The brutally mutilated body of one-year-old Yohana Bahati was found on Tuesday, February 17th, a few miles from his homestead in The United Republic of Tanzania in East Africa. His limbs were “hacked off” according to local police Chief Joseph Konyo. Yohana was born with a congenital condition called albinism which causes an absence of pigmentation in an individual’s skin, hair, and eyes.
Tanzanian witch-doctors covet the bodies of people born with albinism, superstitiously claiming that they bring “good fortune and wealth”, according to The Guardian News. The Red Cross says that an intact set of limbs and other body parts goes for as much as $75,000 in Tanzania, causing the country’s albino population to be vulnerable to kidnappings and murder by armed gangs who seek money in return for the bodies from those practicing the rituals.
The country’s UN Chief, Alvaro Rodriquez, claims that since the year 2000, over 74 albino individuals have been murdered in Tanzania. The horrendous abductions and killings started receiving media attention this past December when Pendo Emmanuelle Nundi, a four-year-old Tanzania girl with albinism, was seized from her home by an armed gang. According to The Guardian News, her body has yet to be recovered, but there have been over 15 arrests made in regard to her case. Unfortunately, one of the suspects is her own father.
Josephat Torner, an albino Tanzanian activist who seeks protection for those in his country with albinism, told VICE News that as the demand for albino body parts grows higher, it is becoming common for parents of albino children to turn against them, selling them to the superstitious. “I have found many parents who have been convicted for this,” he said, “They sold their children to the killers.”
Although the media attention around the abduction of Nundi resulted in Tanzania outlawing witchcraft this past December, it is still apparent from Bahati’s case that the barbaric practices are continuing, and there is fear that they will not come to an end.
Rodriguez claimed to Agence France-Presse news agency, (AFP), that “These attacks are accompanied by a high degree of impunity, and while Tanzania has made efforts to combat the problem, much more must be done to put an end to these heinous crimes and to protect this vulnerable segment of the population.”
The year of 2015 brings along political elections in Tanzania, and while one can hope that this will be a step toward new protections and security for the targeted victims of the country, to date it has only led to more violence. The UN told AFP that there are many corrupt politicians who commonly invest their luck in the practices of witch-doctors with the hope of winning the elections. Rodriguez fears that “it could be a dangerous year for people living with albinism.”
Still, determined activist Torner has hope for the people of his country who are facing the same condition and threats as he, and seeks justice for victims like Bahati and Nundi. “I am pushing to the Tanzania government to protect us more,” he told VICE News. “We are Tanzanian citizens. We need to be protected like other people, the way how they are being protected. I will continue to fight; I will not give up for sure.”