Father Cyril Imohiosen, a Nigerian priest who is a SMA Father and a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, Florida, followed in the footsteps of his predecessors when speaking at a catholic Mass with Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito marking Black History Month at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Riviera Beach, lashing out against ritual killing and witchcraft practices in Tanzania.
Father Imohiosen is to be commended for raising his voice against these cruel practices in Tanzania. I proves once more that an increasing number of people no longer accept the excrescences of superstition based on ignorance and tolerated – sometimes even encouraged – by powerful people who benefit from it. (webmaster FVDK)
Christians must be ‘light in the darkness’ – speaking out against ritual killing in Tanzania
RIVIERA BEACH | At a Feb. 4, 2023, Mass with Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito marking Black History Month at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Riviera Beach, a visiting priest presented a call to action for those thirsting for rights, justice and peace.
Father Cyril Imohiosen, a Nigerian priest who is a member of the Society of African Missions and a student at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, urged parishioners in his homily to reach out to neighbors and be a positive influence in their communities and workplaces.
Speaking about his challenging experiences as a missionary in Tanzania, Father Imohiosen recalled incidences of ritual killing and elderly women being accused of witchcraft in order to steal their possessions.
“As a missionary, I had to speak out against this,” he said. “I had to shelter and protect these poor women and children from extortion, injustice, … Just as Martin Luther King never remained silent, the prophet invites us to speak out. Dear friends, are you speaking against all these or are you a perpetrator encouraging them? What is your relationship like with the people that live in your neighborhood? How sensitive are you to them? As we celebrate our love, our togetherness and our heritage as a people, let us listen to the voice of the prophet today.”
In the day’s first reading (Is 58:7-10), the prophet Isaiah tells the people of Israel to share their bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and homeless, and remove persecution from their midst.
“As he speaks to the Israelites, he speaks to each of us today,” Father Imohiosen said. “He invites us to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. He invites us to live a life of justice. He invites us to live a life of love. He invites us to live a life of forgiveness and righteousness in whatever situation we find ourselves in. Regardless of where we come from, our race, our inclination, etc., we are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Connecting the Gospel reading (Mt 5:13-16) to societal needs, he encouraged all to be salt and light in the world.
“The presence of Christians in the world must be like light in the darkness,” Father Imohiosen said. “The light allows others to witness the acts of justice and love that followers of Christ perform. Just as a few grains of salt can make a big difference in food, so also a few faithful Christians can make a big difference in the world with their shining lights.”
For more information on St. Francis of Assisi Parish, which will celebrate its 75th anniversary March 18-19, visit https://stfrancisofassisi1948.org, on Facebook at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church – Riviera Beach, FL or call 561-842-2482.
As stated elsewhere on this site, human sacrifices are of all ages and all places. In principle, this site focuses on ritualistic activities including killings and murders on the African continent but without pretending that these cruel and superstitious acts are only happening or being committed by Africans in African countries.
The article presented below amply illustrates the foregoing. It goes without saying that a topic such as ‘human sacrifices in historical perspective’ covers a vast area and cannot be treated in one short and simple article. Nevertheless, I have thought it useful and informative to include the following article on this site.
Warning: some readers may find the following text shocking because of its graphic contents. (webmaster FVDK).
Countless Centuries of Human Sacrifice
Live Science recently published a list of 25 cultures that employed human sacrifice “from prehistory to the 21st century.”
In the history of religion, uncountable centuries of human sacrifice present a gory stunner.
It’s astounding that parents around the world sent their children and unwed daughters to be stabbed, burned, skinned, strangled, beheaded, drowned, crushed, clubbed or otherwise killed to please absurd gods and goddesses now known to be imaginary. Men – especially prisoners of war – also were sacrificed.
Live Science recently published a list of 25 cultures that employed human sacrifice “from prehistory to the 21stcentury.” It included China, the city of Ur (in today’s Iraq), Mound 72 near St. Louis, the Incas of Peru, the Mayas of Mexico, the Philistines of the Mideast, Aztecs of Mexico, ancient Egypt, Stonehenge, medieval Japan, Hawaii, early Romans, ancient Greeks, the Moche tribe of Peru, the Dahomey of Africa, Celts of Europe, Nazca of Peru, Vikings, Carthage, Mongols, hunter-gatherers of early Europe, the Indus Valley, ancient Korea, India, Tanzania.
Encyclopedia Britannica says:
“Sacrifice is not a phenomenon that can be reduced to rational terms; it is fundamentally a religious act that has been of profound significance to individuals and social groups throughout history, a symbolic act that establishes a relationship between man and the sacred order. For many peoples of the world, throughout time, sacrifice has been the very heart of their religious life.”
Here’s a section from my book, Holy Horrors, reprinted with permission from Prometheus Books and Rowman & Littlefield:
Over the centuries, sacrifice had many varieties. In ancient Phoenicia, boys were burned to satisfy Adonis and other gods – and the fall of Carthage was blamed on the faithlessness of nobles who substituted children of slaves for their own on the altars. In ancient Gaul, the Druids allegedly put victims into large wicker figures of men and set them afire. In Tibet, Bon shamans performed ritual killing. In Africa, the Ashanti offered about 100 victims each September to assure a good yam harvest. In Borneo, builders of pile-houses drove the first pile through the body of a maiden to satisfy the earth goddess.
The golden age of sacrifice came with the highly organized theocracies of Central America. After the Mayans amalgamated with fierce neighbor tribes in the 11th century, ritual killings proliferated to appease the plumed serpent Kukulcan (later called Quetzacoatl by the Aztecs) and sundry other gods. Maidens were drowned in sacred wells, and other victims were beheaded, shot with arrows, or had their hearts cut out.
In Peru, pre-Inca tribes killed children in “houses of the moon.” Beginning in the 1200s, the Incas built a complex theocracy dominated by priests who read daily magical signs and offered sacrifices to many gods. At major ceremonies, up to 200 children were burned as offerings. Mothers brought their darlings dressed in finery and flowers to be put to death. Special “chosen women” – comely virgins without blemish – sometimes were removed from their temple duties and strangled. Local rulers sent choice daughters to the capital at Cuzco as chosen women. Later they were sent back to be buried alive.
The ultimate murder religion was that of the Aztecs, which demanded about 20,000 victims per year. The chief deity was the sun, which might disappear, priests warned, without daily sustenance of hearts and blood. Multitudes of victims, mostly prisoners of war, were held on stone altars by clergy who ripped out their hearts with obsidian knives. Flesh from their arms was eaten ritually, and their skulls were preserved on racks holding as many as 10,000 heads. Raids called “wars of the flowers” were conducted to seize plentiful sacrifice candidates.
Priests also killed many Aztecs. Weeping children were sacrificed so that their tears might induce the rain god to water the crops. To please the maize goddess, dancing virgins were seized, decapitated, and skinned – and their skins were worn by priests in continued dancing.
In 1487, when the great Aztec temple in Tenochtitlan was dedicated, eight teams of priests worked four days sacrificing 20,000 prisoners, the entire manpower of three captured tribes….
In the Far East, five different types of human sacrifice were halted by British rulers in the 1800s. One was the yearly meriah by the Khonds of Bengal, who cut a victim into small pieces and buried the fragments in many fields to assure a good harvest. Another was a weekly rite by certain followers of the bloodthirsty Hindu goddess Kali who sacrificed a male child every Friday evening at a shrine in Tanjore, India.
A third was the Hindu code of suttee, which required a widow to leap onto her dead husband’s funeral pyre, willingly or unwillingly. The British banned it in 1829, but it persisted. (When Brahmans of Sind protested that suttee was their holy custom, Governor Charles Napier replied: “My nation also has a custom When men burn women alive, we hang them. Let us all act according to national customs.”)
In Burma, the Buddhist king moved the capital to Mandalay in 1854 and sanctified the new city walls by burying scores of “spotless” men alive in vats under the gates and bastions. In 1861, two of the vats were discovered to be empty – whereupon royal astrologers declared that 500 men, women, boys and girls must be killed and buried at once, or the capital must be abandoned. About 100 actually were buried before British authorities stopped the ceremonies.
The worst holy slaughter halted by the British was the infamous Thuggee strangling in India. For generations, certain secretive followers of Kali, the goddess of destruction, had been ritually dispatching an estimated 20,000 victims a year. The toll since the 1500s was estimated as high as two million. Thug theology held that Brahma the Creator produced lives faster than Shiva the Destroyer could end them, so Shiva’s wife Kali commanded believers to hunt humans and garrote them with sashes.
Thugs usually preyed upon travelers in unpopulated places. Victims were seized, strangled, ceremonially gashed, and buried, then the Thugs ate a ritual meal over the burial spot. (They also plundered the victim’s possessions – another motive for their religious fervor.) British officers finally broke Thuggee by ferreting out 3,689 cultists and hanging or imprisoning them, or branding them with “Thug” as a public warning. At a trial in 1840, one Thug was accused of strangling 931 people.
Other sacrifices lingered. In the 1800s an Ashanti king in Africa, wishing to make his new palace impregnable, sacrificed 200 girls and mixed their blood in the mortar of the walls. In 1838 a Pawnee American Indian girl was cut to pieces to fertilize newly sown crops. During the late 1800s, bodies of sacrificed children occasionally were found at Kali shrines in India.
Among those thousands of priests, I wonder if any realized that their gods were purely imaginary. Whether they did or not, their careers consisted of senseless, pointless, horrifying murder.
In a recently released document of the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), Revealing Our Hidden Shame – Addressing Charges of Witchcraft and Ritual Attacks, it is being reported that “hundreds of thousands of children in Africa are believed to be accused every year of what is widely regarded across Africa as a particularly heinous crime: witchcraft”.
In the document, 19 Sub-Sahara African countries are mentioned as the scene of cases of the commission of rural infanticide crimes, attacks against children with disabilities, ritual attacks against children with albinism and cases of violence against children accused of witchcraft.
The 19 SSA countries are scattered across the continent and it is believed – in view of the scarcity of data – that the cases which have come to light only constitute the tip of the iceberg.
It goes without saying that there is no place in the 21st century for these practices and crimes.
Warning: Some readers may find the following story disturbing (webmaster FVDK).
Cult-related attacks against children still occur in at least 19 SSA countries
Published: June 2, 2022 By: LUSA – Macau Business dot com
Angola is the only Portuguese-speaking African country mentioned in a report released on Wednesday by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) on the practice of ritual attacks against children.
In the document, “Revealing Our Hidden Shame – Addressing Charges of Witchcraft and Ritual Attacks”, presented Tuesday in a video conference from Addis Ababa, “hundreds of thousands of children in Africa are believed to be accused every year of what is widely regarded across Africa as a particularly heinous crime: witchcraft”.
ACPF executive director Joan Nyanyuki argues in the introduction that “across the African continent, much has been done to improve laws and policies aimed at ending violence against children.”
“Some progress has been made in establishing the systems and structures needed to implement and enforce these policies and laws. These efforts, however, have not sufficiently addressed an important dimension of violence against children: accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks,” it adds.
In the document, 19 countries are referenced as the scene of cases of the commission of rural infanticide crimes, attacks against children with disabilities, attacks against children with albinism and cases of violence against children accused of witchcraft.
“The report documents, to the extent possible in light of the scarcity of data, how widespread accusations of witchcraft are across the continent (although they vary in extent over time and from place to place). Best estimates suggest that hundreds of thousands of children face accusations every year in Africa and subsequently suffer serious violations.”
Examples given by the document point to reported cases of ritual infanticide in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar and Niger, while Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Essuatini, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Madagascar, Rwanda and Zimbabwe have reported ritual attacks on children with disabilities.
Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali and Tanzania have reported attacks on children with albinism and in South Africa, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania cases of violence against children accused of being witches are reported.
“To protect children from the harm of witchcraft accusations, it is not necessary to deny that ‘witchcraft’ exists. Instead, it is important to prioritise child protection while preventing child abuse by addressing the belief that such abuse can somehow protect communities from perceived danger,” the document argues.
The research that resulted in the report found that with the exception of work done by some non-governmental organisations, “few organisations and states in Africa make systematic efforts to prevent such abuse”.
“Few prohibit accusations. Services for children who have suffered harm and violence related to accusations are few and far between. This area needs urgent attention,” argues the report.
Joan Nyanyuki argues “a comprehensive and coordinated effort by state and non-state actors is needed to uncover the nature, magnitude and impact of violence related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks. This approach will ensure that child protection systems, laws and policies are enhanced to adequately address these forms of violence against children.”
Saving Africa’s Witch Children (dated June 22, 2009) reporting on how thousands of small children in Nigeria are branded witches. The web page also contains a large number of news reports and articles (2005-2009) including websites of organizations fighting against these cruel and illegal practices.
There is hardly any doubt that in Malawi the position of people with albinism is the most fragile and dangerous as compared to other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. I have repeatedly mentioned this here, see e.g. my posting earlier this year, on January 22.
In 2017, ALJAZEERA reported that In Malawi, more than 115 people had been attacked in the past two years and that at least 20 of them did not survive the attack. Below follows an extensive report of ALJAZEERA on the victims, the survivors and the perpetrators (as far as known).
ALJAZEERA is to be commended for raising awareness on the human rights violations people with albinism experience and the efforts being made to protect them.
ALJAZEERA is to be commended for this excellent work of investigative journalism and the attention thus paid to this curse. People with albinism face discrimination in at least 23 African countries. For many, this discrimination amounts to insecurity, violence & murder.
Also in the current year, ALJAZEERA paid attention to the plight of people with albinism, on June 13, International Albinism Awareness Day, with a series of tweets. Click here to access the tweets.
Warning: some readers may find the following stories disturbing (webmaster FVDK).
Published: June 13, 2022 By: ALJAZEERA
Killed for their bones – On the trail of the trade in human body parts
In Malawi, people with albinism are being killed and their bodies harvested; children and adults hacked to death with machetes and kitchen knives. More than 115 people have been attacked in the past two years, at least 20, fatally. Those who have survived have been left with deep physical and psychological scars, and remain fearful that those who hunt them will return.
But why is this happening? Ask and most people will talk about an elusive market for these body parts, people who are prepared to pay large sums of money for them and witch doctors who use them in potions to cure everything from disease to bad luck. But few seem to know where this trade actually takes place or to be able to point to an instance of money changing hands.
So, does this market of human body parts really exist, or is it a myth that is driving murder? We went in search of the market and found a toxic mix of witchcraft, poverty and desperation.
Here are the stories of the victims, the survivors and the perpetrators.
The condition that makes me black without black, white but not white. That is how it was, and I will tell you all about it. – Petina Gappah, The Book of Memory
1 – The Victims
Village of Nambilikira, Dedza district, eastern Malawi
It was a Sunday in April 2016. A warm, dry day. Seventeen-year-old David Fletcher was being moody and withdrawn. He wanted to watch a football match at the local school instead of helping his family gather maize in the fields. His parents eventually relented and let him go.
