Africa’s shameful acts of racism: the plight of persons with albinism (PLWA) in Africa

Under construction – comments (webmaster FVDK)

Some of the protestors with various placards that called on the Liberian Government among other things, increase their budgetary support (Courtesy of Daily Observer, Liberia).

Africa’s Shameful Acts of Racism: The Plight of Persons with Albinism (PLWA) in Africa

Published: December 2, 2019
By: Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor, The Daily Observer (Liberia),  Webmaster Admin 

Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior to another, and that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics.   On the African Continent, we have seen the impact of colonialism and its attributes of racism and discrimination.

The former Apartheid system in South Africa and its institutionalized racial segregation was an extreme expression of European treatments of Africans. The miserable treatment of people living with Albinism by fellow Africans is not only unfortunate, it is shameful.

The condition known as ‘Oculocutaneous albinism’ (OCA) is a genetically inherited autosomal recessive condition and OCA2, tyrosine-positive albinism, is the most prevalent type found throughout Africa. Due to the lack of melanin, people with albinism are more susceptible to the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation exposure.

The National Institutes of Health reported that about 200,000 Americans are affected; and around the world, it is between one in 17,000 and one in 20,000 people are people living with albinism. However, it is prevalence in parts of Africa, but it is far higher than the global average. People living with Albinism makeup about one in 4,000 people in South Africa and perhaps one in 5,000 in Nigeria. According to a 2006 review published in the journal BMC Public Health, the prevalence in Tanzania is one in 1,400, but this estimate is based on incomplete data. Since Tanzania’s total population is more than 40 million that would suggest an albinism community of about 30,000. A census is underway, however, and the Albinism Association of Tanzania believes the total figure could be more than 150,000.

People living with Albinism suffered in the hands of fellow Africans

The human rights organization Amnesty International quoted the Malawian police’s description of the gruesome murder of Mr. Machinjiri: “About four men trafficked him to Mozambique and killed him. The men chopped off both his arms and legs and removed his bones. Then they buried the rest of his body in a shallow grave.”

There are superstitions in some parts of Africa that albino body parts bring wealth, power or sexual conquest, and that having sex with a person living with the condition of albinism cures HIV and AIDS. Attackers sell albino body parts to witch doctors for thousands of dollars, according to Amnesty International. In Tanzania, some 75 people living with albinism were reported killed between 2000 and 2016.

Also, there have been reports of people living with albinism killings in South Africa; although such crimes are less common there than in Malawi, Tanzania and Burundi. Last February, a South African court sentenced a traditional healer to life in prison for murdering a 20-year-old woman living with albinism.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN agency that deals with human rights issues reported in 2016 that hunters of people living with albinism sell an entire human corpse for up to $75,000, while an arm or a leg could fetch about $2,000”.

In many African countries, it is sad and shameful the atrocious manner in which people living with albinism are treated; their lives are compounded by “exclusion, stigmatization, and denial of basic rights such as the right to education and health,” according to Amnesty International.  People living with Albinism continue to experience social isolation and stigma which includes name-calling, mockery, and exclusion from certain community activities.

It is reported in Zambia that at least ten people living with albinism are murdered in ritual killings every year.  Some believe their body parts bring wealth or luck. Those born with the genetic condition are calling for an end to this madness. There are more than 25,000 people living with the condition in Zambia.

Madame Janet Kakusa Wonani of Zambia, Founder/President of Light of The World Foundation. She works closely with children with Albinism in Zambia, irrespective of limited financial support.

According to the Albinism Foundation of Zambia (AFZ), Executive Director John Chiti, more than 25,000 persons with albinism in Zambia are currently in need of sunscreen lotion.

In an interview with Africa Renewal, Ms. Ero, said that the albinism situation in Africa, “is a tragedy.” She referred to the 7,000 to 10,000 people living with albinism in Malawi and thousands of others in Tanzania, Mozambique and other countries as “an endangered people”, facing a “risk of extinction if nothing is done.” Tanzanians call people living with albinism zeru, zeru, meaning “ghosts.”

