Published: December 18, 2015 Updated 16:22 GMT By: Reuters
Ritual killings, witch trials go unpunished in Liberia
DAKAR, Dec 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Liberia must tackle a widespread culture of impunity for perpetrators of ritual killings and trials of ordeal and put its human rights obligations before such traditional practices, the United Nations rights chief said on Friday.
Authorities are reluctant to investigate or prosecute such cases, fearful of a backlash from practitioners and politicians, while some state officials are even part of the secret societies that perform the practices, said a U.N. report.
Women, children, the elderly and the disabled are the main victims of harmful cultural practices, including female genital mutilation (FGM) and initiation into secret societies, it said.
“Criminal offences perpetrated through harmful traditional practices often go unpunished due to their perceived cultural dimensions,” said the joint report from the U.N. Mission in Liberia and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“This has generated a widespread culture of impunity among traditional actors,” it said.
Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last month vowed to crack down on those responsible for a rise in ritual killings in the West African nation.
Nine cases of suspected ritualistic killing have been reported to the United Nations since 2012, but local media say there have been at least 10 related murders since this summer. (italics added by the webmaster FVDK).
They occur in some African nations due to a belief that body parts can work magic to obtain success or political power.
It is not yet clear why ritual killings are rising, but the report warned of an increase ahead of national elections in 2017, and some residents have speculated that presidential hopefuls are using black magic to boost their chances.
The report also documented the prevalence of FGM, widely performed by the women’s secret society Sande, and abductions, torture and gang-rapes carried out by the male society Poro.
Many women and children in Liberia are accused of witchcraft, and face “exorcism” rituals, trials by ordeal, expulsion or even death, according to the report.
The trials involve the accused being subjected to pain, such as poison or burning, to determine their innocence or guilt.
“Liberia’s human rights obligations must take precedence over any local practices considered to be ‘cultural’ or ‘traditional’ where such practices are incompatible with human rights,” said U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
The following article can be found in the AllAfrica archive, which requires a subscription. Unfortunately, the original article, which was published by The News, a Liberian newspaper, is no longer available on the internet. Interested readers are advised to follow the instructions below. (Webmaster FVDK).
The Recent Wave of ritual killings in Liberia have got the entire country petrified, particularly in Monrovia where the bodies of several people allegedly killed for ritual purposes are found. These killings continue to occur in spite of commitment by the Liberian government that it would deal with the situation.
Last Month, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf vowed to crack down on those responsible for ritual killings in the country. Yet, it would appear no progress has been made by the government to set a dragnet for those responsible for killing innocent men, women and children.
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Few cases of ritualistic murders have been reported recently from Namibia. This does not mean that ritual killings do not occur in this country. By definition these heinous crimes take place ‘in the dark’. Years ago, I reported some cases of ritual murders in Namibia on my website Liberia Past and Present. Unfortunately, the links then provided have expired by now. Consequently, the information related to these cases is minimal. Notwithstanding this scant information I decided to include here what I then reported. For the sake of history. (Webmaster FVDK).
WINDHOEK – A three-year-old boy from Kazauli village in the Caprivi Region was murdered in a case suspected to be associated with ritualistic muti killing. (…) There are no statistics of the number of muti murders in Namibia. November 24, 2008 (expired link)
(…) the gruesome murder of a 79-year-old woman whose head was found floating on the Kavango River (…) The elderly woman’s head was found at Shadikongoro village near Mukwe, about 180 kilometres east of Rundu, on Sunday after she disappeared on New Year’s Eve. It is suspected that she was killed for muti (traditional medicine) purposes. January 6, 2005 (expired link)
The ritual murder case referred to in the text below is a very old one: over 65 years. The reason why I include it here is two-fold.
First, because it is a case of ritual murder that reveals the ‘social’ motives of the culprits: to protect the interests of the community (village). Historically, ritual murders were human sacrifices meant to safeguard the interests of the family or community.
The second reason is that it clearly illustrates why, for the present blog, I use the method of ‘copy-paste’ of the entire, original article (with explicit mention of the source and author of the article). In the past – for my website on Liberia – I summarized the contents of articles on ritual murders in African countries and added a link to the source. Unfortunately, after a number of years I discovered that links had vanished, expired, got lost in cyberspace causing an irreparable loss. Valuable material for researchers has thus been lost. To avoid this in the future I have decided to reproduce here the original articles that are being published.
For this reason I can only include here the text as published on my Liberia website. However, the text is clear and hopefully it may ever happen that it contributes to more information on this particular murder case. (Webmaster FVDK)
An African headman, Pheelo Smith, desperately needed a human sacrifice to save his villagers’ crops. He chose his father-in-law as the victim, and the whole of the village of Maseru in Basutoland (now Lesotho) turned out to watch the ritual murder. Forty-two people were charged with being implicated in the crime, although 11 were finally charged with murder. Eight of them made a break-out from custody and fought a pitched battle with the police before they were recaptured. All 11 – nine men, who included headman Pheelo Smith, and two women – were hanged on Thursday, August 20th, 1953, at Maseru Prison.
FRANCISTOWN: Acting High Court judge Modiri Letsididi sentenced two ritual killers to a total of 27 years imprisonment yesterday. The judge said Thuri Poicho and Njayi Kamuanga were under the influence of alcohol when they committed the murder. He said he had considered everything submitted on their behalf by their attorneys Charles Tlaagae and Muriro Furusa.
“Both accused were influenced by immaturity and had pleaded guilty to the charge. That show contrition and remorse on their part,” said Letsididi.