When he didn’t return later that day, they searched the village, but couldn’t find David.
The next day, they walked to the nearest police station to report him missing. Then they waited.
A week later, the local police chief came to their home to deliver the news: David’s dismembered body had been found, 80km away, in neighbouring Mozambique. It was badly decomposed, he told them. It couldn’t be brought to the village for burial, but he could bring the arms and legs, if they wished. And if the family could afford the journey, they could visit it where it was found.
“He was dead. What benefit was there to see his dead body?” Fletcher Machinjiri, David’s 65-year-old father, asks, dismissively. “It was too expensive for us.”
Fletcher is sitting outside his house. His 53-year-old wife, Namvaleni Lokechi, sits beside him. Her face is expressionless. Their 32-year-old daughter Mudelanji and 21-year-old son Manchinjiri sit on the hard earth a few metres away. They listen as though it is the first time they have heard the story.
“He was killed like a goat at a market,” Lokechi says, staring into the distance. “His arms and legs had been chopped off. They broke off some of his bones. His skin was hanging. And they buried him in a shallow grave.”
He was killed like a goat at a market. His arms and legs had been chopped off.– Namvaleni Lokechi, the mother of David Fletcher, a murdered 17-year-old
She makes chopping motions with her hands as she speaks.
“We cry every day,” Fletcher says. “To us, he was a ray of hope. We believed in his future. We thought he would lift our hand because he was good at school.”
“We still battle to eat without him.”
‘A war against people with albinism’
Born in 1999, David was the fourth of five siblings – and the only one to have been born with albinism.
“I wasn’t surprised when he was born,” David’s mother says softly. “I was more than happy with his complexion.”
Her tiny frame stiffens when she talks about her son.
She had an aunt in Blantyre with the same congenital disorder that results in a partial absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes, she explains.
“I’ve always felt that this group of people were lucky in life,” she says slowly.
David was a star pupil at the local school in the neighbouring village of Kachule.
His teacher, Clement Gweza, recalls feeling mildly concerned when he didn’t turn up for school that Monday.
“I thought maybe there were no groceries at home, or maybe he was unwell,” Clement says, sitting inside his empty classroom. “But the second day [he didn’t turn up] … then I got worried.”
When he learned what had happened to David, he says, he was shocked. “It meant I was next,” he says, placing his hands on his chest.
For Clement also has albinism.
So, too, does 14-year-old Latida Macho, another pupil at the school. She is one of five siblings with the condition. After David’s murder, her family refused to send her to school for three weeks.
“If this is war against people with albinism, then it means I’m second in line,” Clement reflects.
He says he knew that people with albinism were being murdered, but “for it to happen in the district, but also in my class, it was unreal”.
Within days, two men were arrested for the murder.
Both Malawians, they were tried in a district court in May 2016 and sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiracy to commit a crime and abduction.
David’s family say they heard about the arrests and subsequent trial only from the media. And that they are bitterly disappointed with the outcome.
“The accused persons should be killed as well,” Fletcher says, pointing to the floor. “The child was brutally killed, hence they must equally be killed brutally.”
Village of Nasi, district of Phalombe, eastern Malawi
Seventeen-year-old Alfred Chigalu lives with his aunt in a mud home surrounded by dead sunflowers.
Their courtyard of red earth is home to five goats and a dozen raucous chickens.
The nearest neighbour is a five-minute walk away, along a path cut through overgrown grass. It takes 20 minutes – across dried up tobacco fields – to reach the main road. Drought has hit this region hard, and while tall mango trees provide shade for the farmers, they bear no fruit.
The climate here is harsh. Crops are often destroyed by drought or violent hailstorms. Like others in the village, Alfred and his aunt, Lydia Petulo, are surviving on pieces of dried maize from last year’s harvest. The goats in the yard are not their own. Lydia looks after them for a local merchant, and receives one at the end of each year in return.
In December 2015, four men broke down the door of Alfred’s bedroom while he was sleeping. They slashed at him with machetes, hitting the back of his head, his shoulders and his back. They tried to drag him out of the house. When his aunt found him in a pool of his own blood, his attackers ran away.
Alfred survived but was left badly scarred.
Now, the slightest sound wakes him, and when he walks to the village he must be accompanied.
“Before the attack I used to depend on him; I could send him to the market, he could go to the farm and do the farming,” Lydia says, biting her lips as she completes her sentences.
“But I cannot do the same these days.”
“I fear for his life. The responsibility has shifted to me.”
But this isn’t the first time she has been afraid for her nephew. She took him out of school six years ago, when the taunting began, she explains.
Lydia slouches as she narrates their story. Her tired eyes wander. But they brighten when she talks about Alfred. She adopted him after his mother – her sister – died.
Alfred had a sibling who also had albinism, but that child died, she recalls. She doesn’t remember the dates or the details – of his sibling’s or his parents’ deaths – other than that both of Alfred’s parents died around the time he took his first steps.
‘I am lonely’
Alfred is sitting outside on the floor, his back against the house, wearing oversized jeans and a short-sleeved shirt. They are the only clothes he owns. He was wearing his other outfit when he was attacked. There was so much blood that it had to be burned.
On his head is a large cowboy hat.
He is tall with broad shoulders that droop when he walks. For the first few hours that we are there, he doesn’t talk.
But when we put the camera away and move out of sight of the curious neighbours who have gathered to watch, he begins to speak.
His parched lips barely move.
“I wake up at 6 in the morning, every day. I sweep the yard, but I feel pain in my arms,” he says slowly.
He removes his shirt to reveal long, deep scars on his chest and back.
“The way they cut me, they cut my veins. I can barely hold a hoe,” he explains.
I want to finish school, to become a teacher, and move out of here. I would love if someone could take me away from this village. I have to get out of this place.– Seventeen-year-old Alfred Chigalu, who was attacked in November 2015
When she found him on the floor, Lydia began to scream and cry.
“The neighbours came, but it was too late, the attackers had left,” she says. “I really felt sorry for him when I looked at him and I knew he was lucky to have survived. He would have been killed if he hadn’t screamed for me.”
She says she knows why he was attacked.
“Before the attack, some people used to mock him if he went outside the house. They [would say] he is worth millions of kwacha [thousands of dollars], so that gave us an indication that his life could be in danger,” Lydia explains.
The physical wounds have mostly healed, but life is not the same for Alfred. He misses “chatting”, he says, shyly, before adding: “Most of all I miss my friends. I am lonely.”
His aunt says he “lacks peace”.
In April 2016, Ikponwosa Ero, the UN’s independent expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, visited Alfred and his aunt. She told Al Jazeera that Alfred seemed to have suffered “memory loss” after the attack. But when we visit him two months later, he rolls off the names of towns in Malawi, capital cities of African countries and national political leaders. He seems to be recovering.
Fiddling with a piece of dry hay, he tells us: “I want to finish school, to become a teacher, and move out of here. I would love if someone could take me away from this village. I have to get out of this place.”
Village of Mpakati, Machinga district, southern Malawi
Edna Cedric remembers that night in February 2016.
Her husband, Marizane Kapiri, had gone fishing. Her identical nine-year-old twins, Hari and Harrison, were sleeping beside her.
She heard a knock at the door. When she answered it, a machete-wielding man barged inside, slashing at her.
He pulled Hari from the bed and dragged him to the door. Edna tried to hold on to him while also gripping Harrison with her other hand.
Then the intruder struck her face with the machete and she fell to the floor. And, just like that, her son was gone.
The police brought the head wrapped in a cloth and in a sack. His mother identified it.– Marizane Kapiri, Hari’s stepfather
“I couldn’t hold on to him any longer,” she says, quietly. “I ran out screaming.”
“Four days later, the police found his head in Mozambique.”
“The place was very lonely. This is why we moved here,” her husband says.
The fisherman is not the father of Edna’s children. He says he spent the best part of the five days after Hari was abducted explaining to the police why he wasn’t at home when the attack took place. They suspected that he was involved and it wasn’t until the village chief explained to them that he spent much of his time at the lake, catching fish to feed the family, that the police let him go.
“After the police discovered the head, they sent a message to us that we should be ready to see it,” Marizane explains. “They brought the head wrapped in a cloth and in a sack. His mother identified it.”
According to Amnesty International, two men were arrested in connection with Hari’s murder. One was said to be an uncle, and the other a stranger who had an existing conviction for possessing the bones of a person with albinism. For that crime, he had been fined $30.
The family, though, say they have no idea who was responsible for the attack and what has become of those who were arrested.
The twin brother
Harrison is wearing pyjamas and a cowboy hat. He sits between his parents as they take turns to talk. He fiddles with the cords of his hat, licks his cracked lips and scratches at the dry skin on his arms. He only returned to school in September 2016, eight months after his brother was taken.
Their mudbrick home is in a remote rural area, far from the main road between Blantyre and Mangochi. Houses here sit in small plots on expansive fields. It is a few minutes’ walk to the nearest neighbours through fields of browning plants that haven’t been harvested in a year. Here, police officers are few and far between.
But this is not where Hari was taken from. That home was even more isolated, Marizane explains.
“We demolished the house … and moved here so we are closer to other people,” he says.
But the move hasn’t changed much for the remaining brother, Harrison.
“He wakes up in the middle of night, screaming, because he can’t find his brother. We just tell him he will come back one day,” Marizane explains.
He wakes up in the middle of night, screaming, because he can’t find his brother.– Marizane Kapiri, whose stepson, Hari, was murdered
Edna says that she can’t get over the pain she felt when she saw Hari’s head.
“I immediately thought about his brother, Harrison, and I knew his life would never be the same,” she says, looking at her surviving son.
2 – A History of Violence
Borrowed from the word “albus”, meaning white in Latin, albinism is a congenital disorder where the body is unable to create enough melanin to darken the skin, hair and eyes.
The non-contagious condition affects about one in 20,000 people worldwide. But it is more common in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in 5,000 have albinism. Most cases are in Mozambique, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
In Malawi, a country of 16.5 million people, there are said to be 7,000 to 10,000 people with albinism.
Why it affects this part of the world so disproportionately is unclear.
And it is not just a matter of colour: lack of melanin often results in poor vision and sensitivity to light. In fact, many people with albinism are legally blind.
Because their skin is particularly vulnerable to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, they can also be predisposed to skin cancer and lesions.
According to a 2014 study, people with albinism in Africa are 1,000 times more likely to get skin cancer than others.
But their plight is not solely medical.
The story of discrimination against people with albinism is an old but not necessarily well-documented one. It is driven by myths and superstition.
According to Amnesty International, those with albinism face discrimination in 23 countries in Africa.
For many, this discrimination amounts to violence – murder, infanticide and live burials.
The past decade has seen an increase in the number of documented killings and maimings of people with the condition, driven in part by a belief that their organs, bones and body parts can be sold on the black market.
And that belief is fed by the myth that their bones are made of gold dust and the suggestion that they are a necessary component of magic potions.
But while there are reports of bones reaching up to $75,000 on the black market, there have been no documented cases of money changing hands. So the question of whether an organised trade in the body parts of people with albinism exists has yet to be definitively answered.
The UN’s Ikponwosa Ero says they have been unable to confirm the existence of a market.
“There is allegedly a lot of money in this business. And I say allegedly because people keep on repeating the idea that there is a lot of money in this, and it would seem that the media is part of the reason some people have gotten involved,” she says. “But then some countries have witnessed a reduction in the number of attacks, maybe because people are realising there is no value [in the bones and body parts].”
The majority of the documented attacks have taken place in the Great Lakes region, particularly Tanzania and Burundi. According to media reports, Tanzania has seen some 180 attacks, including 76 murders, since 2000. Thirty-five of those murders took place in 2015.
Within eight months of her appointment as the UN’s independent expert on albinism in June 2015, Ikponwosa, who herself has albinism, documented 40 attacks in eight countries.
Although there has long been discrimination, she points to a more recent phenomenon: “Hacking people [with albinism] alive.”
Zomba, southern Malawi
Emily Chiumia works at a government department in Zomba, southern Malawi. But she moonlights as an activist for people with albinism.
She’s happy to talk, even if the topic is the names they call her.
“You walk on the street, and they call you ‘millions, millions’,” she laughs, “as if we are gold.”
Emily is the former vice-president of the Association for Persons with Albinism (APAM). Since the attacks began, Emily and the association have been documenting the offences committed against people like her.
Most of them, she says, are carried out by relatives, neighbours or people the victims considered to be friends.
“Before, it was a case of people saying ‘if you sleep with a person with albinism, your skin will turn white’,” she says. “But now, it’s different. I cannot enjoy my life as I used to … I can’t walk in the evenings, can’t sleep, even at home, I fear who might come.” Her laugh has disappeared now.
You walk on the street, and they call you ‘millions, millions’, as if we are gold.– Emily Chiumia, former vice-president of the Association for Persons with Albinism
Radio DJ Ian Sambota describes how in 2012 he was befriended by an “older, educated” woman who first offered him K100,000 ($138) and then K500,000 ($700) to sleep with her. “She was HIV positive and she thought if she slept with a person with albinism, it would be solved,” he says.
Ian refused, but admits that the offer was tempting because he needed the money to pay for medical care for his mother.
Steven Burgess is in his 40s and says he has been called a “white animal” since he was a child. But this is “a time of crisis”, he explains, referring to the increase in attacks.
Bazirio Kaudzu, 46, says he feels so threatened that he only travels to the clinic in the capital Lilongwe – to collect the zinc oxide ointment needed to treat the lesions and blisters on his skin – if his nephew accompanies him. It’s an expensive journey for the tomato farmer, so each month he must take out a loan to cover the cost of the taxi ride for two.
But it hasn’t always been this way.
Patricia Maguwa, 37, remembers a time when her husband, gospel singer Geoffrey Zigoma, was considered one of the golden voices of Malawian music. Before he died of cancer in 2013, he always tried to offer a counter-narrative to the misperceptions about people with albinism, she says.
“He was called names like ‘yellow man’, but he never felt insecure about his life,” she says from her modest home 7km outside Lilongwe. “[But] the situation is different now.”
A shifting trade
Malawi’s government recognises that there is a problem.
Neverson Chisiza, a senior state advocate at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, says there have been at least 85 documented cases, including murder, assault, attempted abductions, trafficking, maiming, and grave robberies since 2014. At least 20 of those cases have been murder.
Malawi’s government says a crackdown in neighbouring Tanzania has shifted the “trade” in body parts to their country.
Senior Chief Kawinga, a traditional authority from Malawi’s Machinga district, where most of the attacks have taken place, told us during a visit to his office that he’d heard the market for body parts was in neighbouring Mozambique. Each country in the region tends to posit their neighbour as the source of the problem.
Though many people tend to use the term “albino”, there have been significant attempts to change the terminology to “person with albinism”. Ikponwosa Ero says this is preferred as it puts the person before the condition, while Canadian charity Under the Same Sun points to the fact that albino has historically been used in a derogatory manner.