Prevailing Superstitious Mindsets

Superstitious mindsets in some African countries continue to seek murdered for body parts, including infants and babies. Most of the attacks have taken place in Tanzania. Murders and attempted attacks, though in smaller numbers, have also been documented in Burundi, Kenya, Swaziland, Guinea, Nigeria, South Africa, Congo, Zambia, Namibia, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso.

The Converson.com conducted research and looked at media reports published between 2008 and 2011 on albinism and murders in Tanzania. It published a data set of 563 media reports in both English and Swahili from Tanzanian national newspapers.

The data showed that the Tanzanian press portrayed and explained violent attacks against persons with albinism in four ways. They were:

  • criminal activity,
  • cultural practices,
  • a socio-economic phenomenon,
  • a human rights issue.

Ms. Kway-Geer, the first Member of Parliament in Tanzania with albinism described her individual testimonials, first-hand accounts of difficulties as:

“When I was at primary school, people used to laugh at me, tease me – some didn’t even like to touch me, saying that if they touched me they would get this color. People used to abuse me on the road when I took the buses to school. They would run after me – crowds of kids following me – shouting ‘zeru, zeru’. (zeru, zeru, is a derogatory term).

Recommendations

The Conversation.com has identified the following recommendations.

  1. There is an urgent need to address the violence faced by this vulnerable group. Public health awareness is an important first step.
  2. Adequate health services for skin and vision disabilities should be prioritized.
  3. Putting out messages that counter the stigma against people living with Albinism is also important, as is access to education.
  4. Interventions must consider Albinism’ human rights. For example, putting children with albinism in camps may protect their right to life and security,but it restricts their rights to freedom of movement, and family life.

In addition, African Governments should seriously advocate against harmful practices against people living with albinism.  State parties should take all appropriate measures and offer support and assistance to victims of harmful practices, including legal sanctions, education, and advocacy campaign to eliminate harmful practices perpetrated on persons with albinism, such as witchcrafts, abandonment concealment, ritual killings, etc.

Conclusion

One thing for sure, the people living with Albinism did not create themselves; they were created in the same way you and I were created by the God who doesn’t make a MISTAKE. Their birth process is the same as you and me! Their mothers’ carried them for nine (9) months in their wombs before giving birth to them.

Who are we – be it an individual or government to decide that they should not live because they are different? Did God ask he needs our HELP to make His decision? The Almighty God does not need the assistance of mortal humans to run his affairs. The actions of those individuals perpetuating violence against persons suffering from albinism are no different than King Leopold II of Belgium, Adolph Hitler of Germany, Napoleon Bonaparte of France, and White racists today.

In Genesis 1:31(NIV): “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…” God himself said it was Good, NOT bad. God doesn’t create anything UGLY! So, why individuals, including governments, are killing these innocent people? In addition, 1 Thessalonians 5:22 instructs us to “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Accordingly, the GENOCIDE against these poor innocent people must be STOPPED!

Now, take a closer look at the beautiful tapestry of the people living with Albinism provided here. The question that readily comes to mind is any of you better looking than the people living with Albinism provided in these photos? I DOUBT IT! Therefore, let the persecution and killing of people living with Albinism STOP before the wrath of God descends upon us.

As Africans, it is embarrassing to read or hear that other Africans are discriminated against due to their race. Racism is contrary to God’s plan for humanity. The divisions we face today in contemporary Western nations are due to Race, the color of one’s skin or ethnic background.  And obviously, this perception is not part of God’s plan.

The Albinism Society of Kenya held a Mr. and Miss Albinism beauty pageant in Nairobi to support those with the hereditary condition. (https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-46439699).

In the words of Maya Angelou: “We, the black people, the most displaced, the poorest, the most maligned and scourged, we had the glorious task of reclaiming the soul and saving the honor of the country. We, the most hated, must take hate into our hands and by the miracle of love, turn loathing into love. We, the most feared and apprehensive must take the fear and by love, change it into hope. We, who die daily in large and small ways, must take the demon death and turn it into life.”

Indeed, Children living with albinism in Africa are our brothers, sisters, daughters, and sons, let us protect them always, they are all God’s children as well.