He added that Poicho was a first offender and has no previous conviction. He noted that the accused persons have been in custody since August 2001 and the charge has been hanging on their heads ever since. The judge commented that the two have lost their previous employment as herdsmen as a result of the offence. He noted that the accused persons did not benefit from the ritual killing ordered by a certain Ntshemang. However, he said the court is duty bound to protect society and the sanctity of life. “This court should demonstrate to the society that such crimes should not be tolerated. Both accused persons participated in unprovoked assault of the deceased, cutting his private parts and tongue in order to gain. In my view, there is no worst crime than this,” said the soft-spoken judge. He noted that Kamuanga has a previous conviction for a crime committed two months before the ritual murder. Therefore, he sentenced him to 14 years and gave Poicho 13 years for the ritual killing of Aaron Phobe.
On Monday, state counsel Keneilwe Lephalo said one Ntshemang approached the convicts and showed them a lot of money if they gave him the private parts of a human being. He promised them P8 000 for the job. They then conspired to kill Phobe and get the organs. “They assaulted him with a knobkerrie on the head until he fell unconscious on the ground. They removed his tongue and genitals and then delivered them to Ntshemang who had packed his vehicle in the bush who promised to pay them P8,000 the next day,” she submitted.
The investigations led to the arrest of Poicho on August 14, 2001 at Nnyambesi cattlepost and Kamuanga at Satau cattlepost. “They were taken before a judicial officer Phetsolo Nare, where Kamuanga was the only one who deposed a confession statement. In so hitting the deceased with a knobkerrie, they intended to cause his death. They acted unlawfully and had no lawful justification for their conduct,” submitted Lephalo.
Immediately after the judge was satisfied that the accused’s plea was unequivocal, he asked the two defence attorneys whether there are any extenuating circumstances in the case. They adopted the same submission that P8,000 offered by Ntshemang was a fortune for their clients who are herdsmen and the amount had a bearing on their reasoning. In mitigation, Poicho’s attorney Tlaagae submitted that his client was unknown in criminal circles and the court should impose a sentence that would give him a chance to rehabilitate.
“He pleaded guilty, and acknowledged to the society that what he did was morally and legally wrong. He benefited nothing from P8,000 they were supposed to be paid and they never saw Ntshemang again,” submitted Tlaagae. He urged the court to impose a sentence that would not break the accused. Mitigating on behalf of Kamuanga, Furusa submitted that the court should take into consideration the personal circumstance of his client. He said Kamuanga confessed at the time of his arrest and thus saved valuable time for investigating officers and court. “He was incited by allegedly rich person to commit this crime. Ntshemang was never prosecuted and the accused has to bear punishment on behalf of Ntshemang,” said Furusa.
Further to my previous reporting on a spate of ritual murders in Tanzania – see my posting dated February 4, 2019 – more news about these heinous crimes. The Tanzanian authorities have acted swiftly, and arrested a number of businessmen suspected of involvement in the ritual killing of innocent children. The rule of law must prevail which also implies a decent and impartial trial. (Webmaster FVDK).
10 prominent businessmen arrested for ritual killing of 14 children
Published: February 4, 2019 By: Tireni Adebayo – KemiFilani News
The Speaker of the Tanzanian National Assembly, Job Ndugai, on Monday said that Tanzanian police have arrested 10 businessmen in connection with the recent killing of 10 children in the country.
Ndugai said the men were arrested in Njombe and Makambako towns.
The Speaker announced the arrest as four more children were reportedly killed in Njombe region over the weekend, bringing to 14 the number of children killed in the region over superstitious beliefs.
Parents have stopped working to enable them to escort their children to and from school, he said.
A must read. Though a very lengthy report that I reproduce here, it contains such a wealth of information on albinism, people living with albinism, their fears, their dangers, the measures taken by the Government of Tanzania, that I thought I must conserve it and present to you. I will not even try to summarize it or give some sketchy details, judge for yourself. (Webmaster FVDK)
Published: February 9, 2019 3:01AM EST By: Human Rights Watch
Many children with albinism in Tanzania share similar stories of hardship. The “temporary holding shelters” strategy introduced by the Tanzanian government in the late 2000s may have contributed to a decline in the number of physical attacks, but Human Rights Watch observed that it led to the emergence of additional challenges.
In July 2017, Human Rights Watch interviewed 13 children and young people with albinism, aged 7 to 18 years old, and 26 other people, including family members, education professionals and nongovernmental organizations in the Mwanza, Shinyanga and Simiyu regions of Tanzania. There, we found that Tanzanian government policies designed to protect children with albinism incidentally had a negative impact on their rights to family life, an adequate standard of living and inclusive education. In order to protect their privacy and shield them from potential repercussions, the names of most interviewees referred to hereafter have been changed.
While the Tanzanian government appears sensitive to these concerns, it should now intensify efforts to reinsert children with albinism into their communities and provide them with inclusive education, while continuing to investigate and prosecute those responsible for attacking children with albinism. By doing so, Tanzania has an opportunity to emerge as a strong African leader in ensuring the safety, inclusion and dignity of people with albinism, as outlined in the Regional Action Plan on Albinism in Africa, the first-ever continental strategy to address violations against people with albinism, adopted in 2017.
What Is The Best Interests of the Child Principle?
The Best Interest of the Child principle derives from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It requires state parties to prioritize the interests of the child in any action that may impact them. This includes taking into consideration the child’s own views and desires, his identity, his need for care and development and his right to a safe family and community environment. These factors should be considered altogether and balanced against one another if in contradiction. State intervention should be based on individual assessments of the particular child whose situation requires it.