In June 2016, 150 government officials, academics and activists from 26 countries met in Dar es Salaam for the first forum on albinism in Africa. It aimed to create an action plan to end the attacks, and concluded that governments must dedicate a budget and a multisectoral task force to doing so. It recommended a range of measures and best practices. “Now that we have a catalogue of effective specific measures that are not very expensive to execute, governments should no longer act ignorant of what to do on the issue … It is time to act,” said Ikponwosa Ero.
3 – The Perpetrators
Zomba, southern Malawi
The red brick walls glisten in the midday sun.
Zomba Maximum Prison stands like a citadel in the former capital. It might resemble a factory were it not for its watch towers and the metal fence that encircles it. Flanked by mango trees and shrubs, a dirt track leads to the main entrance.
Inside, some 2,365 prisoners are either awaiting trial or serving time for some of the most serious of crimes: murder, abduction, trafficking, and armed robbery.
The prison’s director, Major Manwell, greets us at the front door – an almost three-metre tall gateway made of green steel. He is wearing a khaki safari suit and leather sandals.
“How can I help you?” he asks with a knowing smile.
Manwell hands us over to two prison guards who lead us into an open corridor between the front desk and the staff kitchen. A makeshift clothes line hangs nearby. We sit on a bench, shaded by the prison’s towering walls.
Over the next three hours, we will meet eight prisoners who are either awaiting trial or have been convicted of playing some part in an attack on somebody with albinism.
One at a time, they sit opposite us on another wooden bench, a translator beside them.
A guard sits at a distance – far enough that his presence doesn’t feel intrusive, but close enough to eavesdrop. His body language tells us when he finds an inmate’s story of interest. When he doesn’t, he slumps back into his leather chair.
Just two of the inmates acknowledge that their case is related to someone with albinism. Most insist that they were framed or have been wrongly accused. Only one admits to having committed a crime.
“They are not able to come to terms with their crimes,” says the guard, removing his cap so that he can scratch his head. “They are in denial.”
The tomb raider
Stenala Shaibu Lizahapa is wearing a clean white shirt and tattered jeans. He takes his seat slowly and crosses his legs. A thin row of rosary beads pass through his fingers. Stenala is not in a hurry. Unlike the others, he doesn’t fidget. He simply sits and waits.
He is in his mid-30s and has been convicted of trespassing on a gravesite to remove three bones from the body of a deceased man named Awali Mandevu.
Along with five others, he was caught trying to sell the bones to an undercover police officer in April 2015.
All six were charged with criminal trespassing, removal of human tissue and selling human bones.
Three of them, including Stenala, pleaded guilty. Two others denied the charges and were acquitted, while the case against the sixth was dropped.
Stenala was sentenced to six years in prison.
He says he has made peace with his crime.
“What I did was wrong, but I felt desperate,” he says softly, only briefly making eye contact. “I feel ashamed.”
If there is a market [for bones], I don’t know… I would have believed it if I saw it. – Stenala Shaibu Lizahapa, sentenced to six years in prison for selling human bones
As a fisherman, he says he was earning K500 (70 cents) a day. So when friends asked if he’d help them deliver a set of bones to a client – promising it would make him “rich enough to drive” – he says he was tempted.
“With my income, I can’t afford a motorcycle, but a car – that was a dream … The devil took over me,” he says.
In early April 2015, Stenala travelled with friends from Machinga to his home district of Jali, where he went to Chinangwa, a village neighbouring his own, in search of a grave he’d been told housed the corpse of a person with albinism.
“Who doesn’t want more money?” he asks rhetorically. “I knew it was wrong, but I did it for my family.”
“If there is a market [for bones], I don’t know,” he says. “I would have believed it if I saw it.”
The victim’s family
Chinangwa village, Zomba district, southern Malawi
In the village of Chinangwa, Emily Emisi is sitting on a straw mat outside her mud brick and thatch-roofed home.
She offers us a mat on which to sit – between a couple of brown puppies and some corn drying in the winter sun.
“Why didn’t you call before you came?” the 36-year-old asks with a smile. “I would have cooked.”
Her generosity betrays her means. Her open yard – like the barren plateau that surrounds it – is hard brown earth. A few mango and small kachere trees surround the settlement.
Three children sit on the floor. For a while, they watch curiously. But when the novelty of strangers wears off, they return to kicking a punctured miniature football.
“It was my grandfather’s grave that Stenala dug up,” Emily says. “It was terrible. He was buried a long time [ago], in the 1990s. And this felt like a second funeral for him.”
Emily says it didn’t come as a surprise to many of the villagers when they learned that Stenala was responsible.
“He was known to steal goats,” she says.
Stenala had got into an argument with his brother weeks before when he’d tried to persuade him to help find the bones, Emily explains. His brother had refused and the argument had turned into a fight. The whole village heard about it, she says.
“Then, he tried to romance an albino girl, but the girl refused and told villagers that she was being pursued by him.”
She is “happy he has been put away”, she says, because he would “terrorise the village”.
Someone close to Stenala must have betrayed him, Emily speculates, because nobody knew that the village graveyard had been tampered with.
But, while she has no doubt that Stenala had been searching for the bones of somebody with albinism, Emily says he dug up the wrong grave.
“My grandfather, Awali Madenvu, was not an albino. But his grave was close to an albino and so they got the wrong bones.”
That wouldn’t have made any difference anyway – the penalty in Malawi is the same.
Because his was not a case of murder or attempted murder, Stenala wasn’t eligible for legal aid and so had no representation in court.
He was tried, sentenced and given 30 days to appeal.
When we tell Emily that Stenala admits his guilt and is remorseful, she clicks her tongue and looks away. “Of course, after the hardship in jail, he is going to be remorseful,” she says.
“He is not someone who will change. We all think that his sentence is too short, and we expect him to come back and teach us a lesson.”
‘I will wait for him’
As the sun is about to set, the silhouette of a woman appears through a haze of dust. She has a girl at her side and a baby in her arms.
“That is Annie Fuleya,” a young girl says. “Stenala’s wife.”
She is on her way to gather wood. Stenala’s home village of Jali is just a few hundred metres away. Emily’s family crosses paths with Stenala’s every day.
Annie is tall with a brush-cut. She wears a long green skirt and a pale blue T-shirt.
In the weeks leading up to the incident, the 26-year-old says her husband was acting strangely. She recalls asking him to stay away from a friend she thought was trouble.
“I didn’t believe it at first but then after the conviction I felt let down by him,” she reflects, looking away as she completes her sentence. Then, without looking back at us, she adds: “I believe that he did it.”
Annie was pregnant when her husband was arrested and must now raise their four-year-old daughter Saamyato and their now 14-month-old baby Latifa alone.
She left Machinga for Stenala’s village after his arrest, believing it was safer to be close to her mother-in-law. Now, she works in other people’s fields and depends on financial support from the extended family to help raise her children.
“All I know is that he was found with body parts of an albino. I don’t know what parts. I don’t know what he did. I just feel disappointed,” Annie says, holding on to Latifa as the baby wriggles in her arms.
“But I understand that he may have done it because of our situation. He doesn’t earn enough as a fisherman. He looks after me, his mother, my mother, and two orphaned children from an aunt,” she explains softly. “Perhaps this is what drove him to do this.”
“I will wait for him. Because I have forgiven him,” she adds. “But he will have to conduct himself properly on his return.”
Stenala’s mother, who has been watching pensively as her daughter-in-law talks, agrees to speak to us under the shadow of a large kachere tree. Elizabeth Magawa is 49, and the resemblance to her son is immediately apparent. She smiles when we tell her this and the children who have gathered around, burst into laughter.
Elizabeth seems tired. She says she has aged over the past year.
“I didn’t look like this,” she sighs. “I spend sleepless nights wondering why Stenala would have done such a thing. He always helped the family.”
“It is something I will never understand,” she says. Then, she adds: “But I know he was fully capable of such a thing.”
Maybe Stenala did it because of our poverty, or because of peer pressure. I don’t know. – Elizabeth Magawa, mother of Stenala Shaibu, sentenced to six years for selling human bones
Her son’s arrest brought the family unwanted attention in the village, but Elizabeth says they haven’t suffered any serious repercussions.
“There was a lot of talk. They spoke about bones. But they’ve moved on,” she says.
“Maybe Stenala did it because of our poverty, or because of peer pressure. I don’t know.”
It has grown cold now and, without warning, Annie stands up and walks away, in the direction of her mother-in-law’s house.
Elizabeth watches as her daughter-in-law disappears into the darkness, her young daughter in tow.
Charles Nyasa: Convicted of trying to sell human tissue
Charles Nyasa cries as he tells his story.
The 24-year-old from Zomba district was sentenced to six years for being in possession of human flesh in March 2015.
He says he heard an advert for a witch doctor on radio or television – he can’t recall which – that promised “quick riches”. But when he visited the witch doctor, he was told to bring the placenta of a newborn. So, he says, he spent K8,000 ($11) buying one from nurses at a hospital.
When he took it to the witch doctor, he was accused of carrying a placenta from a newborn with albinism.
He was convicted but insists his case had nothing to do with albinism.
John Alfred: Convicted of trying to sell a child
Thirty-one-year-old John Alfred looks older than his years. He is feverish and sweating profusely, but wants to talk.
John was sentenced to six years in prison for trying to sell his own child.
“I did it because of my [financial] condition. No other reason,” he says, shaking.
The father of five from Naweta village, in Machinga district, was earning K4,000 ($5.50) for two weeks’ work in the gardens and on the farms of a businessman.
“My boss saw me living in poverty and said to me one day: ‘Why don’t you be brave, and sell that child of yours?’ pointing to my daughter Vanessa. He said there were buyers in Mozambique for children like her.”
I had five children, and I thought that maybe it wasn’t a problem to get rid of one.– John Alfred, sentenced to six years for trying to sell his daughter
John says that his daughter does not have albinism but “resembled one”. The authorities at the prison say the child does have the condition, although there is no mention of it in his prison file.
“I had five children, and I thought that maybe it wasn’t a problem to get rid of one,” John says.
In April 2015, without consulting his wife, he took their four-year-old daughter and left for Mozambique.
“I didn’t know where I was going. I was just going to Mozambique to find this market,” he says.
But the police intercepted him in Machinga and arrested him.
“I admitted it in court and was sentenced,” he tells us.
Melinda Mbendera: Convicted of attempted kidnapping
Twenty-year-old Melinda Mbendera is agitated. She twitches and bites her lips as she talks.
She was found guilty of trying to kidnap a child with albinism and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. But she insists that she is innocent. The court didn’t have enough evidence, she declares, and based their verdict solely on the claims of the child and her parents.
She says the judge told her that it would be safer for her to be in jail than on the streets, where she might face mob justice.
In 2016, 11 people suspected of being involved in digging graves or carrying human flesh were lynched in Malawi. In one case in the Nsanje district in March 2016, seven witch doctors accused of using bones in their potions were burned alive. A month earlier, a courthouse in the South Lunzu township in Blantyre, was razed to the ground after three people accused of murdering somebody with albinism had been bailed.
Melinda says she previously spent eight months in prison for stealing K200,000 ($275) from a family friend. She suspects her criminal record influenced the verdict in this case.
But, she maintains: “I didn’t spend eight months in this wretched place only to go out and commit another crime.”
“The police said that because I stole before, the probability was high that I did this … but why would I sell a human being?” she asks.
4 – A Question of Justice
Zomba, southern Malawi
Edge Kanyongolo is a tall man with thick eyebrows and an even thicker moustache.
The associate professor of law at the University of Malawi in Zomba is sitting behind his desk. Behind him, a window showcases a courtyard garden. Beside him, textbooks and legal reports are carefully stacked on a wooden bookshelf.
“The attacks on persons with albinism are a manifestation of a larger problem,” he says. “On the surface, there is the question of superstition and witchcraft, but I think underlying all of that is desperation.”
Malawi has been in an economic crisis since 2012. It began when tobacco, the country’s premier export, dropped in price by more than 50 percent in 2010. In 2012, under the guidance of the International Monetary Fund, President Joyce Banda imposed a range of hard-hitting economic reforms that were most harshly felt by the poor. The currency was devalued by almost 50 percent and inflation reached more than 20 percent.
In 2015, the World Bank rated Malawi as the poorest country in the world, per capita.
Two out of every five Malawians of employable age are without work. According to the International Labour Organisation, three in four young workers have only irregular employment, while nine out of 10 work in the informal sector, where their employment is precarious and may change daily. At least 61 percent of Malawians live on less than $1.25 a day and 2.3 million are said to be food-insecure.
“People don’t have options to earn money. And this then drives them to be so desperate and, as some would say – so irrational – as to think that getting the body parts of a type of person and so on, may make you rich,” the professor explains.
But Elijah Kachikuwo, the senior deputy commissioner of police in Mangochi, disagrees. In fact, he grows agitated when questioned about the connection. He is standing in the dusty courtyard of the main police station in Mangochi.
“It is not poverty that is causing this,” he declares, the lines on his forehead deepening. “We aren’t faced with poverty for the first time in the country. We shouldn’t hide behind this … so that question is out of order.”
The traditional healers
Mphalare in Dedza, central region of Malawi
Masiyambuyo Njolomole and Usmani Ibrahima Banda live in the remote village of Mphalare in Dedza. It is 80km – about an hour’s drive along a dirt track – from Lilongwe.
They are both traditional healers.
Seven wooden stools lined up against a wall and a small coffee table are the only furniture inside the house where we meet them. There is no electricity, so the door has been left ajar. The sunlight illuminates the two men’s faces. A woman sweeps the yard outside, scraping at the dry earth.
Usmani wears a skull cap; Masiyambuyo a headdress made from monkey skin. The latter smiles as he presents his registration card. Usmani’s expired in 2011.
Masiyambuyo, a tall, thin man, makes it clear that neither of them use bones of any kind in their potions. He says “people like him” are being made scapegoats for criminals and a political conspiracy because the government has lost control of the situation. “This is a syndicate by some influential people in this country who are interested in body parts of albinos. They simply want to take the attention away from them; that is why they are accusing us,” he declares.
“Albinos have existed for a long time and we have also existed for a long time,” he adds.
In June 2016, Malawi’s High Court banned “witch doctors, traditional healers, charm sellers, fortune tellers and magicians,” in an effort to quell the trade in the bones of people with albinism.
Traditional healers such as Usmani and Masiyambuyo argue that only hurts the people they help.
“People think we deal with witchcraft, but we are here to help people,” Masiyambuyo says, earnestly, opening his arms.
According to the Traditional Healers Association of Malawi, up to 97 percent of the population visit traditional healers and herbalists. It is hard to verify this but it is clear that many people do use them, particularly in rural areas, where the state is often conspicuous by its absence.
Usmani says that, in such circumstances, the services he and Masiyambuyo provide are critical.
