that if the new roadmap is properly implemented and supported by all stakeholders, the attacks and senseless killings of people with albinism in Tanzania and the rest of Africa can become a thing of the past.

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