Recommendations To the Government of Tanzania
Increase public sensitization efforts aimed at dispelling deadly and discriminatory myths about albinism, notably through workshops and public service announcements on radio and television, particularly in rural and isolated communities.
Ensure that all teachers in the public education system are trained to adequately provide for the specific needs of children with albinism.
Ensure that resources are at the disposal of schools to meet the specifications needed of children with albinism, notably by providing for textbooks and exams with larger fonts and assistive devices to read the blackboard.
Pursue efforts to promote the safety of people with albinism by investigating threats and crimes against people with albinism and holding those responsible to account.
Work with parents and communities to ensure the safe and orderly reunification of children with albinism with their families, with the goal of progressively dismantling the temporary holding shelters.
Recommendations to International Donors
Support projects dedicated to sensitizing the Tanzanian public to albinism and training teachers to provide for the specific needs of children with albinism in public schools.
Support the Tanzanian government in reuniting children with albinism with their families and ensuring their return to a safe, inclusive community.
Albinism in Tanzania
Albinism is a genetic condition that causes a deficit in the biosynthesis of melanin, a pigment that colours the skin, hair and eyes. While albinism is a rare condition in Europe and North America, affecting one out of about every 17,000 to 20,000 people, it is slightly more widespread in Sub-Saharan Africa, with prevalence rates of 1 in every 5,000 to 15,000 births. Tanzania’s 2012 national census identified 16,477 people with albinism. Today, it is estimated that there are over 18,000 people with albinism in the country.
People with albinism usually have a paler, whiter appearance than their relatives. The deficit of melanin can also result in low vision and an increased vulnerability to sun’s ultra-violet radiation. Consequently, people with albinism living in Sub-Saharan African are about 1,000 times more likely to develop skin cancer than the general population.
As noted by the United Nations Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, “The complexity and uniqueness of the condition means that their experiences significantly and simultaneously touch on several human rights issues including, but not limited to, discrimination based on color, discrimination based on disability, special needs in terms of access to education and enjoyment of the highest standards of health, harmful traditional practices, violence including killings and ritual attacks, trade and trafficking of body parts for witchcraft purposes, infanticide and abandonment of children.”
In many parts of East Africa, people with albinism are targeted for their body parts, which some believe hold magical powers and bring good fortune. Traditional healers and “sorcerers” have over the years claimed that people with albinism are “ghosts” who never die but merely disappear. In 2009, the International Federation of the Red Cross reported that a senior police officer in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s economic capital said that the body of a person with albinism could fetch up to US$75,000.
Over the last decade, Under the Same Sun, a Canadian non-governmental organization working to empower people with albinism, estimates that over 200 people with albinism, many of them children, have been killed in Africa or had their body parts amputated. In Tanzania alone, the group reported that at least 76 people with albinism were killed since 2006.NGOs and local groups reported that criminals have stolen bones from the exhumed remains of people with albinism.
The last reported killing, in February 2015, took place in the region of Geita, in Northwest Tanzania, when men abducted a one-year-old baby with albinism from his mother and “hacked [him] to death.” The men were said to have hit the mother with a machete when she refused to hand over her child, an activist who was with her when she woke up at the hospital told Human Rights Watch.
Faced with increased international scrutiny at the end of the 2000s, Tanzania began to mobilize resources to fight off traffickers and protect people with albinism. Local organizations told us that since 2007, hundreds of children were removed from their families, sometimes with no consultation or consent, and placed in shelters where they were effectively isolated from society.
According to activists who spoke to Human Rights Watch, orders from the government to protect people with albinism were enforced by district commissioners, who oversee security in their respective districts.
“There is an order from the district that says that if anything happens to [a] child with albinism, local leaders would be responsible. It something happens, the whole community will be suspected,” the manager of a local organization working with people with albinism told Human Rights Watch. “Because no one wants trouble in their backyard, there was a big push from the communities to send the children to the shelters.”
The Tanzanian government also moved to combat impunity for ritual crimes, notably by investigating, arresting and prosecuting those who attack or sponsor attacks against people with albinism. In 2015, the Tanzanian government announced a ban on witchdoctors, which came out of a special joint task force between the police and the Tanzanian Albinism Society. As reported by the BBC at the time, then Home Affairs Minister Mathias Chikawe declared there would be a nationwide effort to “arrest them and take them to court” if witch doctors continued their practices. Over 200 suspects, including some allegedly involved in killings of people with albinism, were reportedly arrested by the authorities.
Ten years after the wave of killings and attacks began, these appear to have decreased because of Tanzania’s protective measures and stronger response to ritual crimes and attacks against people with albinism. The temporary holding shelters, however, remain. “The shelters were emergency, temporary solutions. But 10 years is not temporary anymore,” an activist for the rights of people with albinism told Human Rights Watch.
Under international human rights law, children with albinism have the right to live in a family environment. Local NGOs are now making efforts to reunite children and families. The Tanzanian government should do more to reunite families, to combat stigma within communities and ensure that family caregivers have the financial and social support they need to care for these children.
The government’s response should be guided by the best interests of the children involved, and balance the child’s protection and safety with the preservation of the family environment and the enjoyment of other rights. This is particularly important as the government has begun to send some children from the shelters back to their communities.
Separation from the family and movement restrictions
Most of the 13 children and young adults with albinism Human Rights Watch interviewed described how the killings and the ensuing protection measures implemented by the Tanzanian government separated them from their families.
While in many cases, separation was a decision of the parents, five children said they were ordered to go to a shelter or boarding school by government officials (police or district education officers), with no regard for their parents’ consent. Human Rights Watch was not able to confirm this assertion from their parents. Once in the shelters or special boarding schools, the children’s freedom of movement was severely curtailed on security grounds.