People think we deal with witchcraft, but we are here to help people.– Masiyambuyo Njolomole, a traditional healer based in Dedza
He was trained by his father, the softly spoken traditional healer explains, and used to specialise in sexually transmitted diseases. But, “nowadays, [it’s] cancer, blood pressure, asthma, using herbs and a mixture from seven trees” he adds, showing us plastic packets of concoctions made primarily from plants.
“People come to me when the hospitals have failed them.”
Dr Chilani is the spokesperson for Malawi’s Traditional Healers Association and tells us over the phone that “everyone [in the country], [from] farmers to politicians” uses traditional healers.
Many believe that illness involves an “element of being bewitched”, he explains. But, he insists, “sending people to kill others” isn’t part of their craft.
“We help people, we don’t kill them,” he says.
The new law targeting unlicensed traditional healers would purportedly help end these crimes. But the line between traditional healer and witch doctor isn’t always clear.
Mary Shawa, the former principal secretary at the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, says the distinction lies in registration. “No one who obeys the law needs to feel threatened,” she explains.
Chilani’s Facebook page offers “revenge spells, fertility spells, magic rings and witchcraft spells”, but also asks that anyone with information about the bones of somebody with albinism contact him so that it can be reported to the police. He says no one has been in touch.
“If we have been around for generations, and the killings of persons with albinism began roughly two years ago, what were we doing all this time?” he asks.
One lawyer for every 38,500 Malawians
Lilongwe, central region of Malawi
Piles of paper cover Masauko Chamkakala’s desk. The director of Legal Aid, the body tasked with representing those who cannot afford legal representation, is in his office in Area 4 of Lilongwe.
The country’s legal system, he says, is a mess.
“More than 90 percent of the population cannot afford legal representation. We have seven lawyers for the entire country,” he says, his hands clasped and eyebrows raised.
The Legal Aid Act stipulates that anyone charged with a crime that could result in a custodial sentence is entitled to legal aid, but limited resources have resulted in the courts restricting this to homicide cases.
A 2013 report found that Malawi had fewer than 400 lawyers. That was one lawyer for every 38,500 people.
The jails are overcrowded and suspects can wait months or even years before their cases go to trial.
“If you go to the prisons [and] start going through the cases, you realise that so many of these people are not supposed to be there,” Masauko says, pointing out that: “For an ordinary person to get an appointment with a lawyer will cost him K20,000 ($27), while the [monthly] minimum wage is K18,000 ($25).”
Then there is the question of entrapment – a method that police officers have admitted to using but one which has so far led only to the arrest of sellers.
More than 90 percent of the population cannot afford legal representation. We have seven lawyers for the entire country.– Masauko Chamkakala, the director of Legal Aid
In a side office near Malawi’s High Court, Neverson Chisiza, a senior state advocate at Malawi’s Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, acknowledges that there have been discussions within the ministry about “why it is always sellers, those who are desperate [and] looking for quick money, [who] are caught, not the buyers”.
And without the buyers, the police are little closer to understanding the source of this trade.
Masouko says that the hysteria over the killings of people with albinism has reached such a height that “it is possible a person could be convicted for carrying antelope bones because they resemble human bones”.
And, he adds, those accused of any crime related to people with albinism are tried in “people’s courts”.
A question of government preparedness
Lilongwe, central region of Malawi
It is late on a Friday afternoon when Mary Shawa meets us in her office and her team are about to leave for the day. She is responsible for the security, health and wellbeing of Malawians with albinism.
“Until the atrocities started, we didn’t look at persons with albinism as people with a disability. We saw them as ordinary people,” she says, adjusting her glasses.
She slumps back into her chair. “If you look at the demographics, they are young and old, some working as lawyers and teachers, some still in school,” she adds.
Before moving to this ministry in 2012, Mary was the secretary for nutrition, HIV and Aids in the president’s office, credited with tackling the country’s HIV pandemic.
She speaks authoritatively and frankly, rejecting any suggestion that the government hasn’t done enough to address the crimes committed against people with albinism. She rattles off the details of cases that have been solved and cites “ministerial research” to suggest that there is no market for the bones.
“[The] culprits get the bones and walk around looking for a market to sell them,” she says.
Mary says her ministry has been leading a communications plan to tackle the crisis. “The radio messages, the billboards, this is all us,” she explains.
But it’s hard to tell if anyone is listening.
“We are also compiling a census, to register all persons with albinism in the country,” she says, leaning forward, her hands resting on the desk.
But beyond the issue of security, people with albinism have other needs – sunscreen, hats and sunglasses to protect them from the sun. The Ministry of Health does provide zinc oxide at clinics but that only helps with the blisters and lesions and doesn’t offer any protection. Moreover, patients have to travel to the main cities to access the ointment.
Mary hints at a lack of funding. Malawi is heavily reliant on donors, and it’s unlikely that sunscreen or hats top the government’s financial priorities or a foreign government’s agenda.
Village of Nambilikira, Dedza district, eastern Malawi
5 – The Future
Confident, assertive and friendly, Clement Gweza seems as though he was born to teach. He transforms the 60 rowdy teenagers into an orderly classroom and begins his social and environmental science lesson by scribbling “How to prevent air pollution” on the blackboard.
The 24-year-old is smartly dressed in an off-white shirt, pinstriped tie and black trousers.
“It was difficult at first,” he says. “The children found it hard to understand my albinism, because people, not just the learners, don’t think that a person with albinism can do something that can be recognised by society.”
He became a teacher, he says, because the tuition was free and he couldn’t afford to pay to study anything else.
At first, he worried that his students wouldn’t respect him. But, he says, “after a few weeks, the learners came round. They will tell you: ‘Ah! He is a good teacher and he understands our problems’.”
But he knows that, despite the respect he enjoys in the classroom, he is not safe outside of it.
The murder of one of his students, David Fletcher, made him afraid.
He has stopped walking outside at night and, if he must, he asks a close friend or relative to accompany him.
“If I can’t find someone to take me home, I will stay where I am and sleep there. I have no choice,” he says.
“Everything has changed. I look at the people, the friends around me, and I think ‘maybe he wants to kill me and make some money’.”
Stercia Kanyowa’s story
Masumpankhunda, in Lilongwe, central Malawi
Twelve-year-old Stercia Kanyowa says she doesn’t want to beg. She wants an education, and to stand on her own two feet.
“I want to be a teacher first. Then maybe a journalist or a bank manager,” she declares.
Stercia is one of three children with albinism at the Malingunde School for the Visually Impaired. As an only child from a single-parent household, she says completing school is her only hope for the future. She has been here since 2011.
“Of course, I miss home. It’s long since I have gone home. Who doesn’t miss home?” she says, outside her dormitory.
The school is government-run, and functions almost exclusively on donations. There are 17 classrooms and 40 teachers for 3,000 students.
There is no electricity. Inside Stercia’s classroom, some students are huddled around braille machines, while others, such as 15-year-old Foster Kennedy, who also has albinism, use a magnifying glass to read textbooks.
“Everyone here is a friend. You would think we are born from the same mother,” Foster says, smiling.
He wants to be a radio personality or a songwriter, he explains.
The school yard is a thoroughfare for people walking or cycling to the town centre, which means that there are always strangers passing through. This concerns the school authorities. Without a wall or a gate, the school is vulnerable to theft and the students to being attacked. In early 2015, a 16-year-old student with albinism was almost abducted by a stranger who promised to buy her supplies from the local market.
“It is an open place. And anything can happen,” says Chiko Kamphandira, the school principal.
Back outside, Stercia, who is head of the school choir, begins to sing one of her favourite songs, before stopping suddenly, self-conscious and shy.
“I am going to work hard and fulfill my dreams,” she says. “I don’t see myself as any different. I am just a human being.”
Ian Simbota’s story
Blantyre, southern Malawi
Ian Simbota is eating a chicken tikka burger at a Pakistani fast food diner when we spot him one evening in Blantyre.
When we ask to talk to him, he scans our journalists’ credentials before agreeing. It turns out that he gets paid to talk as a late-night radio talk show host and a DJ with the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation. And he has just returned from Kasungu, in the central region of Malawi, where he was the master of ceremonies for World International Albinism Awareness Day.
When he finishes his meal, he invites us to the radio studio.
Once on the airwaves, the slightly pensive man we met at the restaurant is no more. He taunts and teases his listeners. The studio is his safe place.
Later on, he talks of a double life. As a radio star, his voice and name are widely recognised. But not all of his listeners know that he has albinism. And there are times when his confident persona gives way to fear.
“Look, I am working at night. And people know I am here,” he says. “What are they thinking, planning? From here I will get a car and go home. And when I go home, I feel unsafe. What if they attack me? I think about it all the time.”
Ian became a full-time DJ in 2015. It was a dream come true. “I wanted to be a midwife as a child [but] thankfully my mother convinced me otherwise,” he laughs.
“And then, I wanted to be a radio host. Geoffrey Zigoma [the gospel singer] made a huge impact on my life.”
But life hasn’t been easy for Ian.
When he was born, he was the second child in his family to have albinism. His father walked out on them.
“My father told my mum to kill us. When she refused, he left,” he says, matter-of-factly.
“At that time, people didn’t know about the genes and stuff. My dad thought it was a curse.”
Ian’s mother left her village in southern Malawi and came to Blantyre with her two children to look for a job. She found one as a cleaner at the College of Medicine.
His father remarried. His next child was also born with albinism.
School was tough for Ian. He says his teachers didn’t realise that he was visually impaired so would just call him lazy. When he completed his certificate in journalism and applied for internships in radio, his visual impairments worked against him again – station managers were concerned that he wouldn’t be able to see the computer screens, he says.
Then his mother died after a prolonged illness, and the new job felt like the start of a new life for him. But then the attacks on people with albinism began.
“I can tell you, it has become difficult,” he says. “I have friends. But at this point in time, I only trust one friend in my circle. I have other friends, but then sometimes, you just wonder, you know, maybe, he is being used [to get close to me].”
He also has to face harassment on the streets and says his girlfriend left him last year because “she couldn’t deal with what … [he] was going through”.
But today he’s the voice of a successful radio show.
“I like radio because you could come naked to the studio and it doesn’t matter. People are listening to your voice,” he says, pausing for a second, before laughing.
“I have done a little bit of TV, but radio is better because listeners create a different picture of what they think you are. It’s only now [with the crisis] that people realise I am a person with albinism …”
In 2019, the commendable private organization Under The Same Sun released a report which shocked all who read its contents. The report is a kind of inventory, taking stock of reported cases of killings and attacks on people with albinism in nearly 30 countries, virtually all African countries. The attacks include attempted abductions, mutilations, rape, and missing persons. Overall, the report mentions a staggering number of over 200 murders and nearly 400 attacks on persons with albinism in 29 countries : 28 African countries and the USA. Since we focus on this site on the African continent, the US case has been omitted here (even though the case which is being described in much detail is shocking and revolting. The interested reader who wishes to learn more about this case, may consult the original report which can be accessed by clicking on the link under Source mentioned, at the bottom of this post).
Some of the cases presented below have been reported earlier on this site. It does not diminishes their shocking nature. It’s a bloody shame that persons with albinism are still being targeted in so many countries, just because some superstitious and/or criminal people who have no respect for other people’s life believe that their organs, blood and body parts contain supernatural powers. In some (many? too many!) cases, governments do not take sufficient action to apprehend and prosecute the culprits and punish them according to the law after they have been tried by an impartial court. Sometimes this lack of action is explained by the fact that high-placed people, politicians or businessmen, are somehow involved in the reported cases. Governments also fail to act when they fail to eradicate superstition, the believe in witchcraft by educating people. It is superstition which lies at the base of these heinous crimes whereas lack of governmental action, corruption and connivance of police and judicial authorities enable the perpetrators to continue unabated.
I have drawn attention to the admirable work of the organization Under The Same Sun and its founder and president Peter Ash on several previous occasions. I may refer to my writings and reporting in 2008 which can be found here. I particular I wish t remind the reader of the interview which Peter Ash gave in 2008 when he stated that he believes that the total number of deadly victims of crimes targeting people with albinism in a country like Tanzania is twice the official figure. Click here for the shocking 5 minutes interview.
Today we live in 2022, 14 years after Peter Ash gave this interview and three years after the 2019 report presented below. In many countries the repugnant crimes against people with albinisme continues. They continue to be rejected, discriminated, abducted, and killed, murdered, slaughtered in cold blood.
It’s high time for action!
NB: Please read carefully the preceding three notes before accessing the country reports.
Warning: I wish to warn the readers of the extreme graphic nature of the following stories included in the various country reports ((webmaster FVDK).
Reported Attacks of Persons with Albinism (PWA) – Most Recent Attacks Included (as of 2019)
Total Number of Killings: 209
Total Number of Attacks: 378 Attacks include survivors of mutilations, violence, rape, attempted abductions, missing, grave violations, asylum & other refuge cases.
Total Number of Reported Cases: 587
Total Number of Countries: 29 (NB: Note of the webmaster: the case of the USA, mentioned in the original report, has been omitted here, resulting in 28 African countries.)
NOTE 1: Many attacks & killings of People with Albinism (PWA) in Africa are not documented or reported. Under The Same sun (UTSS) is certain that crimes of colour against PWA are common in various parts of almost all African countries. LEGENDS & MYTHS ABOUND, AND UTSS HAS YET TO HEAR OF ONE THAT IS HUMANIZING. Most myths reduce PWA to ghosts, magical beings or curses, etc. On rare occasion the discrimination is reversed and the PWA are “deified” into “gods”. Either way, they rarely get to enjoy their status as normal human beings. Many countries have stories about the mysterious disappearance of PWA. There is a growing, documented truth to these rumors. We know that many PWA have “disappeared” due to abduction, then mutilated and killed by fellow citizens (sometimes family members “friends” or neighbours) for the purpose of witchcraft related rituals. These ritual attacks frequently find their roots in ancient ancestral beliefs, are a familiar concept to most Africans, and have been going on since time beyond memory.
NOTE 2: Countries known to be involved in the cross-border trade of PWA and their body parts: Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya, DRC, Mozambique, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland,
NOTE 3: UTSS gathers this data from its own field research and also from its partners on the ground. We record cases that have been thoroughly verified. However this is not always possible. In such cases, we record cases from partners, media and civil society that are reasonable and prima facie credible.