Source: Africa’s Shameful Acts of Racism: The Plight of Persons with Albinism (PLWA) in Africa

Africa Map

Ritual killings will never bring luck – Conference of Churches Swaziland (2018 article)

News from Swaziland, a tiny country in Southern Africa, surrounded by the republic of South Africa, seldom reaches the outside world. Yet it is one of the most amazing countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, not the least because the country is ruled by a king with absolute powers. Ritual killings occur frequently in Swaziland, sometimes during election campaigns, and the monarch has on more than one occasion spoken against these atrocious crimes. In this 2018 article the Swaziland Conference of Churches speaks out against ritual killings, condemns the barbaric act of killing innocent persons for muti purposes and has issued a stern warning (webmaster FVDK).

Published: June 8, 2018
By: Sifiso Nhlabatsi  (Swazi Observer)

Source: Ritual killings will never bring luck – Conference of Churches

Eswatini, officially the Kingdom of Eswatini and also known as Swaziland (officially renamed in 2018), is a country in Southern Africa. With 17,364 km2 and a population of roughly 1.5 million, Eswatini is one of the smallest countries in Africa. 

eSwatini: Security fears keep 250 pupils away from school (Swaziland)

Swaziland King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch, has renamed his country ‘the Kingdom of eSwatini’.

On April 18, 2018 King Mswati III of Swaziland announced that he was renaming the country ‘the Kingdom of eSwatini’. The new name, eSwatini, means ‘land of the Swazis’.

King Mswati III is Africa’s last absolute monarch. He is being criticized by human rights organizations and activists for not allowing political parties and discriminating against women. See e.g. Richard Rooney’s blog.

King Mswati is known for his many wives, 15 – though this is much less than the number of wives his father, King Sobhuza II, had: 125 – and for his adherence to traditional dress (see picture below).

Ritual murder especially of children is a common experience in the Kingdom of eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland. The number of ritual murders increases at election time. As reported earlier (see my June 19 posting), in 2003, King Mswati III urged Swaziland’s politicians not to engage in ritual killings to boost their chances. Five years later, Prime Minister Absalom Themba Dlamini issued a similar warning (2008).

We’re now in 2018 and apparently nothing has changed. The Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) has issued a statement recently, saying it is “(…) deeply alarmed and distressed by recent media reports of abductions and kidnappings resulting in mutilations and killings. Children, both girls and boys, are especially targeted (…). The fact that there are widespread speculations on whether or not these abductions are for ritual purposes linked to the upcoming Parliamentary elections in Eswatini cannot be ignored.”

So far, about 45 people have been abducted, killed and mutilated in countrywide attacks that are believed to be associated with ritual activities ahead of parliamentary elections later this year (read article below).

(webmaster FVDK)

King Mswati III, centre, has ruled the country for more than 30 years (since 1986).

eSwatini: Security fears keep 250 pupils away from school

Published: June 18, 2018
APA News, Journal du Cameroun.com

Some 250 pupils from one community in eSwatini have abandoned school over fears linked to the recent spate of ritual kidnappings and murders.

Residents of Mafutseni, about 50km from Manzini, decided to withdraw their children from schools following incidents of attempted murder in the space of two weeks.

“At least residents pulled their children out of school and did not take the law into their own hands by hunting and killing the murder suspects,” said community headman, Mamilela Maphosa.

The first incident occurred two weeks ago when a 15-year-old boy was captured by three men and his throat slot in an attempted murder apparently over ritual purposes.

The boy escaped and is currently admitted to a hospital.

The other case involved a community policeman who fled from an attack by three men whom he believed wanted to abduct him last week.

The two incidents forced parents of pupils at a nearby primary school to keep their children at home until they were assured of their safety.

On Tuesday residents held a march around the area carrying placards that condemned such acts.

So far, about 45 people have been abducted, killed and mutilated in countrywide attacks that are believed to be associated with ritual activities ahead of parliamentary elections later this year.

Source: eSwatini: Security fears keep 250 pupils away from school
JournalDuCameroun, June 28, 2018.

Also read my June 18 (2018) posting.