Marco, an 18-year-old man with albinism, described to Human Rights Watch how his father had been obliged to let him go to the shelter: “When the killings and attacks happened, the government moved me to the Buhangija temporary shelter (Shinyanga region). Police officers came home and spoke to my dad but he refused to take me to Buhangija immediately because he wanted to find out more about it first. The first time, the police left without problems. The second time, they left with me.”
Augustin, a 14-year-old teenager from Shinyanga who was attacked by criminals who cut his left forearms and fingers on his right hand when he was four-year-old, said the district education officer took him to the shelter when he was seven or eight. “He picked me up at a bus stand. At first, no one explained to me why I was being taken there. I was sad at the beginning because I missed my parents. It felt like a punishment. Now, I understand it was to protect me from bad people,” he told Human Rights Watch.
The mother of Victoria, a young woman with albinism from Shinyanga region who stayed for three years in Buhangija, confirmed that parents did not have any choice but to let their children go: “The government wrote a letter to the school Victoria was attending giving notification that children with albinism should be sent to Buhangija [shelter]. We were given a specific date and time by which she had to be there, which was two days later.”
Victoria’s father added: “When the government said we had to bring Victoria to Buhangija, I didn’t know why. There was security here…. But I had to accept the order. I don’t know what would have happened if I had refused.” 
NGOs that promote the rights of people with albinism also reported pressure by the government on local schools and the community to send children away to the shelters, by threatening to hold community leaders and members accountable if a child who remained at home was attacked. “For communities, having a child with albinism among them felt like a burden – because you have to provide protection – so the shelters were a good solution to get rid of that burden. You don’t have to respond to police enquiries if something happens,” a national advocate for the rights of people with albinism told Human Rights Watch.
In addition, parents of children with albinism and organizations working with people with albinism told Human Rights Watch that regardless of whether children had been voluntarily or involuntarily placed in shelters, once they were under the protection of the state, they were no longer allowed to go home – even for vacations – without a letter from the village chairperson, approved by the district commissioner, guaranteeing the area’s safety. An NGO worker explained the process to Human Rights Watch:
The parents [must] first get a letter from the chairperson of the village and then send it to the district commissioner. The chairperson’s letter should say that the area is safe, that we know the child with albinism is visiting the parents. Without the chairperson’s letter, the district commissioner cannot issue his own letter. Some parents complain and say that they have the right to take the children home. But they generally understand.
Severin, a 14-year-old boy with albinism, said he never went home on vacation while he lived in the shelter. “Once in Buhangija [shelter], we were told we needed a letter to be allowed to go home. My parents didn’t try to get the letter. I felt bad not to be with my family during the vacations because I missed them,” he said.
The parents of Victoria, a young woman with albinism who stayed for three years in Buhangija, who have university degrees, said it was easy to obtain such a letter from the authorities. “When the parents are bringing the letter, it assures the school that there is full security in the family and in the village [for children with albinism],” the mother said. “We wouldn’t have been allowed if we had tried to bring [our daughter] home for good. It was impossible to come out of Buhangija [shelter] without permission. There was full security.”
A representative of an international NGO sponsoring the education of children with albinism told Human Rights Watch that these restrictions also apply to children who have been moved out of shelters and into private schools under their sponsorship program.
As a result of the government’s restrictions, some children had not been home for several years, and some were no longer in contact with their family. In one case, Lucy, a 12-year-old girl with albinism, told Human Rights Watch at the time of the interview that she had not seen her mother in two years and did not know where her family was:
I was 6 years old when I got to Mitindo [shelter in Mwanza]. My mother brought me there because she saw the thieves [people attacking children with albinism] and so she took me to the [shelter]. I was left there alone by my mother and I felt sad because she said she’d come back but did not. She came back only once I went [to a private school, where I am being sponsored by an international NGO] in 2015. She came only for one day to ask who was paying my school fees and asked whether they could pay for my brothers too. I don’t know why she hasn’t come back. We don’t get to speak on the phone. I don’t have her number. So I don’t know about my mother and brothers right now.
According to representatives of local organizations working with people with albinism, another reason why some children placed in shelters no longer see their family is because their parents left no records of where they came from, and tracing the family after several years is difficult.“When some parents brought their children to the shelters, some didn’t leave any contacts and in other cases they did but the phone numbers don’t work,” a local NGO worker told Human Rights Watch. A staff member of another NGO said the temporary holding shelters had become akin to orphanages: “Parents took advantage to drop their kids there. Some children with albinism have been there for four or five years now without seeing their parents.”
The separation from family exerts a heavy emotional toll on young children with albinism. Peter, an 18-year-old man who stayed at the Buhangija for eight years, said his brother was the only one visiting him. “I didn’t want to come [to the shelter]. I was too young. I used to cry all the time. I was a child, I missed my mother, my grandmother and my sister,” he told researchers. “Only my brother would come to visit. I did speak with my mother however, maybe once a month by phone. I felt good talking to her but I missed her.”
Despite the difficulties children with albinism face in the shelters, some, including Severin, said they saw advantages in living among other people with albinism: “My parents did not come to visit at Buhangija. But it was good to be with other children with albinism because we felt we had a right to stay in the world.”
To protect children with albinism from physical attacks, a number of shelters and boarding schools have enforced drastic security measures that deprive children of their freedom of movement.