Benin, 18 reports: (PFI 96 of 180) 5 killings / 5 survivors / 7 missing / 1 grave robbery Most recent survivor: On August 4, 2017, a 13 year old girl with albinism by the name of Anna Gnanhwui narrowly escaped abduction and was found unhurt the following day in Dogbo in the south west of Benin. According to Anna’s cousine, Mr. Valentin GOSSA, she was just leaving the marketplace with one of her sisters and was in the neighbourhood of Dogbo Zaphi public primary school when the kidnappers approached frightening Anna’s sister away and abducting Anna in a black Ford Focus with the lisence numbre AY 4078. The police were immediately alerted and launched a large patrol of the surrounding area. Under intense pressure, the kidnappers were forced to release Anna in a bush where she spent the night. The following morning she found help and was reunited with her family at the Dobgo’s Police station with the General Director of the National Police. All 3 suspects who committed the abduction are Beninese from Dogbo and have been arrested by Commander CIE APLAHOUE and his team and will be presented to a public prosecutor. (Sources: UTSS was informed by the following 2 sources – Houetehou C. Franck HOUNSA; Founder and President; Connexion Worldwide NGO; O1 BP 4166 Cotonou; Tél +229 97895528; Benin Republic / Mr. AKPO Firmin; NGO: VALEUR ALBINOS; Contact:00229 95 54 75 13; Site internet: www.valeur-albinos.org; Republic of Benin)
Most recent killing: On July 13, 2013, a 20 year old man with albinism known as Francois (HOUANOU Mahouto François) was deceived, drugged, kidnapped, killed and mutilated in his homeland of Benin. François lived in the community of Lalo in south-western Benin, where he was learning to become a nurse in one of the hospitals at Lalo Centre. Francois had a cousin named Pascal (HLEKPE Pascal) who lived in Koudjon Centre, a small village near Lalo. Both boys had grown up together in the same hamlet of Ouinsouhoué. On that fateful day, Pascal approached his cousin with albinism in order to deceive him, saying that he’d found a high paying job for him in downtown Cotonou, and that the boss wanted to meet right away. François showed no hesitation and after a 3 hour ride, they went to wait for the so-called boss in a bar. Here Francois was drugged and kidnapped to Porto-Novo, the country’s capital city, where he was killed, and parts of his body removed. When Pascal returned home to Lalo alone, everyone started asking for François. Pascal kept insisting that he had not traveled anywhere with François. Since many had seen them travelling together, people started threatening him to tell the truth. In an attempt to conceal the truth and silence the family, he decided to consult various witchdoctors to make him amulets. Finally he and his three accomplices went to consult one of the visionaries of the Celestial Churches of Christ. He told him the whole story and begged him to mystically silence everyone about the murder in exchange for a lot of money. The visionary left his house briefly and called the police, who arrived quickly. The criminals tried to escape but the police shot one of them and all four were arrested and placed in custody. Of the four, one was released when it was discovered that he was the younger brother to one of the criminals and had nothing to do with the murder. The other three were placed in the prison in Lokossa and are serving their sentences. (Source: Sent to UTSS March 7, 2018, by Mr. Firmin Akpo, NGO Valeur Albinos, Benin; Tel: +229 95 54 75 13/ 96 93 96 05; E-mail: email@example.com; Site:www.valeur-albinos.org)
Most recent missing: On March 23, 2019, a 45-year-old man with albinism by the name of Allavo Arnaud went missing in the city of Abomey, Zou Department, Benin. The victim was a well-known joiner (carpenter) who lived in the Allavo’s home and had his joinery business opposite the DAH TAMADAHO. Much to the dismay of his family, the victim’s younger brother may have been involved in his disappearance. According to a cousin, Arnaud had some work to do for an old man who had called him in the morning of Saturday, March 23, indicating that the door locks had been purchased and that he should come to make the repairs. Arnaud has not been heard from since. The old man was questioned over the disappearance but denies that Arnaud met with him that day. Franck Hounsa, founder and chairperson of Beninese Albinism NGO has raised the alert, asking anyone who has any suspicions about Allavo’s destination that day to inform the police or the nearest local authority. He concluded by saying: “I pray we find Arnaud unharmed for the sake of his family and the nation. I appeal parents to look after their children with albinism. I also warn adults with albinism against going unaccompanied to a meeting even if they know the person who invites them to that meeting.” (Source: UTSS received this attack report on March 25, 2019, from Franck Hounsa, founder and chairperson of Beninese Albinism NGO Divine Connexion Worldwide; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel./ WhatsApp: +229-97 89 55 28. This attack was confirmed on March 31, 2019, by Firmin AKPO from NGO Valeur Albinos in BENIN; Email address: valeuralbinos.ong@gmail; Website: www.valeur-albinos.org; Tel : +229- 97 64 30 19 / +229-96 02 28 96 )
Most recent grave robbery: In September of 2018, a 50-year-old woman with albinism by the name of Dame Clémentine Kantchemé ends up dying of skin cancer after which her lifeless body was decapitated by a family member at her burial in the woods near her family home in the community of Allada, Atlantique Department, Benin. Over the span of multiple unknown dates throughout the course of her life, the deceased had survived numerous abduction attempts and other inhumane cruelties at the hands of her family. Dame Clémentine had always been disowned by her father’s family who compared her to a white monster along with many other punishing psychological abuses. She never did manage to move past these cruelties and build a family of her own. At one-point she was very sick with wounds all over her body and finally decided to seek assistance from her mother’s younger sister, hoping for a more supportive response. Tragically, and to her great surprise, she was ill-treated by her aunt as well, being forced to cook despite her poor vision and deteriorating health. One day while cooking, a fire broke out in the kitchen. Because she only had sight in one eye which suffered from low vision, she didn’t immediately notice the fire and was nearly burnt alive. Thankfully she was rescued by some neighbours. To make life worse, her aunt colluded with a witchdoctor to get rid of her for good. The aunt told Dame Clementine that she knew of a witchdoctor who could heal her but that the treatment consisted of pouring boiled water over the left side of her face. This was pure torture for Dame Clémentine who screamed for help while being overpowered by the perpetrators. She lost half of her left ear during this so-called “cure” ritual, and the skin on her face had all but disappeared and became infested with maggots. Upon arrival at hospital the doctors denounced the so-called treatment, describing it as Machiavellian. In September of 2018, Dame Clémentine Kantchemé finally died of skin cancer. Her body was immediately apprehended by the family who refused to give her a decent funeral, saying that she did not deserve a coffin or a grave in a cemetery. One of the Kantchemé family members publicly declared that he needed her head because, since childhood she had been very lucky, having escaped their many attempted kidnappings. Nestor, one of the deceased cousins, insisted on participating in the burial in the bush in ALLADA. Following the funeral, Nestor told police that the body’s head had been removed before it was buried. The police warned him against pushing the case further for fear that he may be killed by the family. They went on to tell Nestor that this was a family matter and that there was no need to “make noise” about the body parts that had been removed since the victim was already dead. (Source: Report sent to UTSS by Firmin AKPO from NGO Valeur Albinos in BENIN on March 31, 2019; Email address: valeuralbinos.ong@gmail; Website: www.valeur-albinos.org; Tel : +229- 97 64 30 19 / +229-96 02 28 96).
Botswana, 3 reports: (PFI 44 of 180) 3 survivors Survivor account: In September of 1998, a 27 year old woman with albinism by the name of Ofentse Serurubele narrowly escaped a second plot against her life. The incident took place at Kanye, her native village in Southern Botswana. Although Serurubele was a primary school teacher in the city of Jwaneng, Botswana, she was pregnant and staying in her native village at the time. On this near fateful day, her young brother encountered three guys in the village night club who knew Serurubele. They offered him some beer to get him drunk, hoping to manipulate him into joining their murder plot against his sister. Fortunately he sensed something was wrong and secretly managed to replace the beer with water while pretending to be drunk. The guys asked him: “Where is your sister, the albino teacher?” “Your sister could actually make the deal: She is albino and pregnant!” “We want her flesh…!” Seururubele’s brother lied, telling them she was teaching in Jwanenge City but would be home for the weekend and that they could find her then. When he got home from the club that evening, Serurubele’s brother told her everything and warned her to leave immediately to Jwaneng city for her safety. After that incident, Serrurubele stayed in the city for a long time. (Source: Personal interview by UTSS on January 22, 2014 with Mrs. Ofentse Serurubele, founder & chair of PWA Tshimologo Association Botswana, mobile number +267-72-962-779; Botswana Gazette, January 16, 2014, Understanding Albinism by Kago Komane,http://www.gazettebw.com/?p=6718 )
Burkina Faso, 9 reports: (PFI 36 of 180) 2 killing / 6 survivors / 1 asylum Most recent killing: On August 14, 2012 a 12 year old boy with albinism was killed in Gaoua, Burkina Faso. Witnesses report that the body was found with his head and genitals removed. (source: “L’Express du Faso” on Wednesday, August 15, 2012).
Other killing account (date unknown): A 16 year old person with albinism (PWA) was allegedly murdered by François Compaore, brother of Burkina Faso’s president at that time. It is believed that the killing was related to human sacrifice. In the newspaper “L’Indépendant”, a former soldier by the name of Delma Daogo, who was in active service to Compaore at that time, gave an interview where he explained: François Compaoré (the president’s brother) sent David Ouedraogo (his driver) to Ouagadougou Central Mosque, a place where PWA congregate to appeal for money, in order to bring one of them to him so that he could make a sacrifice. David brought a 16 year old PWA for the alleged purpose of making prayers in the compound of François Compaoré. The driver was then given 50.000F (about 100 US dollars) and asked to go home. Once at his home, David realized he had forgotten his wallet and returned to pick it up. When he arrived, he saw that they had killed the PWA and cut him into pieces. (Source: l’Indépendant – link to article no longer active – This newspaper was founded by the late journalist, Mr. Norbert Zongo who was allegedly assassinated by President Blaise Compaore’s regime due, in part, to the publication of this article about a PWA murder.)
Most recent abduction: On April 18th, 2012, Dr. Pius Kamau, an American physician originally from Kenya, was an eye witness at the Nairobi airport to three aggressive African men being allowed to transport a young boy with albinism out of the country without a passport. He said the men had come from Tanzania and were headed to Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso and that they used loud, offensive language as the airline attendant asked for the missing passport — they had three passports and none for the child. Dr. Kamau is now convinced that the three-year-old boy with albinism is no longer a baby headed to a loving family, but a sacrifice at some altar of a cruel witchcraft ceremony. (Source: HUFF POST: IMPACT – The BLOG; Three Year Old Albino – Victim of Witchcraft Sacrifice by Pius Kamau, Posted: 05/01/2012 at 4:00 pm)
Burundi, 38 reports: (PFI 159 of 180) 21 killings, 13 survivors, 4 grave robbery. Most recent killing: On March 24, 2016, a four year-old girl with albinism by the name of Devote Ntiharirizwa was kidnapped from her home by unidentified men armed with machetes at around midnight, in colline Musemo, comune Mishiha, province Cankuzo, Burundi, not far from the Tanzanian border. On March 29, 2016, OHCHR was informed by police sources that the body parts of the little girl were found in a jerry-can and that three men were arrested in relation to the case. One of them had already been involved in the killing of PWA in 2008 and sentenced to a life sentence. OHCHR is following up to find out why he was released. (Source: Anonyms).
Second most recent killing: On February 17, 2016, at around 1:30 AM, a 4 year old girl with albinism by the name of Cimpaye was murdered in the Province of Kirundo, commune of Busoni, in the area of Muterwa, Hill of Irenga in Northern Burundi. She was sleeping when a gang of criminals armed with machetes burst into the home of her parents, Mr. Nyabenda Pascal and his wife Modeste Rwasa. Among the intruders was a man wearing a military shirt of the National Defence Force. Three of the gang members broke into the house to abduct little Cimpaye. About 30 meters from the house they killed her, chopping off her arms and taking them. Cimpaye’s parents wanted to bury their daughter in their yard but have been denied since they do not own the premises. Burundi’s PWA association, APOB, have been in touch with the local authority on this matter. The director assured them she would send her staff in charge of Social Affairs along with the chief of the area to discuss the issue of the victim’s burial. APOB officials also expressed deep concern about the safety of the remaining PWA in the commune of Busoni since it’s the place with the highest number of PWA in the province of Kirundo. In October of 2015 another child with albinism narrowly escaped murder in the same commune. (Source: Report sent to UTSS on February 17, 2016, by Moise Nkengurutse, legal representative of the organization for PWA in Burundi – OPAB (Organisation des Personnes Albinos du Burundi); Address: Q. Mushasha, Sous Q. Nyabisindu, Transversal IV, No 18, Gitega_Burundi, BP: 179, Gitega; Telephone: +25779323225 +25775401739; E mail: email@example.com)
Most recent survivor: On October 6, 2015, a 10 year old girl with albinism by the name of Alice Girukwishaka miraculously survived a brutal attack at her home in Busoni town, in the province of Kirundo, in MUyange-Gisozi, Northern Burundi. Men armed with machetes attacked the family of Gerard NKUNZIMANA & NIZIGIYIMANA who were accommodating Alice. Fortunately neighbours managed to intervene and help bring a premature end to the attack. Little Alice sustained injuries to the head and shoulder and underwent intensive treatment at Kanyinya Hospital in Kirundo. The criminals escaped before being identified. (Source: Moise Nkengurutse, Legal Representative of the of Burundi albinism association – OPAB; Address: Q. Mushasha, Sous Q. Nyabisindu, Transversal IV, No 18, Gitega_Burundi, BP: 179, Gitega; Tel: +257-79323225 / +257-75401739; E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Second most recent survivor: On March 20, 2015, a 28year old man with albinism by the name of Ndagijimana Debok was attacked with a machete and his left leg severely injured, in the town of Gihanga, North western province of Bubanza in Burundi. As presidential elections approach in Burundi, the safety of PWA remains a matter of concern. The victim received treatment in a local hospital. Ndagijimana’s neighbour is suspected to be the perpetrator of this attack and investigations are underway. (Source: Account provided on March 28, 2015, by Mr Pascal Matabishi, member of Burundi’s PWA association – ASF – email: email@example.com; tel: +257-75 97 14 98).
Graver robbery: In August of 2012, the grave of a woman with albinism by the name of Tabu was violated by unidentified criminals and her head was stolen. Eight months earlier, Tabu had succumbed to an extended and tragic battle with skin cancer and was buried in the cemetery of the Bugarama area, in the town of Muramvya in the province of Muramvya. Her son Venuste, also a PWA, was informed of his mother’s exhumed body and immediately reported it to the leaders of the Burundian PWA Association called “Albinos Sans Frontieres”. (Source: ASF – Burundi PWA Association)
Cameroon, 11 report: (PFI 131 of 180) 2 killings, 2 survivor, 6 asylum, 1 grave robbery Most recent killing account: In August of 2009, the foot of a young girl with albinism whose Identity remains undisclosed was found in a garbage can in Douala, the capital of the region of Littoral, Cameroon. She reportedly worked in a Snack Bar in that area. Her foot was kept in the morgue of the Laquintane Hospital in Douala. (Source: Information provided to UTSS on July 03, 2013 by Kakmeni Wembou Raphael, the leader of Cameronn Association for the Promotion of Albino CAPA).