Swaziland, or ‘the kingdom of eSwatini’ as the country is being named since April 2018, is a landlocked country and smaller than the US state of New Jersey.

Ritual killings linked to elections – Swaziland

Unfortunately, also in Swaziland the number of ritual murders increases at election time. I remember a BBC article of June 2, 2003, reporting that King Mswati III had urged Swaziland’s politicians not to engage in ritual killings to boost their chances in the general elections later that year.

Five years later Prime Minister Absalom Themba Dlamini issued a warning to aspiring members of parliament against committing ritual murders to win the vote. When speaking during the Ascension prayer service held at Embangweni Royal Residence on May 4, 2008, the PM said it was very disturbing that, already, there were reported incidents of people disappearing under a cloud of controversy as the elections dates draw closer. He said King Mswati III issued a similar warning.

We’re now in 2018 and apparently nothing has changed. The Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) has issued a statement recently, saying it is “(…) deeply alarmed and distressed by recent media reports of abductions and kidnappings resulting in mutilations and killings. Children, both girls and boys, are especially targeted (…). The fact that there are widespread speculations on whether or not these abductions are for ritual purposes linked to the upcoming Parliamentary elections in Eswatini cannot be ignored.”
(webmaster FVDK)

Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) is a non-governmental organization which has been working for over 20 years to eradicate Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and Human Trafficking in Swaziland.

‘Ritual murder has long been part of Swazi life.’, as Richard Rooney said.

More in the following article written by Richard Rooney.

Published: Thursday, 31 May 218

BY RICHARD ROONEY Y
SWAZI MEDIA COMMENTARY – INFORMATION AND COMMENTARY ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN SWAZILAND

There are ‘widespread speculations’ across Swaziland that a number of recent abductions resulting in mutilations and killings might be related to the ongoing national election in the kingdom, the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA) said.

SWAGAA said, ‘Children, both girls and boys, are especially targeted; however, this does not mean adults cannot be a target in future. For this reason, all people should remain on high alert.’

It said in a statement, ‘The fact that there are widespread speculations on whether or not these abductions are for ritual purposes linked to the upcoming Parliamentary elections in Eswatini [Swaziland] cannot be ignored.

Swaziland has a history of abductions and ritual killings in the run-up to national elections that are held every five years. Voter registration is currently taking place and ends on 17 June 2018. The date for the actual election has yet to be announced.

In June 2017, during a voter-education workshop, Swaziland’s Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) called for an end to ritual killings around voting time. It was concerned about reports of people mysteriously disappearing across the kingdom.

At KaLanga in the Lugongolweni constituency EBC educator Cynthia Dlamini said ritual murder reports increased during election time. The Swazi Observer reported at the time, ‘Dlamini said this was one belief driven by lunacy which tarnishes the image of the country in the process. She said the commission condemns such beliefs and called for intensive investigations against those who would be suspected of ritual killings.’

At the last election in 2013, The Swaziland Epilepsy Association warned that cases of the abduction of epileptic people always increased during elections. Mbuso Mahlalela from the association told the Swazi Observer at the time it was common for the vulnerable to be targeted and abducted. He spoke after a report that a 13-year-old epileptic boy might have been abducted for ritual purposes.

Before the election in 2008 a march by civil society groups to draw attention to ritual killings was banned by the government amid fears that it would bring bad publicity to Swaziland and might embarrass King Mswati III, the kingdom’s absolute monarch, who had spoken out against the practice.

The Times of Swaziland reported at the time the march had been motivated by the mystery disappearances and murders of women. Some of these had been found mutilated fuelling speculating that they were related to rituals.

Some Swazi people believe body parts can be used as ‘muti’ which is used to bring good fortune to candidates at the election and help them to win seats in parliament.

In 2008, it was strongly rumoured in Swaziland that the reason why members of the government wanted to ban discussion on the ritual murders was that some of them had themselves used ‘muti’ to get elected.

In March 2018, a campaign called ‘Don’t kill us, we are human beings too’ was launched to raise awareness about people with albinism, a group at particular risk at election time. The Stukie Motsa Foundation is using social media to dispel the false belief that people with albinism cleanse bad luck and bring fortune to people.

