People with albinism cling to hope as elections near

27Feb 2020
Aisia Rweyemamu
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
People with albinism cling to hope as elections near

​​​​​​​ PEOPLE living with Albinism (PWA) in the country say there have been impressive improvements in their welfare in the last decade, expressing hope that things remain the same this election year.

This is informed by the past situation whereby there have been incidents of attacks including killings or chopping of body parts of PWA during election years, associated with superstitious beliefs.

Speaking to this paper in Dar es Salaam yesterday, a lawyer for PWA advocacy organization Under The Same Sun (UTSS) for Tanzania, Maduhu William said sensitization efforts that have been going on for 11 years, seeing a decline of cases of attacks against PWA.

“Civic elections late last year took place without any incident of attack. We hope that the general elections slated for October this year will also pass without attacks,” he said.

He called on various election stakeholders in the country, including political parties, to provide equal opportunities to PWA when they contest various positions during election.

UTSS asked the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to put in place guidelines that would provide equal treatment for all candidates to avoid humiliation for people with albinism.

“There has been a tendency by some electoral stakeholders to stigmatize and make abusive remarks on people with albinism, a factor that is demoralizing,” William explained.

He said there was tremendous success in education for the PWA, with the number of who joined higher level education having increased than ever before.

The lawyer said, for the past 11 years a total of 420 students have been benefited with education support from UTSS at various levels of education, and some of them are now graduates.

He said previously the stigma on PWA was so high as public awareness was low, but now the situation has changed. The stigma has decreased dramatically and public awareness is high, he stated.

“Cases of child abandonment have decreased compared to previous years when the centers were flooded, but now the situation is calm and many children have returned to their parents,” he stated.

He said there has been great success in employment as many people with albinism have been identified and given good positions in different institutions.

“We applaud appointments of our colleagues to top government positions, including as envoy to foreign capitals and as permanent secretary for the ministry,” he said, expressing gratitude to the fifth phase government for “recognizing the potential of PWA and protecting our rights.”

UTSS has also thanked President John Magufuli for expressing his touching concern for people with albinism and refusing to grant pardon to those convicted of murdering PWA.

The organization has also expressed their concern over the delay of cases, saying that there is a pending case since 2008 to the present without judgment being delivered.

Despite the successes there are still minor challenges including the excavation of graves and take out body parts, he pointed out.

However, in 2015 four people were sentenced to death after being found guilty of murdering an albino woman, and in 2016 16 people were sentenced to death on conviction of killing albinos.

In 2017, the High Court sentenced six men to 20 years in jail each for chopping off the hand of an albino boy in the hope of selling it as a witchcraft charm.

Then in 2018 the court sentenced four people to life imprisonment after they were convicted of chopping off the arm of a person with albinism.