In July 2017, Human Rights Watch visited Buhangija, a former boarding school for students with disabilities transformed into a temporary holding shelter for children with albinism in 2009. At the time of the visit, 226 children were living in the shelter, out of whom 142 were children with albinism (the others were deaf or blind children attending the inclusive school located next to the shelter). At the shelter, Human Rights Watch researchers observed a barren compound made up of five dormitories surrounded by tall walls topped with barbwire. Children with albinism who attend class walk about 100 meters to the school. The rest of their free time is spent within the compound, which has no recreation space or trees to provide for shade, useful in helping people with albinism shield themselves from the sun.
“My first impression of Buhangija was that it was so difficult because we were staying in [the shelter] for the whole day and I’m a very mobile person. So I first felt very bad but as days went by, I got used to it,” Marco, an 18-year-old who left the shelter in 2017 told Human Rights Watch.
The principal of a secondary boarding school that caters to children with and without albinism in Mwanza region told Human Rights Watch that the movement of children with albinism is restricted even beyond the temporary holding shelter, and in the case of his school, because it lacks resources to adequately protect them outside the compound: “The main challenge with people with albinism is protection and safety,” he explained. “I’ve been asking since last year for one district policemen to be on site at night but there isn’t enough [district]money to do that. So, we talk to those students and discourage them from walking around alone, especially at night.”
A 15-year-old girl with albinism attending that secondary boarding school said they are not allowed to leave the dormitories: “The environment here is not good. We are not allowed to stay outside because the school doesn’t have enough security. Classes usually finish at 2:15 p.m. and we have to be in our dormitories by 2:40 p.m.”
NGOs have reported that children with albinism living in these shelters are progressively being sent back to their communities. While this is important progress, it is essential that the process of reinserting children in their communities complies with the best interests of the child principle. Authorities should ensure that the views of children and their families are taken into account, that children have access to education in their community, and that the community has protection systems in place.
Such consultations did not take place in the case of Mariam, a seven-year-old girl from Simiyu region, who was reunited with her 85-year-old grandmother. “After she was removed from Buhangija, the government forced me to take care of Mariam because her mother and father are not providing for her, “recalled the grandmother.” This happened without the government consulting me beforehand…. They just dumped the child on me.” Mariam does not attend the local school because, her grandmother said, she could not afford to buy textbooks.
Stigma and bias in the community
Eight children with albinism interviewed by Human Rights Watch recounted how they experienced stigma and bias in their communities, including name-calling.
Josefina, a seven-year-old living with her grandparents in the Shinyanga region, for example, said other children call her “Mbuliwmelu,” which means “white goat” in the local Sukuma language. “When that happens, it makes me feel sad and very angry, but I stay silent,” she said.
In the Simiyu region, the grandmother of Mariam, a seven-year-old young girl with albinism, said Mariam frequently faced similar experiences:
Most people have a negative perception of Mariam because of her color. They don’t even want to welcome Mariam in their home. If they see her, they’ll see her colour and will see that if she spends too much time in the sun she has sores. If she plays, they fear blood will come out of her. They call her “Mbulimwelu”. Mariam is always sad when they call her like that, and sometimes she locks herself in the house and starts crying. In those cases, I just leave her alone.
In some cases, parents have rejected or attacked their own children. Twelve-year-old Lucy, for instance, now lives at a private boarding school after receiving a scholarship from an international NGO. Choking on her tears, she said her mother told her that her father abandoned her prior to sending criminals to try and kill her: “My mother told me that my father refused me. I don’t want to go back [to my hometown] because it is my father who sent the thieves to get me.”
Despite efforts by the government of Tanzania and NGOs to sensitize the general public in recent years, progress remains fragile, especially in rural areas, where people with albinism continue to face stigma and the rejection of their community and, at times, their own families. This can lead to poor self-esteem among young people with albinism, and difficulties in finding work opportunities later in life. An 18-year-old man with albinism told Human Rights Watch in Shinyanga region that he thought people like him have a harder time at finding work: “My life would definitely be different if I was not a person with albinism. If you have a black skin, you have many more opportunities. You can do the physical work, whereas person with albinism have to be careful because of their skin.”
But, as the parents of four children with albinism pointed out, not all communities and families reject children with albinism. “When I had my first child with albinism, I was happy and thought this was normal. My family was happy too and if they weren’t, they didn’t let it show,” their mother said. “It is the choice of God. God is giving. We should agree with them, be close with them,” their father added.
Barriers to education
“People with albinism don’t get education,” a community organizer with albinism told Human Rights Watch. “Firstly because of their low vision. Teachers don’t know how to deal with that. Secondly because [of lack of] interaction [with others]. There is teasing in school. People with albinism face a lack of interaction with local community. People see us as bad people. They see us as people who can’t contribute because of our bad education or lack of education,” he added.
Ensuring a free, safe and dignified access to education is key to upholding the fundamental human rights of people with albinism and to combatting the stereotypes and stigma that continue to expose them to mistreatments and fatal risks.
Children with albinism face a range of barriers impeding their access to education.
Many families of children with albinism for instance are unable to enroll them in school because they lack sufficient income, or fear that having them walk to school may expose them to dangers. The grandmother of Mariam, the seven-year-old girl with albinism, said she is ready to go school but that she doesn’t have the resources to send her. “I wish for Mariam to become a doctor or a teacher. I don’t want her to be a wife. But it costs money to buy books and everything.”
Children with albinism may also face health risks at school due to their sensitivity to the sun. Laura, a 15-year-old student at a public secondary school, told Human Rights Watch that despite efforts to train teachers on the needs of children with albinism, the school still put the health of children with albinism at risk: “This school is not good. They force us to do activities in the sun. Teachers can also punish you if you say you can’t do activities in the sun. They caned me three times and it was very painful.”