There have been concerns in Swaziland for years that people with albinism have been targeted and murdered. Witchdoctors use the body parts to make spells that they claim bring people good luck.  Sport teams have also been known to use spells to bring them good fortune during matches. Witchdoctors’ services are especially sought after by candidates contesting parliamentary and local elections.

In January 2017, the Director of Public Prosecution’s office in Swaziland told witchdoctors in the kingdom to stop murdering people for body parts. The witchdoctors, also known as tinyanga, were advised to go to the Ministry of Health for body parts, such as bones.

During the national elections in Swaziland in 2013, people with albinism lived in fear that their body parts would be harvested by candidates seeking good luck.

Independent Newspapers in South Africa reported at the time, ‘In the past [people with albinism], who lack the skin pigment melanin, as well as epileptics have been specifically targeted, prompting the police to set up registries.

‘In 2010, the killing and mutilation of [people with albinism], including in one instance the decapitation of two children in Nhlangano, prompted panic.’

In August 2013, Independent Newspapers quoted an academic at the University of Swaziland, who did not want to be named, saying, ‘Ritual killings to achieve elected office are a natural outgrowth of a government based not on rationality or democratic principles but on superstitious beliefs.

‘The Swazi king claims power through an annual Incwala festival where a bull is brutally sacrificed and mysterious rituals occur, and this sets the tone. No one knows how office-holders are appointed in Swaziland. It’s all done in secret, without recourse to merit or any rhyme or reason, so this fuels irrational beliefs.

‘Ritual murder has long been part of Swazi life.’

Source: Ritual killings linked to elections, May 31, 2018

Fear of ritual killings grows in Swaziland

Richard Rooney’s blog on Swazi Media Commentary, Information and commentary in support of human rights in Swaziland is one of te best, if not the best, source of information on Swaziland and the archaic rule of king Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland.

The site contains precious information and commentary about human rights in Swaziland.
(webmaster FVDK)

Fear of being kidnapped and killed for ritual purposes made 258 children of the Mafutseni Children’s Care Point stay home on Monday.

Published: Thursday, 14 June 218

BY RICHARD ROONEY
SWAZI MEDIA COMMENTARY – INFORMATION AND COMMENTARY ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN SWAZILAND

Something close to panic has gripped Swaziland / Eswatini as the fear that children will be kidnapped and ritually murdered has taken hold.

The Swazi Observer reported on Thursday (14 June 2018) that 258 children absconded from school at Mafutseni Children’s Cup Care Point in fear of being kidnapped and killed.

It reported one of the teachers Zine Mkhwanazi told a meeting of parents children were afraid to go to the school because of an incident in May where a 16-year-old boy escaped from three knife-wielding men who had cornered him in a forest and tried to slice his throat in what was believed to be a ritual murder attempt. The boy escaped and was admitted to hospital.

The newspaper reported Mkhwanazi said what happened scared everyone, more so, because the attempt on the boy was made at a spot children pass on their way to school.

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (12 June 2018) that parents were now trailing their children wherever they go. ‘It is said some of the parents even accompany their children to Sunday school, just to make sure prowling killers do not go near them,’ it reported. Parents also go with their children to school.

This has happened after reports, many unconfirmed, that children across Swaziland are being abducted and ritually murdered. Body parts are then said to be used in muti to create spells to bring good luck. There is a belief that some people are doing this to help them win seats in the forthcoming National Assembly election.

The Observer quoted one concerned parent saying, ‘Elections are a curse to some of us as that’s the period where children go missing. It’s bad that such incidents are now associated with the elections and it paints a bad picture of the country because in the eyes of the world we are known as a nation where ritual murders are rife during elections.’

Another parent said, ‘There is fear that when we let our children leave school on their own, that places them in danger.’

The Times of Swaziland reported on Thursday (14 June 2018) an alleged ritual killer was assaulted by a mob and set on fire at Mafutseni. It happened after a man made a joke that his own blood was not fit to be used as muti. A mob singled him out as a ritual killer because he appeared to have knowledge about how blood was used to make spells. It added the incident happened about a month after one of the man’s relative went missing.