Most recent survivor account: In 2013 a mother and her infant with albinism began the process of seeking asylum in France because she feared for the life of her child in Cameroon where members of her community attempted to kill the baby for ritual purposes during local elections. (Source: Iinterview on June 12, 2014, between UTSS and Genespoir, France’s major PWA group who were strongly involved in this case.)
Most recent asylum account: On December 23, 2015, a man with albinism by the name Mr. Christian Eric Tchidjo from Cameroon was granted refugee status in UK. (Source: Iinterviews with UTSS).
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 70 reports: (PFI 154 of 180) 17 killings / 35 survivors / 1 missing / 10 grave robberies / 7 asylums Most recent killing: On July 17, 2017, an infant with albinism was thrown into a cesspit (often used as a toilet in rural Africa) by the husband of the childs mother who was absence at the time of this henious act. The incident took place in Maazi, territory of Shabunda in the province of South-Kivu, in DRC. The baby died and the murderer has since enrolled in an armed group called Raiya Mutomboki. (Source: Report sent to UTSS on July 21, 2017, by an albinism group called Programme d’intégration pour la protection de l’humanité (Piph-ASBL); Coordinator: Mr. LUNGELE ITEBO Samuel; Email address :firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel. + 243-9749380000, + 243-974938002 + 243-993714382; Physical address: MWENGA, KALOLE in South-Kivu, DRC).
Most recent survivor: This report counts as 2 attacks: In 2017 and again in January of 2018 a 63 year old man with albinism by the name of Jean- Louis Gbangbi Ngbonza escaped 2 attempted kidnappings in his hometown of Alibuku located along the road of Buta about 37 KM from Kisangani in the province of Tshopo, DRC. In an interview with Dr. Gaylord Inena Wa Inena, Jean- Louis said; “I faced two attempted kidnappings. The first time was last year in 2017, some people plotted to kidnap me, but thankfully a local security company managed to rescue me. The second time was in January of this year (2018), a man who had newly settled in my hometown and worked as a traditional gun maker planned to abduct me. He got married to a local woman. His wife informed me that her husband was plotting to kidnap me at my workplace and take me somewhere. He didn’t succeed. At that time, I worked as a teacher and director in a local school. The guy came here (Kisangani) from Kindu, province of Maniema. Apparently, he was sent by some people to kidnap PWAs in DRC and take them to Tanzania. I informed the police who investigated his suspicious activities. It was found that he was clandestinely making and supplying guns to a local gang of rebels called Nzambe Lumumba. He ran away when he noticed he was going to be arrested.” The victim has since relocated for safety reasons. (Source: On July 30, 2018, UTSS received a video interview recorded and sent by Dr. Gaylord Inena Wa Inena, CEO and Founder of an NGO called CORBETTA in Kisangani, province of Tshopo, DRC; Email: email@example.com; Cellphone/ WhatsApp: +243-824-155-808).
Most recent missing: On February 16, 2015, a two year boy with albinism was abducted in Nyantende, in the territory of Kabare, province of South Kivu, DRC. A journalist for the Congolese Press Agency reported that early in second week of September, 2015, a trafficker of children with albinism was arrested for this crime by the police in Kamanyola in the territory of Walungu. The child’s father and paternal uncle explained that the criminal, along with his accomplice and their neighbours, broke into their house while the parents were away, enticing the boy with sweets and wrapping him in a bag. The victim’s older brother, age 7, said the kidnappers bought him cookies to gain his favour in order to commit their heinous crime. They have since vanished with the boy. One of the arrested suspects declared that it was his accomplice who wrapped the boy in the bag. The latter is now in the hands of police. (Source: Congolese Press Agency – ACP [Agence Congolaise de Presse]; An albino child trafficker arrested in Kamanyola; September 10, 2015, http://acpcongo.com/acp/un-trafiquant-denfants-albinos-arrete-a-kamanyola/).
Most recent grave desecration: In the early hours of March 25, 2019, the grave of a man with albinism by the name of Mr. Ghislain, who had died a month and a half earlier, was vandalized at his family plot in the ward of CIRIRI, in the community of BAGIRA, BUKAVU District, SOUTH KIVU Province, DRC. The remains of the deceased were exhumed, dismembered and body parts stolen. A local resident by the name of Romain CIRHUZA said it’s not the first time that the grave of a PWA has been tampered with, and body parts taken in the area of BUKAVU. It is alleged that these acts are committed for witchcraft purposes. Condemnation of the act by the Urban Security Council which was presided over by the mayor of BUKAVU, Méschac Bilubi Ulengabo, was followed by the albinism group called Association pour la promotion intégrale des albinos. (Source: RTNK; Bukavu: Desecration of the grave of a person living with albinism in Ciriri, civil society demands investigations; March 26, 2019;http://rtnk.info/bukavula-tombe-dune-personne-vivant-albinisme-profanee-a-ciriri/ and KIVUPRESS.CD; South Kivu: The grave of an albino was desecrated in Bukavu; March 30th, 2019; https://www.kivupress.info/9456-sud-kivu-la-tombe-dun-albinos-a-ete-profanee-a-bukavu/).
Most recent asylum: During the first week of June, 2015, legal history was made in Ireland when a man with albinism from DRC who wishes to remain anonymous was granted secured permanent residency through a non-asylum process. He suffered severe persecution and untreated skin cancer in his native country. (Source: UTSS was informed via a personal contact from his sister who is now a resident of Canada.)
Egypt, 1 report: (PFI 163 of 180) 1 asylum – September 16, 2011 On Friday, September 16, 2011, Hazem Abd Elkade, a 28 year old man with albinism from Egypt told journalist Sophie Bond about his life in Egypt and his new found asylum in New Zealand. He contrasted the profound discrimination facing people with albinism in Egypt with the amazing and equal opportunities he has found in New Zealand. Hazem’s lawyer says: “He was seriously maltreated at multiple levels including such things as deliberate cigarette burns from supposed educators…. The hostility toward him was serious at best because of his Albinism. He has now been able to both marry and continue his studies. He is one of the nicest and most considerate people I have met in a long time and doing very well.” Hazem says; “I want to be a professor in the university. The first time I ever got a salary was here in New Zealand. I can support myself and my research. I don’t want to go back to Egypt, not even for a visit.” (SOURCE: The Aucklander (online) – New home for Hazem, By Sophie Bond, Friday 16 September 2011, http://m.nzherald.co.nz/aucklander/news/article.cfmc_id=1503378&objectid=11040952 ; Hazem’s lawyer Allen Little QSM,JP).
Ghana, 3 report: (PFI 27 of 180) 1 killing / 2 survivors Most recent killing: On February 17, 2015, the lifeless body of a 35 year old man with albinism by the name of Kofi Yeboah aka Agbleyevu was found at the entrance of Pastor Emmanuel Agbeze’s residence in Owoakra, Boketey, under Amanase in the eastern region of Ghana. According to the pastor’s wife, Gifty Asare, her husband ran off shortly after the death of Kofi and she has not heard from him since. Unfortunately the police have not been responsive to crimes committed in this area and allowed Pastor Agbeze to escape without questioning. Since that time however, police commander Spt. Yahaya of Suhum police station announced that because of the public interest whipped up by media related to the death of Kofi Yeboah, the homicide unit at police headquarters in Accra had taken over the investigation. (Source: Newton Kwamla Katseku, Executive Director of the Ghana Association of Persons with Albinism – GAPA, June 6 & July 24, 2015; firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com / www.gapaghana.org and Suhum police report number 112967).
Most recent survivor: On February 27, 2010, a man with albinism by the name of Newton Kwamlia Katseku, who is also the Executive Director of the Ghana Association of Persons with Albinism (GAPA), narrowly escaped death. This event took place while attending a funeral in the town of Akwamufie, a community along the Volta Lake near the Adomi bridge on Atimpoku Ho road in the eastern region of Ghana. Early on during the funeral ceremonies Newton was approached by 4 different parties urgently warning him to leave or go into hiding. When he asked why, they informed him that it is against local tradition to tolerate or accept people with albinism in the vicinity. Newton spent close to nine hours hiding in a car as the funeral and other rites were performed before he was able to leave. He later reported the incident to several authorities but has never received a reply. (Source: Newton Kwamla Katseku, Executive Director of the Ghana Association of Persons with Albinism – GAPA, June 6 & July 24, 2015; firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com / www.gapaghana.org).
Second most recent survivor: On July 16, 2009, in the country of Ghana, a 2 year old boy with albinism (unnamed) was kidnapped by an 18 year old woman named Akua Linda. A week later on July 22, 2009 Linda was apprehended and confessed that a man named Biyanka sent her to feign playing with the boy so that she could steal him. Linda continued that Biyanka took the boy to Asuoyeboah, another Kumasi suburb, after which he was taken to an unknown destination. Akua Linda, according to the Police Capo, noted further that Biyanka returned the boy to her yesterday morning, explaining that what he intended to use the boy for could not work out as expected. Linda was therefore on her way to return the child to his mother when someone saw them at the Kejetia Bus Terminal in Kumasi, Ghana, and raised the alarm leading to her apprehension. Investigations continue. (Source: Daily Guide posted by Ghana Pundit; Thursday, July 23, 2009, “Girl Arrested for Stealing Albino” http://ghanapundit.blogspot.ca/2009/07/girl- arrested-for-stealing-albino.html )
Guinea, 16 reports: (PFI 107 of 180) 5 killings / 6 survivors / 5 asylum & other refuge cases
2 Most recent killings: 1st Killing: On a Sunday in September of 2010, at the area of La Carrière, in the town of Matam, district of Conakry, the body of a PWA was found with the eyes missing— very likely removed with a knife. According to our source, the unnamed PWA used to wander daily in that area with some friends, looking for their daily bread. Their life is made up of begging at the big market of Matam’s main station and on the streets of the Capital City. One morning his lifeless body was found laying on the sidewalk. 2nd Killing: At very much the same time in 2010, at the Matoto Market, in the town of Matoto, another PWA was killed in some unexplained circumstances. His body was found completely dismembered; the attackers having made off with many of the body parts. These two PWA lifeless bodies have made the headlines of all local media including the National Broadcaster RTG. Many Websites and Private Radios have used these murders in their headlines. But unfortunately, no investigation has been considered as if PWAs have no rights. This silence and impunity make fragile the life of PWA in the republic of Guinea and everywhere in Africa.
Most recent survivor account: On May 17, 2017, a four year old girl with albinism by the name of Fatoumata Camara narrowly escaped a ritual tragedy after being rescued from 4 men who had abducted her in the country village of Damankania, in the Sinanya district of Yabara, Guinea. The suspected traffickers kidnapped little Fatoumata in front of her mother at their home. Her father Salif Camara explains: “a young man got out of a vehicle that was parked in front of my compound and snatched our daughter. My wife who was on the scene asked the kidnappers where they were taking her. Without answering they drove off with little Fatoumata. My wife shouted for a motorbike taxi to chase the kidnappers. I immediately alerted the Commander of the Gendarmerie (police) who deployed his team and managed to capture the vehicle. Of the 4 assailants, 2 succeeded in escaping and the other two were arrested.” Accused of trafficking a person with albinism, a man by the name of Mohamed Conté and a woman named Aissata Bangoura were arrested on May 17, 2017, by the Services of the Territorial Gendarmerie (Police) of Kindia. When qquestioned, the abductor named Mohamed Conté admitted that he was a witchdoctor who came to visit another older witchdoctor known as Doubayadi who was also the father of his colleague Aissata Bangoura. (Source: GUINEENEWS.ORG – Kindia: two suspected albino traffickers arrested by gendarmerie; By Mamady Mara; May 24, 2017; https://guineenews.org/kindia- deux-presumes-trafiquants-dalbinos-arretes-gendarmerie/; UTSS partner in Guinea – Mr. Moussa Bangoura, the founder of the local PWA group Confédération nationale des albinos de Guinée (CNAG); Friday May 26, 2017)
Most recent asylum / refuge case: On Thursday, September 20, 2018, a woman with albinism in her mid-thirties from Guinea was granted subsidiary protection in France. The woman first came to France on a student visa which was denied renewal some years ago. Faced with the risk of deportation, she has now been granted a subsidiary protection due to her albinism. (Source: On Sunday, September 30, 2018, a UTSS representative talked directly via telephone to the Guinean woman who was granted subsidiary protection in France.)
Most recent survivor: In late June of 2017, a woman with albinism had her 15 month old infant, who did not have albinsm by the name of Collette Ama Koffi, kidnapped from their home in Ivory Coast by a pigmented woman from Benin. The police in Arrah, in the east of the country, found the Beninese woman named Nadège Dassia after she had stolen the child. After four years of trying to give birth to her own child, the abductor passed herself off as a soap seller which easily enabled her to enter the bedroom of the absent mother and snatch the baby. After fleeing the house with the infant in a taxi heading towards KOTOBI ( in east-central of Cote d’ivoire, subprefecture of Arrah), the police were allerted and managed to catch the pair, arrest the kidnapper, rescue the infant and reunite the mother with her child. (Source: koaci.com – Cote d’Ivoire: Beninese woman steals baby from Ivorian mother and gets arrested;
Most recent killing: On June 30, 2017, the lifeless body of a 3-year-old boy with albinism by the name of Sidibe Oumarou was found in a 1 meter deep abandoned well situated behind the town hall of Kani, in the ward of Damasso, in the north west of Ivory Coast. According to first testimonies gathered by Mamidou Coulibaly, this case was not an accident and it appeared that the boy was tragically murdered for ritual purposes and his body thrown in the abandoned well. (Sources: On July 4, 2017, France’s Major PWA group Genespoir published this case on their FaceBook page; http://aip.ci/cote-divoire-le-corps-dun- petit-albinos-retrouve-dans-un-puits-a-kani/; from Benedict Louyer, deputy chairperson, email address firstname.lastname@example.org; / also UTSS was in contact with Mamidou Coulibaly, founder and chairperson of the NGO BEDACI, Email: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Phone:+225-05-42-07-39 / +225- 07-67-43-26) Thursday, June 22, 2017; http://koaci.com/m/cote-divoire-dans-limpossibilite-denfanter-beninoise-vole- bebe-dune-maman-ivoirienne-fait-arreter-dans-fuite-110473-i.html).