In addition, children with albinism do not always get the inclusive education they should be entitled to. In that respect, the existence of the temporary holding shelters and other special boarding schools, while providing safety and an opportunity to attend classes, promotes segregation and denies children the opportunity to learn with their peers without albinism and to feel included in their communities. As 12-year-old Lucy explained to Human Rights Watch, “It was not nice to only be with children with albinism because we stayed without difference – we must mix.”
Children interviewed by Human Rights Watch also said that schools sometimes fail to provide children with albinism with appropriate accommodations for their low vision. This would include assistive devices, such as magnifiers, enlarged printed material, writing in large letters on the blackboard, and seating children with albinism in the front of the classroom.
Gloria, a 14-year-old student with albinism who wants to become an engineer and build airplanes said she had different experiences in public and private schools: “Before, I was going to a public school. I didn’t like it there because there was no good care. In class, the teachers would be writing with small letters on the blackboard. I’d ask them to make the letters bigger, but they’d say that they can’t,” she told Human Rights Watch. “[The private school] was better. They wrote with big letters on the board – it was easier for me to follow the classes and get good grades.” 
Some public schools are taking positive steps. The principal of a Mwanza region public secondary boarding school that caters to the general public as well as to several children with disabilities and children with albinism told Human Rights Watch: “There is no segregation. All students are taught together. We have many special education teachers and they are all trained by the government. I insist that children with albinism sit at the front row and that the teachers write with big letters on the blackboards and that exams and other exercises are printed with big font for them,” he said. Yet, the resources are scarce: “We get some equipment from the ministry, but not enough. We have no monoculars [to help children with albinism see the blackboard], for instance.” 
Lawrence is a shy nine-year-old boy who attends public school and his father is very proud of him. “When we took him to school for the first time, teachers were very aware of albinism, maybe they had been trained,” Charles said. “The only challenge Lawrence faces is his vision. Sometimes he has difficulties reading the blackboard [but] he gets support from the teachers and sometimes they explain or move him to the front. Lawrence does very well at school and sometimes is at the first position.”
It is important that all teachers be familiarized with the specific needs of students with albinism and that the schools be provided with adequate resources to ensure they can achieve their full educational potential. More efforts are also needed to sensitize family-members and communities about albinism, to ensure that children with albinism in Tanzania can thrive both inside and outside the classroom.
 Lekalakala, P., Khammissa, R., Kramer, B., Ayo-Yusuf, O., Lemmer, J. and Feller, L., “Oculocutaneous Albinism and Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Skin of the Head and Neck in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Journal of Skin Cancer, August 12, 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4549604/ (accessed January 25, 2019).
 Human Rights Watch interview with Augustin (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with A.Y. and Z.M. (pseudonym), the parents of Victoria (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with representatives of three NGOs working in this field, names withheld, Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with community activist (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch separate interviews with representatives of three NGOs working in this field, names withheld, Tanzania, July 2017; Severin (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017; and A.Y. and Z.M. (names withheld), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with NGO representative (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Severin (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with A.Y. and Z.M. (names withheld), parents of Victoria, Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with NGO representative (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Lucy (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with representatives of three NGOs working in this field, names withheld, Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with a representative of one NGO working in this field (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with a representative of one NGO working in this field (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Peter Mwanzi (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Marco Ndimo (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with A.M. (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
 Human Rights Watch interview with J.P.M. (pseudonym), Tanzania, July 2017.
After a recent “savage” killing and the abduction of a one-year-old baby in Malawi, United Nations experts have urged the Government to take immediate action to protect people with albinism and “end the ongoing atrocities”.
“We urge the authorities to step up their investigations into these incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice,” the experts said in a statement on Friday.
People with albinism are born with lighter than normal skin, hair and eye colour, making them sensitive to the sun and bright light. In some communities they are attacked or even killed for their body parts which are erroneously believed to possess magical powers.
Since 2014, 150 cases of killings, attacks and other human rights violations against persons with albinism have been reported in the southeast African nation. (Italics added by the webmaster, FVDK).
Despite various moves to support people with albinism, “the recent attacks demonstrate that the Government needs to redouble its efforts to end the ongoing atrocities,” according to the experts.
“We call on the Government to urgently address the root causes of these attacks and to strengthen nationwide campaigns to raise awareness, conduct robust investigations and prosecutions in all cases, increase protection for victims, and finance and implement all necessary measures,” stressed the experts.
UN experts fear that presidential and legislative elections due to take place in late May, could further aggravate the situation for persons with albinism. Killings and attacks often spike during election periods “because of false beliefs that their body parts can bring good luck and political power when used in witchcraft-related rituals,” the UN human rights experts said.
Some witchcraft practices result in “serious human rights violations”, such as torture, murder, discrimination and exclusion, including banishment from communities, they added.
“These two incidents are part of a larger disturbing pattern in Malawi where ritual killings and egregious human rights violations of the worst kind are instigated specifically against persons with albinism,” they underscored. “The attacks and violations are astonishing in their brutality.”
“We call on the authorities to ensure the deployment of adequate police and law enforcement personnel to protect persons with albinism where they live,” the experts concluded.
The experts also expressed concern at the reported backlog of cases of human rights violations and crimes against persons with albinism, noting that to date, there have been very few prosecutions, giving the impression of impunity.
The United Nations in Malawi is concerned by the continued gruesome attacks on persons with albinism and strongly condemns the savage killing of Yasin Phiri, aged 54, at Kande in Nkhata Bay on the eve of the new year. The UN is also concerned that there has not been progress to trace 12-year old Joseph Kachingwe who went missing on 6th July 2018.
This latest attack and other violations perpetrated against persons with albinism are a setback to the concerted efforts in the protection of people with albinism.