Source: Fear of Ritual Killings Grows, June 14, 2018

Swaziland: Campaign to educate on albinism

There are also positive and encouraging newspaper reports and blogs, like e.g. Richard Rooney’s post on Swazi Media Commentary, Information and commentary in support of human rights in Swaziland. On March 30, 2018 Richard Rooney published the following report on ‘A campaign to educate on albinism in Swaziland’. Also in other African countries, people rise up against ritualistic killings and related human rights violations, e.g. in Gabon.

‘Freedom of fear is a human right;  rule of law an obligation of the state’. The answer to ritualistic killings in the short term is the rule of law – but the only real answer to these heinous crimes is EDUCATION.
(webmaster FVDK)

Like many people living with albinism in Swaziland, Albert fears for his life.

CAMPAIGN TO EDUCATE ON ALBINISM

BY RICHARD ROONEY
SWAZI MEDIA COMMENTARY – INFORMATION AND COMMENTARY ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN SWAZILAND
Published: March 30, 2018

A campaign has started in Swaziland called ‘Don’t kill us, we are human beings too’ to raise awareness about people with albinism.

People in Swaziland with the skin condition live in fear of their lives as some traditional healers, witchdoctors and others use their body parts in spells to bring good luck.

The Stukie Motsa Foundation is now using social media to dispel the false belief that people with albinism cleanse back luck and bring fortune to people.

There have been concerns in Swaziland for years that people with albinism have been targeted and murdered. Witchdoctors use the body parts to make spells that they claim bring people good luck.  Sport teams have also been known to use spells to bring them good fortune during matches. Witchdoctors’ services are especially sought after by candidates contesting parliamentary and local elections. An election is due in Swaziland later in 2018.

In January 2017, the Director of Public Prosecution’s office in Swaziland told witchdoctors in the kingdom to stop murdering people for body parts. The witchdoctors, also known as tinyanga, were advised to go to the Ministry of Health for body parts, such as bones.

During the national elections in Swaziland in 2013, people with albinism lived in fear that their body parts would be harvested by candidates seeking good luck.

Independent Newspapers in South Africa reported at the time, ‘In the past [people with albinism], who lack the skin pigment melanin, as well as epileptics have been specifically targeted, prompting the police to set up registries.

‘In 2010, the killing and mutilation of [people with albinism], including in one instance the decapitation of two children in Nhlangano, prompted panic.’

In August 2013, Independent Newspapers quoted an academic at the University of Swaziland, who did not want to be named, saying, ‘Ritual killings to achieve elected office are a natural outgrowth of a government based not on rationality or democratic principles but on superstitious beliefs.

‘The Swazi king claims power through an annual Incwala festival where a bull is brutally sacrificed and mysterious rituals occur, and this sets the tone. No one knows how office-holders are appointed in Swaziland. It’s all done in secret, without recourse to merit or any rhyme or reason, so this fuels irrational beliefs.

‘Ritual murder has long been part of Swazi life.’

At present, a Swazi traditional healer is in police custody in South Africa for allegedly killing two children from Vosman near Witbank, one of them living with albinism. The South African Deputy Minister for Social Development, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said the killing of people living with albinism by people believed to be Swazis has become a national crisis in her home country.

The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (27 March 2018), ‘The deputy minister said she wanted to know what Swaziland was doing to stop the killing of people living with albinism. She also stated that some of these people were quitting their jobs and schools in fear of being kidnapped.’

Albinism affects the production of melanin, the pigment that colours skin, hair and eyes. It’s a lifelong condition, but it doesn’t get worse over time. People with albinism have a reduced amount of melanin, or no melanin at all. This can affect their colouring and their eyesight. Albinism is caused by faulty genes that a child inherits from their parents.

See also :
PEOPLE WITH ALBINISM WANT PROTECTION

Source: A campaign to educate on albinism, March 30, 2018

More on Swazi Media Commentary (source: Pambazuka News):
Swazi Media Commentary: Telling the truth about Swaziland
by Peter Kenworthy | February 2, 2011

Related article on albinism in Swaziland: Why Albert is living in fear