Asylum account: Julienne is a 29-year old woman with albinism and a mother of a 13-year old daughter and an 8-year old son who, just four days after narrowly escaping a second attack due to her albinism, fled her native Côte d’Ivoire on August 13, 2012 to Tunisia. She was hoping to find a better life in another African country. Shortly after her arrival in Tunisia she obtained refugee status from the UNHCR. Despite her refugee status in Tunisia, Julienne’s life has not improved as much as she had hoped, summarizing her experience by saying: “Here, people slap me, insult me and mock me. I don’t have a job and I am unable to become integrated”. (Source: French Daily Paper “Le Monde” published on May 20, 2013; http://emiliennemalfatto.blog.lemonde.fr/2013/05/20/julienne-29-ans-refugiee-dermatologique/)
Most recent killing: On September 20, 2015, a 56 year old man with albinism by the name of Enock Jamenya succumbed to injuries from a brutal machete attack and died. Ten days earlier on September 10, 2015, it was reported that Enock survived a ritual attack by three men armed with pangas at his home in Gavudunyi village, Hamisi Subcounty, Vihiga county, Kenya. “When I told them I did not have any money, they asked for my ear or hand to sell to Tanzania,” he said. A struggle ensued and the attackers sliced his left ear, arm, neck and fingers and left him unconscious. His brother Nickson Lugadiru, also with albinism, said Enock was found in that state by his son, who called for help. Lugadiru took his brother to Hamisi Subcounty Hospital, where he was referred to Vihiga. Enock was operated on for three hours after which medics said he was out of danger. The attack has rekindled concerns over the security of people with albinism ahead of Tanzania’s October elections. “The attackers wanted my brother’s body parts to sell to Tanzania,” said Lugadiru who is one of four PWA in their family. The national coordinator of Kenya’s Albinism Empowerment Network, Martin Wanyonyi, visited Enock at the hospital, condemned the attack and said if the criminals are not apprehended within 48 hours, his network would take to the streets in protest. (Source: theSTAR; Hamisi albino attacked for his body parts; by JOSEPH JAMENYA; September 14, 2015; http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/hamisi-albino-attacked-his-body-parts) / The Telegraph; Kenya’s albinos moved away from Tanzania border amid witch doctor threat; By Aislinn Laing; September 24, 2015; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/kenya/11885641/Kenyans-albinos-moved-away-from-Tanzania-border-amid-witchdoctor-threat.html)
Most recent survivor: On Friday, March 15, 2013, a 7 year old boy with albinism in Embu, Kenya managed to escape relatives who tried to sell him for ritual purposes. He was kidnapped by his uncle together with other relatives who attempted to take off to an unknown destination where they were to meet the buyers. The boy said that the kidnappers threw him out of the window of a moving vehicle when he screamed. (Source: “7 Year Old Escapes Deathly Ritual,” Citizen News, March 15, 2013, acccessed June 26, 2013, http://www.citizennews.co.ke/news/2012/local/item/8667-7-year-old-escapes-deathly-ritual).
Lesotho, 1 report: (PFI 78 of 180)1 killing In October of 2015 a 16 year old girl with albinism by the name of Thaba-Tseka was mutilated in what is suspected to be a case of ritual killing in the country of Lesotho, a country encircled by South Africa. According to police spokesperson, Senior Inspector Clifford Molefe, a woman from the victim’s district arrested in connection with the murder was assisting with investigations. Thaba-Tseka met the suspect at an initiation school where they were both initiates. He declined to disclose more details, saying it would compromise investigations. He went on to say; “We are not in a position to disclose whether the crime was committed as a result of superstitious beliefs or not. All I can say is investigations are ongoing…Once the investigations have been completed, the case will be brought before court and the offenders will face the wrath of the law.” (Source: Sunday EXPRESS: Albino girl mutilated in suspected ritual murder; November 22, 2015; By Pascalinah Kabi; http://sundayexpress.co.ls/albino-girl-mutilated- in-suspected-ritual-murder/).
Madagascar, 1 report: (PFI 54 of 180) 1 killing On October 17, 2016, in the early hours of the morning the lifeless body of an about 28-year-old woman with albinism was found in Bezaha in the district of Betioky, South West Madagascar. She was the victim of a brutal attack leaving her naked body disfigured and her eyes stolen. According to locals, the robbery of PWA’s eyes has reportedly been on the increase as another way to make easy money, a practice that is gradually taking root among the bandits in the region. The residents do not know where to go at the moment. (Source: On January 23, 2017, UTSS discovered this article published by the Madagascar Matin Newspaper; http://www.matin.mg/?p=42939; The publication date is not clear in this article. Translation is provided by UTSS representative, Amadou Diallo.).
*Malawi, 49 reports: (PFI 68 of 180) 17 killings, 22 survivors, 5 missing, 5 grave robberies NOTE: (3 attack in 2019 / 3 attacks in 2018 / 9 attacks in 2017 / 14 attacks in 2016 / 13 attacks in 2015)
*In Malawi more cases have been reported. In 2017, 102 cases were reported by the UN Independent Expert on albinism in the report of her official visit to Malawi. See UN document number: A/HRC/34/59/Add.1 (March 2017). A few months later, in October 2017, the association of persons with albinism in Malawi reported 122 cases (Source: Malawi News Agency (MANA); Lack of finances stalls 122 cases of people with albinism; Wednesday, Oct 25, 2017; http://www.maravipost.com/lack-finances-stalls-122-cases-people-albinism/). Under The Same Sun (UTSS) officially records cases after it has received a sufficient source and data: name of victim, type of attack, date, location, etc. Without access to such detail, UTSS is unable to enter these cases into its records for now; but recognizes that these reports are probably credible due to their sources.
Most recent killing: On December 31, 2018, a 54 year old man with albinism by the name of Yassin Kwenda Phiri was hacked to death at about10:00 PM on New Year’s Eve. This barbaric act took place in front of his 9 year old son after the criminals dragged Yassin out of the bed they were both sleeping in, took him about 20 meters outside of the house, chopped off both arms and fled into the dark with them. Yassin’s son watched his father bleed to death just outside their home in the Kande Trading Center of Nkhata Bay in the Northern Region of Malawi. On January 1, 2019 Police spokesperson Peter Kalaya of Nkhata Bay confirmed the victim’s identity and said Yassin worked as a hospital attendant at the Kande Health Centre. “We have launched a manhunt and we will apprehend the criminals,” he said. On January 2, 2019 Malawi Police Inspector General Rodney Jose told reporters that they were looking for two suspects. A news report on January 7, 2019 said Malawi Police Services had arrested four suspects linked to the murder of Yasin Phiri. (Source: Myasa Times: Another albino killed in Malawi: Kwenda brutally murdered in presence of son, 7; January 1, 2019; By Tiwonge Kumwenda; https://www.nyasatimes.com/another-albino-killed-in-malawi-kwenda-brutally-murdered-in-presence-of- son-7/ ; AIH News:“We must exhume and burry all victims of albino-attacks at State House” Charles Kajoloweka; January 2, 2019; http://www.aihnews.com/we-must-exhume-and-burry-all-victims-of-albino- attacks-at-state-house-charles-kajoloweka/ ; VOA News: Malawi’s Albinos Begin 2019 With Fear of Renewed Attacks; January 03, 2019; By Lameck Masina; https://www.voanews.com/a/malawi-s-albinos- begin-new-year-with-fear-of-renewed-attacks/4727109.html; The African Exponent: U.N. Condemns the Ritual Killings of Albinos in Malawi; https://www.africanexponent.com/post/9616-10000-albinos-in- malawi-face-extinction; January 7, 2019; By Sebastiane Ebatamehi)
Most recent survivor: On the night of February 25, 2019, there was a failed abduction attempt of a 20 month old baby girl with albinism by the name of Noriah Mhango in the Northern Region, Rumphi District of Malawi. While Rumphi police were not available for comment at the time, Overtone Kondowe, president of the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM), said that “a person had wanted to abduct young Noriah from her parents’ house but the assailant failed after dogs’ barking woke up the community. He [the assailant] wanted to use the window, but after sensing danger, he ran away”. Kondowe also noted that this failed abduction occurred just two kilometres from where an abduction occurred on January 22, 2019, where 18 month of Eunice Nkhonjera was kidnapped from her home and is still missing. (SOURCE: Nyasa Times – Another albino abduction attempt in Rumphi: Apam renews calls ‘to leave Malawi’ for asylum abroad; February 26, 2019; By Pius Nyondo; https://www.nyasatimes.com/another-albino-abduction-attempt-in-rumphi-apam-renews-calls-to-leave- malawi-for-asylum-abroad/)
Most recent missing: On February 13, 2019, a 14-year-old boy with albinism by the name of Goodson Makanjira was abducted in the early hours of Wednesday in the chief Chilikumwendo area, Dedza District, in the Central Region of Malawi. According to his family, six masked men broke into their home while they were sleeping and violently stole Goodson from his bed. One of the family members was slashed when they tried to intervene. Malawi Police spokesperson Kadadzera said “A team of police officers have been discharged to the area; they are on the ground looking for the boy.” Reacting to the attacks, Mr. Overstone Kondowe, President of the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (APAM) said the government should declare Malawi unsafe for people with albinism. (Source: Malawi24 – 14-year- old boy with albinism abducted in Dedza; February 13, 2019; by Russel Kondowe; https://malawi24.com/2019/02/13/14-year-old-boy-with-albinism-abducted-in-dedza/)
Second most recent missing: On January 22, 2019, a 1 & 1/2 year old little girl with albinism by the name of Unice Nkhonjera was noticed missing at about 4 AM. She had been sleeping with her mother, Loness Nkhonjera (28), in the village of Malongo, Traditional Authority of Wasambo, Karonga District, Malawi. It is believed that little Unice was abducted by unknown kidnappers. (Source: Mr Tengamowa Induna reported it to Mr. Overstone Mkwapatira Kondowe who is the Acting National Director for the Association of Persons with Albinism of Malawi – APAM; Email: email@example.com; Mobile: +265 881 132 9028)
Most recent grave robbery: On July 15, 2017, it was discovered that the grave of an elderly woman with albinism by the name of Norwin Nkhonjera was tampered with in an attempt to exhume the body at Mbulunji in the Rumphi District of Malawi. Relatives of the deceased made the discovery on Saturday when they went to the graveyard for a memorial service and reported the matter to police. Rumphi Police Station spokesman Victor Khamisi said that Norwin Nkhonjera had died over 13 years ago on January 10, 2004, and that unknown criminals had recently disturbed the grave but failed to exhume the body. “We went to the grave and established that the body was not exhumed,” said Kamisi and indicated that Police are investigating the matter. (Source: Nyasa Times – Gang attempted to exhume body of albino grave in Rumphi; July 19, 2017; by Judith Moyo: https://www.nyasatimes.com/gang-attempted-exhume- body-albino-grave-rumphi/)
Mali, 17 reports: (PFI 112 of 180) 5 killings / 3 survivors / 2 missing / 7 asylums Most recent killing: On May 13, 2018, a five year old girl with albinism by the name of Djeneba Diarra was kidnapped from her home in the middle of the night and later found beheaded in the village of Fana, about 125 Km from Bamako, the capital of Mali. AFP reports that according to police, armed men abducted and beheaded the five-year-old girl with albinism in what was feared to be a ritual murder for supposedly magic body parts. Little Djeneba Diarra “was sleeping in the courtyard with her mother and her sister” when the men snatched her at around 2:00 am on Sunday. The girl’s mother pursued the kidnappers, who scaled a wall with her child, but then turned back to protect her second daughter, also with albinism. “We searched for the little girl everywhere. We found her body beside a mosque, but she had no head,” said a village teacher, Oumar Diakite. Sissoko, the general secretary of the Federation of Associations of Persons with Albinism in West Africa (FAPAO), pointed out the link between crimes against people with albinism and political events, ahead of Mali’s presidential election on July 29. “Every time there are elections, we become prey for people who want to make ritual sacrifices. This is not the first time this has happened in Fana,” he said. “The state needs to take up its responsibilities.” “We demand justice. Her head was taken. This is a ritual crime,” activist Mamadou Sissoko told AFP after going to the scene. The governor of the region of Koulikoro, Colonel Mamary CAMARA, the director general of the national gendarmerie, the Commander of the Legion of gendarmerie were on the crime scene, and went to the morgue to see the body of the beheaded little girl. Traditional authorities have been approached to help appease tensions. (Source: AFP-Outcry in Mali after albino child beheaded in ‘ritual’ murder; May 15, 2018; https://www.yahoo.com/news/outcry-mali-albino-child- beheaded-ritual-murder-110618567.html; and on May 13, 2018, UTSS was contacted by Mamadou Sissoko, the general secretary of the albinism association in Mali, who confirmed the attack; Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel: +223-73396374/+223-99452599)
Most recent survivor: Early in August 2017 a 13 year old boy with albinism narrowly escaped abduction in Goloninia, located in the Bamako district of Mali. Fortunately for the child, the Salif Keita Foundation for people with albinism in Mali intervened and the perpetrator was arrested. Nantenin Keita, the daughter of Salif Keita, says; “He was released on bail awaiting a date of trial – we don’t know yet. I fear we will never see him again. Our assistant in Bamako underwent a lot of pressure in order to withdraw the complaint, but we didn’t give up. We feared the boy’s family was scared and would withdraw the complaint, but they did not. It’s truly a good step forward.” (Source: Excerpts of an interview with Nantenin Keita (Salif Keita’s daughter) to Françoise WASSERVOGEL, correspondent of the Malian paper “Le Reporter” in France. The article was posted by Genespoir on their Facebook page on November 19, 2017. The article was published on November 15, 2015: http://maliactu.net/mali-ne-touchez-pas-aux- albinos-nantenin-keita-de-la-fondation-salif-keita-fait-le-point/)
Most recent missing: In 2006, the abduction of a baby boy with albinism occurred in Mali. On that fatal night the mother had decided to sleep outside in their yard so that her infant son could enjoy the fresh air. Upon waking the next morning she found that her baby was gone. (Source: An interview of Tierno Diallo on Radio France International on May 20, 2009 called “Invité Afrique” presented by Journalist Christophe Boisbouvier. Tierno is a man with albinism who founded the Malian albinism association in 1993 called SOS Albinos. He was later appointed Minister in Charge of Faith Affairs in 2013 under President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.)
Asylum: On July 29, 2011, Ms. Rokia Kone, a woman with albinism from Mali received asylum in France.