The UN once again calls upon the Government and all relevant stakeholders to redouble their efforts to effect immediate measures to protect persons with albinism as we go towards elections and implement the National Action Plan on Persons with Albinism. The plan addresses the root causes of attacks on persons with albinism, including a nationwide awareness raising campaign, strengthened investigations and prosecutions, together with strengthened protection and victim assistance measures. If these measures are not accelerated, we will continue registering human rights violations against persons with albinism.
We urge the authorities to ensure a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the killing of Yasin Phiri, and bring the alleged perpetrators to justice. We further call upon the authorities to fast-track the investigation and prosecution of outstanding cases on violation of rights of persons with albinism to avoid cultivating a culture of impunity in Malawi.
The UN remains committed to supporting the Government and people of Malawi to proactively promote and protect the rights of persons with albinism and ensure their full participation in the protection measures and socio-economic development of the country in an environment free of stigma, discrimination and physical attacks.
Mr. Benoit Thiry United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i. in Malawi
Ms. Ikponwosa Ero (Nigeria) was designated in June 2015 as the first UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism. The vision of Ms. Ero’s mandate is driven by the cross-cutting principle of the UN Sustainable development goals: “leaving no one behind…starting with the furthest behind first.” Ms. Ero has over a decade of experience in the research, policy development, and practice of human rights concerning persons with albinism. She has advised organizations and governments around the world on human rights concerning persons with albinism. As the International Advocacy and Legal Officer for Under the Same Sun — an international organization with a focus on albinism — she developed strategic initiatives involving regional and international human rights mechanisms, prepared guiding documents, and oversaw the implementation of recommendations made by the UN and other human rights organizations. Ms Ero is also the author of numerous papers and articles, particularly with regards to applicable legal frameworks as well as the development and implementation of special measures to facilitate the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism.
Published: October 13, 2018 By: Jide Babalola and Faith Yahaya
Sixteen men, including a former legislator and a vigilance group commander alleged to be involved in kidnapping, ritual murder and sale of the human private organs in Kogi State were yesterday paraded by the police in Abuja.
Police spokesman, Ag. DCP Jimoh Moshood,said male and female organs, including that of a police inspector were harvested and sold by the syndicate whose ages range between 19 and 45 years.
The gang,according to Moshood,was working under the instructions or request of a wealthy businessman, Alhaji Shaibu Adamu alias Aye-Marina (43 years).
A manhunt is underway to arrest patrons of the group.
The police sid the arrested men have confessed to the killings and removal of body parts of several people.
However, Alhaji Shaibu Adamu and Abdullahi Ibrahim Ali, a former Kogi state legislator vociferously disowned the gang’s leader who claimed to have been liaising with them, adding that they are doing legitimate businesses with credible business partners including the first son of a former governor of Kogi State.
Aside from six identified victims including the late Inspector Abdul Alfa who was axed from behind and his police rifle snatched, most of the human organs sale syndicate’s victims cannot be properly identified, even after helpful confession from the criminal suspects.
Names of the suspects who are indigenes of Ankpa local government in Kogi state as given by the police include: Honourable Abdulahi Ibrahim Ali, alias Halims (35);his driver, Alhaji Abdullahi Zakari (35); a businessman, Alhaji Shaibu Adamu alias Aye-Marina (43); Akwu Audu (21); Sale Adama (45); Musa Abdulahi (32);Yakubu Yahaya (30); Adama Shagari (30); Baba Isah (23); Isaac Alfa (19); Idoko Benjamin (20);and Yakubu Hamidu (39) alleged to be the gang leader while also working as vigilance group commander in Ankpa Local Government.
Four other suspects who hail from neighbouring Ofu local are Ubile Attah (21); Julius Alhassan (30); Shehu Haliru alias Fedeco (25); and Abdullahi Tijani (27).
Exhibits allegedly recovered from them are one pump action gun, two locally fabricated single barrel guns and three short axes.
According to the police spokesman, the rampant cases of missing persons, killing of innocent people and the removal of their private parts for ritual purposes in Ankpa town and environs made the Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim K. Idris to direct the IGP Strike Force attached to Operation Absolute Sanity to investigate all such cases, arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
“In the course of investigation , it was discovered that this gang – from information and intelligence gathered from public spirited individuals and other residents- were responsible for kidnapping, gruesome murder, and ritual killings of innocent people in Kogi State, travellers passing through Kogi State and strangers coming into towns in the area were mostly victims.
”Yakubu Hamidu (39 years old Gang Leader and a Vigilante Commander of Ankpa), and his vigilante guards are the hit-men responsible for the killings of several victims and removing their organs, mostly male and female organs including other body parts such as the head, kidney, and other vital body organs and selling them to personalities within and outside the state for rituals.
“During interrogations, the Gang Leader, Yakubu Hamidu and his members now in Police custody confessed to the crime and admitted that they were sponsored and working for Abdulahi Ibrahim Ali alias Halims and Alhaji Shaibu Adamu alias Aye- Marina whom they handed over the body parts to, after killing their victims and severing their body organs and collecting huge sums of money ; Aye-Marina’s driver known as Zakaru receives the body parts from Yakubu Hamidu.
” Abdulahi Ibrahim Ali a.k.a Halims who has volunteered statement to the investigators is now in Police custody and is suspected to have used the proceeds of crime to build and own so many properties including big hotels and several filling stations in Kogi State while Alhaji Shaibu Adamu a.k.a Aye Marina, without any known profession or any known means of livelihood was suspected also to have built ,and owns mansions and four filling stations in Ankpa, Kogi State and another four at Onyangede in Benue State with the proceeds of the crime.
