Albinism is a pathological condition of hereditary character, due to a genetic mutation that prevents synthesize melanin pigments necessary to the normal skin-fold. Although, globally it is estimated that it is affected one in 17 thousand, in East Africa, especially in Burundi, Mozambique and Tanzania, the incidence is much higher to around an albino every 1,500 inhabitants.
- Saturday, 07 May 2016
Life for many young Africans born with this inherited metabolic abnormality is hard, because poverty and ignorance lead rural people to take refuge in superstition, which believes albinos beings bearers of the evil eye or otherwise provided with magical powers.
Because of this belief, in some areas in the east of the continent albinos are considered as a divine punishment, while in other areas the body parts are used as talismans or ingredients to create “miraculous” potions that can heal from disease and bring business to thrive.
This entire means that albinos are victims of attacks, killings and mutilations. For example, the belief that having sex with an albino can cure AIDS, often leads to even rapes against children.
In the last decade, attacks have increased also spreading in urban areas and according to data provided by Under the Same Sun, Canadian non-profit organization committed to defending albinos’ rights, at least 166 people were killed and 273 attacked in 25 different African nations.
Numerous incidents of violence were also recorded in another East African country: Malawi, where police from the beginning of 2016 has recorded 55 attacks against albinos. While last year in the former British protectorate have been sued numerous abductions of people with albinism, which caused the death of at least eleven of them.
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A crisis disturbing in its proportions
To monitor the situation, a team of observers of the Council for Human Rights of the United Nations from 18 to 29 April it traveled to the African country. The conclusions drawn at the end of the mission from Ikponwosa Ero, a United Nations expert for the problems related to albinism, are nothing short of alarming.
According to Ero, the current situation constitutes a disturbing crisis in its proportions. This is demonstrated by the approximately 10 thousand albinos Malawians at risk of extinction due to the constant increase in murders. Ritual murders perpetrated to sell their body parts on the black market and then use them in rituals of witchcraft, for their alleged magical qualities.
Lady Ero, herself suffering from albinism, he added that even in death albinos can not rest in peace because their remains are stolen from cemeteries.
The UN independent expert did not fail to point out that the basis of the violence on albinos there are economic reasons. It is also confirmed by what happens in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, where the sale of parts of the body of people living with albinism is a business often considered very profitable.
On the same days in which UN observers were in Malawi, police discovered around the capital Lilongwe a corpse of a 21-year-old girl, killed her because albino. From the body, found in a sack and buried in a pit, some bones were missing, probably removed as deemed useful to perform black magic rituals.
The agents have arrested ten persons accusing them of the cruel crime. The main suspect is the uncle of the victim, a 38-year-old man, who along with his accomplices would drag the girl on a farm and then kill her.
According to the spokesperson of the local police, Kondwani Kandiado, probably the murderers would have acted because they knew that the bones of albinos could bring much money.
The dramatic Tanzanian reality
But the African country where ever people with albinism live the most dramatic situation is Tanzania, where still “Under the Same Sun”, noted that last year there were a total of 160 acts of violence against them, including 76 murders.
The country along with Burundi, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland is part of the “commercial” circuit where the body parts mutilated albinos are sold.
In addition, Tanzania records a very high percentage of people with this condition much higher than in developed countries. The main cause of this widespread disease would be due to inbreeding. In fact, all albinos having to live in isolation because of persecution, they marry each other and have children.
Cinema has also devoted attention to the tragic situation of violence against albinos in African countries. Movies like “White Shadow” directed by Noaz Deshe, winner in 2013 of the First Film Prize at the Venice Film Festival, or Harry Freeland’s “In the shadow of the sun”, One World Media Award 2013 for Best Documentary, have upset juries and made known to the public this cruel reality.