“Yakubu Hamidu, Julius Alhasan, Shehu Haliru, Ubile Attah and Akwu Audu have confessed to the gruesome killing of Inspector Abdul Alfa attached to Ejule Police outpost in Ofu Local Government on 28 th November, 2017 and carted away the Police rifle in his possession.
“All the suspects have made voluntary statements to the Police Investigation Team and have confessed to the various criminal roles they played in the recent kidnapping, gruesome murder and ritual killing attacks on innocent residents and the killing of a Police Inspector, Inspr. Abdul Alfa, attached to Ejule Police Outpost, in Kogi State.
“Investigation is being concluded and efforts being intensified to arrest other suspects who include prominent personalities linked to the crime but still at large; they will all be arraigned in court on completion of investigation.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Strike Force, has arrested sixteen suspects in connection with alleged kidnapping, murder and ritual killings in Kogi State. The Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Acting DCP Jimoh Moshood, who made the disclosure while presenting the suspects at the Force Headquarters in Abuja yesterday, accused them of harvesting vital organs, after killing their victims. According to Moshood, the harvested vital organs were then sold to “personalities in Kogi and other neighbouring states.” Among those arrested and presented before journalists, was Hon. Abdullahi Ibrahim Ali, who claimed to have won the All Progressives Congress’ ticket for Ankpa/ Omala/ Olamaboro federal Constituency of Kogi State. Also arrested was Vigilante Commander in Ankpa,Mr. Yakubu Hamidu, who admitted his alleged involvement and others in the heinous crime. One of the victims of the alleged ritual killing, according to the Police, was Inspector Abdul Alfa.
The police officer, who worked at Ejule Police Outpost in Ofu Local Government Area of Kogi State, was killed “while on foot patrol” on November 28, 2017. Other victims, apart from the officer, included “innocent people in Kogi State, travellers passing through Kogi State and strangers coming into towns in the area”. The guns and axes the suspects allegedly used in killing and severing victims” vital organs, were displayed during the press briefing.
“Consequent on the killings of innocent people and the removal of their private parts for ritual purposes in Ankpa town and environs, and the killing of a Police Inspector, Abdul Alfa, at Ejule Police outpost in Ofu LGA while on foot patrol on November 28, 2017 snatching the Police rifle in his possession, and several complaints of missing persons received at the Police stations in Ankpa and environs, the IGP Ibrahim Idris, concerned with these trends of criminalities in Ankpa Local Government Area of Kogi State and other neighbouring States, directed the IGP Strike Force attached to Operation Absolute Sanity to investigate all these cases, arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
“In the course of investigation, it was discovered that this gang from information and intelligence gathered from public spirited individuals and other residents, were responsible for kidnapping, gruesome murder, and ritual killings of innocent people in Kogi State, travellers passing through Kogi State and strangers coming into towns in the area were mostly victims.
“All the suspects have made voluntary statements to the Police Investigation Team and have confessed to the various criminal roles they played in the recent kidnapping, gruesome murder and ritual killing attacks on innocent residents and the killing of a Police Inspector, Inspr. Abdul Alfa, attached to Ejule Police Outpost, in Kogi State. “Investigation is being concluded and efforts being intensified to arrest other suspects who include prominent personalities linked to the crime but still at large. They will all be arraigned in court on completion of investigation,” the Police said.
LEADERSHIP: A suspected murderer, who confessed to specialising in killing and harvesting human private parts and organs to politicians and business men was arrested and paraded by the Nigeria Police Force yesterday in Abuja. The suspect, Yakubu Hamidu, male and 39 years, who was a vigilante personnel at Ankpa, Kogi state admitted to have personally sold four male private parts and human organs to a politicians, at prices ranging from N100,000 to N250,000 each. The suspect and his cohorts further confessed to the killings and removal of body parts of the following victims James M (other names yet to be known), Christopher (other names yet to be known), Mohammed (other names yet to be known), Small Case (Real name unknown), Omu (other names yet to be known) and Inspector Abdul Alfa (who was ambushed and axed on his head from behind to death) by Julius Alhasan and his gang.
The suspects, Hamidu, Julius Alhasan, Shehu Haliru, Ubile Attah and Akwu Audu also confessed to the gruesome killing of Inspector Abdul Alfa attached to Ejule Police outpost in Ofu Local Government on 28th November, 2017 and carted away the Police rifle in his possession. Force public relations officer (FPRO), Jimoh Moshood, while parading them, said: “Consequent on the killings of innocent people and the removal of their private parts for ritual purposes in Ankpa town and environs, and the killing of a Police Inspector, the Inspector General of Police, IGP Ibrahim Idris, concerned with these trends of criminalities, directed the IGP Strike Force attached to Operation Absolute Sanity to investigate all these cases, arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
“In the course of investigation, it was discovered that this gang from information and intelligence gathered from public spirited individuals and other residents, were responsible for kidnapping, gruesome murder, and ritual killings in Kogi state. “All the suspects have made voluntary statements to the Police Investigation Team and have confessed to the various criminal roles they played in the recent kidnapping, gruesome murder and attacks on innocent residents of Kogi State. “Investigation is being concluded and efforts being intensified to arrest other suspects who include prominent personalities linked to the crime but still at large. They will all be arraigned in court on completion of investigation.”
Published: February 3, 2019 By: Godfrey Kahango @TheCitizenTz firstname.lastname@example.org
Njombe. Another child, Rachael Malekela was found dead on Friday night at Matembwe Village in Njombe District as the spate of reported ‘ritual’ could killings and appearances continues to rock the area. More below.