Mozambique, 48 reports: (PFI 103 of 180) 16 murders, 13 survivors, 5 grave robberies, 14missingNOTE: (2 attacks in 2019 to date / 2 attack in 2018 / 9 attacks in 2017 / 11 attacks in 2016 / 20 attacks in 2015 / 1 attack in 2014 / 1 attack in 2011 / 2 attacks in 2009)
Most recent murder: During the weekend of March 1 – 3, 2019, unidentified individuals who are still at large kidnapped and murdered a 12-year-old girl with albinism whose name remains unknown in Chimbonila district, Niassa province, northern Mozambique. The assailants broke into the victim’s home as she and her relatives were sleeping and threatened the family with a weapon before making off with the child. As soon as the incident was reported, the police, with the help of members of the community, began a series of urgent searches which resulted in the finding of the girl’s dismembered torso. (Source: Club of Mozambique – Albino killers strike again in Mozambique, March 4, 2019,https://clubofmozambique.com/news/albino-killers-strike-again-in-mozambique/)
Most recent survivor: On January 15, 2018, Mozambican police announced that it had aborted an attempt to kidnap an 11 year child with albinism in the central province of Zambezia, near the border of Malawi, Mozambique. The child had been targeted by a gang of five traffickers in human body parts. By the time police were able to intervene and rescue the child; the gang had shaved his head and cut off his ears. “We are on the trail of the other members of this gang believed to be those who ordered this macabre crime”, said Zambezia provincial police spokesperson Miguel Caetano at a Monday press conference in Quelimane, the provincial capital. (Source: CLUB OF MOZAMBIQUE: Police rescue albino child from traffickers; Source: AIM; January 16, 2018; http://clubofmozambique.com/news/police-rescue-albino- child-from-traffickers/)
Most recent grave robbery: During the first week of May, 2016, the grave of a man with albinism was violated and robbed in a family cemetery in the northern city of Nampula neighbourhood of Namutequliua, Mozambique. The grave raiders allegedly removed the body, cut off the arms, and then dumped the rest of the body in a bush near the cemetery. On May 11, 2016, Nampula provincial police spokesperson Zacarias Nacute reported that Mozambican police arrested eight people for tampering with the grave. Police said the grave contained the body of an albino citizen and the gang raided it to steal body parts. Thanks to the investigations undertaken by the police, it was possible first to arrest three of the suspects who had a bag containing 16 fragments of bone from the body. Later we managed to arrest the other five criminals, said Nacute. The public broadcaster reported that the suspects confessed to the crime. Two of the grave robbers were witchdoctors, recruited both to assist in selling the bones, and to use magic that would prevent the criminals from being caught. (Source: StarAfrica.com; Mozambique nabs eight for inteferring with albino grave; May 12, 2016; Posted by APA; http://en.starafrica.com/news/mozambique- nabs-eight-for-inteferring-with-albino-grave.html)
Most recent missing: On February 28, 2019, a six-year-old boy with albinism whose name remains unknown was kidnapped near the community of Larde, Moma District, Nampula Province in north-eastern Mozambique. Apparently three criminals decided to attack after discovering that the child would be at home alone with their elderly grandmother. According to newspaper sources, the grandmother could not identify the people who had kidnapped her grandson, but the truth is that she knows the three men. The whereabouts of the unidentified attackers remains unknown. The Mozambican police (PRM) in Nampula province say they are already investigating the case for possible arrest and criminal responsibility of the kidnappers. “We have already referred this case to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, but we also continue to investigate the case,” said Zacarias Nacute, a PRM spokesman in Nampula. (Source: A Facebook post made by Kanimambo Albinism Group in Mozambique on March 4, 2019, titled Kanimambo – Associacao de Apoio ao Albinismo, https://www.facebook.com/MKanimambo/; Google Translator: IKWELI – ALBINOS AGAIN HAVE DIFFICULT DAYS IN NAMPULA; March 5, 2019, https://www.ikweli.co.mz/2019/03/05/albinos-voltam-a-ter-dias-dificeis-em-nampula/)
Most recent killing: In June of 2010 Ananias Shifotoka, a young man with albinism from Uukwiyuwuushona Village in Oshikoto Region was found brutally murdered days after he went missing. His decomposing body was found in a bush cut into pieces with his head removed as well as his genitals, tongue, hands and toes missing. (Source: NEW ERA News Paper for a New Namibia, 29-June- 2010)
Most recent survivor: On Saturday, May 12, 2012 a 16 year old girl with albinism claims to have been raped by 44 year old man. Prior to the rape he had been visiting the victim and enticed her with money and promises of a shiny car, cattle and marriage. They went for a ride that day and on their return to the village, the accused forced his victim into one of his abandoned buildings, where he is alleged to have raped her. This was confirmed by the victim herself. On Monday, May 21 2012 the suspected rapist was denied bail in Oshakati Magistrate Court. The accused, Jonas Mathias, known as Iingumu Netsali (44), was from a village near Ongwediva where he was arrested by the police. The case of Mathias was postponed by Magistrate Mika Namweya to 27 June 2012 for further investigation. (Source: Informante’, May 23, 2012)
Niger, 1 report: (PFI 66 of 180) 1 missing
Missing & Presumed Dead – On the 17th day of the 2012 Islamic month of Ramadan inNiger (likely August 6, 2012), a young man born with albinism in 1986 by the name of Seyni Hama went missing in the ward of Dar es Salam in the capital city of Niamey, Niger. He has not been seen since. On September 13 & 20, 2014, Ms. Kadidjatou Moumouni, leader and founder of the PWA association in Niger interviewed the victims’ family and neighbours to confirm Seyni’s disappearance. Both parties told her that the abduction did in fact take place. At the time Seyni went missing, his family reported the case to the Police who did their investigation, but sadly were not able to find him. Two of Seyni’s brothers also have albinism. (Source: On September 20, 2014, UTSS interviewed Ms. Kadidjatou Moumouni, leader and founder of the PWA group in Niger; ANAN Niger – email@example.com)
Most recent killing: In April of 2013 a woman with albinism was found dead with some of her body organs missing at Okuta, a border town at Baruten Local Government Area of Kwara State, Nigeria. (Source: TheGuardian Nigeria, Friday, April 19, 2013, 19:32; From Abiodun Fagbemi, Ilorin)
Missing report: In April of 2013 a woman with albinism went missing according to her relatives. She was a resident around Saw Mill area in the city of Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria. (Source: TheGuardian Nigeria, Friday, April 19, 2013, 19:32; From Abiodun Fagbemi, Ilorin)
Most recent asylum: On February 13, 2017, a Judge in France recognizes refugee status to a Nigerian man with albinism who was stigmatized and a victim of persecutions in his homeland. (Source: COUR NATIONALE DU DROIT D’ASILE; 14 février 2017; http://www.cnda.fr/Ressources- juridiques-et-geopolitiques/Actualite-jurisprudentielle/Selection-de-decisions-de-la-CNDA/Nigeria- le-juge-de-l-asile-reconnait-la-qualite-de-refugie-a-un-demandeur-d-asile-stigmatise-et-victime-de- persecutions-du-fait-de-son-appartenance-au-groupe-social-des-albinos; Court’s decision: http://www.cnda.fr/content/download/91325/876093/version/1/file/CNDA%2013%20février%202017%20 M.%20E.%20n°%2016017097%20C.pdf)
Rwanda, 1 report: (PFI 155 0f 180) 1 grave robbery On July 2, 2013, authorities of the Macuba sector in Nyamasheke district in Rwanda were notified that the grave of Nyirahakuzimana Consolee, a woman with albinism buried eight months earlier, had been found desecrated and empty. Nyamasheke district mayor, Habyarimana Jean Baptiste, confirmed the grave tampering. He noted that it was difficult to determine who was behind the incidence, but that the coffin and cloths of the deceased were found scattered about 700 meters from the grave. (Source: Online media: Œil d’Afrique – Article published on July 03, 2013 http://oeildafrique.com/le-cadavre-dun-albinos- vole-au-rwanda/ ; IGIHE.com Published on 3-07-2013 http://en.igihe.com/news/body-of-albino-stolen- from-grave.html)
Senegal, 9 reports: (PFI 49 of 180) 3 alleged killings / 4 survivors / 2 asylum 3 alleged killings: Three unproven murders of people with albinism are alleged to be linked to the March, 2012 elections in Senegal. Several different sources have purported 1 killing in 2012 and 2 killings in 2010. These charges were actually made by President Abdoulaye Wade but apparently not at the same time:
– In 2012 during the electoral campaign, President Abdoulaye said before the steering committee of his ownpolitical party (the Senegalese Democratic Party PDS): “Some people told me that Pape DIOP killed a PWA they brought from Mali”. (Source – Article: “Another GRAVE revelation from Wade”, Wednesday, May 30, 2012, http://www.rewmi.com/ & Article: “MEETING OF THE STEERING COMMITTEE OF THE PDS: Wade accuses Pape Diop of killing an albino”, Wednesday May 30, 2012, http://www.walf- groupe.com/ )
– In July of 2010 Abdoulaye Wade accused the regime of his predecessor Abdou DIOUF and his political party, the Socialist Party (PS), “of the mysterious deaths of two young female albinos whose disappearance was never clarified”. (Source – WikiLeaks, December 17, 2010)
Most recent survivor: On September 8, 2014, an 8 year old boy with albinism by the name of Mohamed Diop was fortunately released by his kidnappers in Thies, a city located about 70 km East of Dakar, the capital city of Senegal. Mohamed was on his way home when accosted by occupants in a black 4×4 who forced him into the vehicle and drove away. Providentially a local-taxi driver witnessed the scene and gave chase while raising the alarm. This alerted people near the vehicle and the assailants ending up stopping and throwing the boy out. Mohamed was then taken to his mother by the taxi driver. (Source: Report received by UTSS on Friday, January 16, 2015 from Mr. Mouhamadou Bamba Diop, Chairperson of the Senegal PWA Group – association nationale des albinos du Sénégal – ANAS)
Asylum: On June 17, 2015, legal history was made yet again in the USA when a man with albinism from Senegal (he wishes to remain anonymous) who underwent severe persecution due to his albinism was granted asylum in New York City, New York. (Source: His lawyer at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, One New York Plaza, New York, NY 10004; friedfrank.com)
South Africa, 9 reports: (PFI 31 of 180) 4 killings / 2 missing / 2 survivors / 1 grave robbery
Most recent killing: On January 28, 2018, a 14 year old girl with albinism by the name of Gabisile Simphiwe Shabani was abducted and later killed in Hlalanikahle Township -Witbank Mpumalanga, South Africa. The family woke up to the sound of commotion made by three men breaking a window and entering at gun point to abduct Gabisile. They also took her 15-month old nephew, Nkosikhona Ngwenya‚ who did not have albinism but was allegedly mistaken for another child from the same household who also has albinism. Gabisile’s young body was found 3 weeks later on February 21. The remains indicated that she had been decapitated, with her arms and private parts removed. The shallow grave was discovered in Cullinan Pretoria which is about 81 km way from her home. The infant was discovered on the N4 highway with exact location not disclosed. On February 20, 2018, Thokozani Msibi (32), a traditional healer from Swaziland living in South Africa, was arrested after police found a human head and other human body parts at his home. He confessed to the brutal killing of the two children and identified the location of the shallow grave. He appeared in Witbank Magistrate’s Court at which time he was also applying for bail which Magistrate Darleen Venter denied. The first court appearance was on February 21, 2018, where he was remanded in custody with the second court appearance on February 27, 2018. The next court date was on the 6th of March, 2018, with investigations still ongoing since the other two suspects have not been apprehended. (Source: Sent February 28, 2018 by Commissioner Nomasonto G. Mazibuko; National Director; Albinism Society of South Africa; 187 Lara’s Place , Bree Street; Johannesburg, 2000; Tel: +2711 838-6529; Fax: +2711 492-0276; Mobile: +2782 755-3884; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.albinism.org.za; and; IOL; Police find two bodies believed to be linked to albino abduction case; February 22, 2018; https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/mpumalanga/police- find-two-bodies-believed-to-be-linked-to-albino-abduction-case-13412236; and TheCitizen (ANA); Family of murdered Mpumalanga children, one an albino, live in fear; February 24, 2018; by Balise Mabona; https://citizen.co.za/news/south-africa/1833571/family-of-murdered-mpumalanga-children-one- an-albino-live-in-fear/ ; and IOL; WATCH: Human head, body parts found at murder; March 6, 2018; ANA Reporter; https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/mpumalanga/watch-human-head-body-parts- found-at-murder-accuseds-home-13626375; TimesLIVE; Horror as albino corpse’s body parts stolen; 15 March 2018; BY KGAUGELO MASWENENG; https://www.timeslive.co.za/news/south-africa/2018-03- 15-horror-as-albino-corpses-body-parts-stolen/)
Most recent survivor: On June 28, 2016, a 12 year old boy with albinism went missing but days later was found and survived an attempted sale for ritual purposes in the little town of eManguzi in the northern province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, just 15 kilometers from the Mozambique border. On July 6, 2016, SABC NEWS reported that Provincial police spokesperson Nqobile Gwala says the suspect, a 28-year-old woman, was arrested last week at eManguzi after attempting to sell a 12-year old boy with albinism for R 100 000. The arrest resulted after the traditional healer she was trying to sell the child to, James Mthembu, alerted the police and a trap was set. Mthembu said that when the woman offered him the children, he played along, before going to the Child Protection and Sexual Offences Investigations Unit at Jozini, which set up a sting operation with detectives from Richards Bay. Mthembu is known for his stance against the killing of albinos for muti purposes and has led marches to the magistrate’s courts. The suspect’s attempts for bail have been denied in Ubombo Magistrate’s Court, and she is still in custody. The little boy has been reunited with his family and is receiving counselling. (Source: SABC NEWS; Woman jailed for trying to sell a child with albinism; July 6, 2016; http://www.sabc.co.za/news/a/f92df9004d640599ae01ee4b5facb1b5/Woman-jailed-for-trying-to-sell-a- child-with-albinism-20160706; iolNews: Can I sell you an albino child?; July 9, 2016; by Staff Reporter; http://www.iol.co.za/news/crime-courts/can-i-sell-you-an-albino-child-2043617; News24: Praise after one albino child saved, but second still missing; by Sabelo Nsele; July 7, 2016;http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/praise-after-one-albino-child-saved-second-still-missing- 20160706; This attack was confirmed on July 27, 2016, by the office of Commissioner Nomasonto G. Mazibuko, National Director of the Albinism Society of South Africa, 187 Lara’s Place, Bree Street, Johannesburg, 2000, Tel: +2711 838-6529, Fax: +2711 492-0276, Mobile: +2782 755-3884, Email: email@example.com, www.albinism.org.za)
Most recent missing: On June 21, 2016, a 4 year old boy with albinism by the name of Maneliswa Ntombela, also known as Mlungu, was kidnapped and is still missing from Port Dunford near Richards Bay, Mkhoboza at eSikhaleni, outside eMpangeni in the north of the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa. The family says that Mlungu was playing with his cousin at a church several meters from his home. The victim’s cousin told Mlungu’s mother, Qhaphi Ntombela, that two men abducted him and they also referred to him by name. On Friday police arrested a 28-year-old woman in Emanguzi while looking for Mlungu saying their investigation revealed the woman had been arranging to sell another child with albinism in the area for R100 000 to a local traditional healer. They suspect she may also be involved with Mlungu’s disappearance. His mother is pleased with the latest development in the case saying “I hadn’t heard of the arrest from police. I’ve no words to describe how I feel about the arrest but I haven’t lost hope and I won’t ever lose hope”. As of July 27, 2016, police are still busy following leads but little Mlungu is still missing. The Albinism Society of South Africa is also monitoring this case and we will keep UTSS informed. (Source: RadioVoP: Shock As Albino Boy Kidnapped In South Africa’s KZN; June 27, 2016; http://www.radiovop.com/index.php/africans-news/14008-shock-as-albino-boy-kidnapped-in-south-africa- s-kzn.html & ECRnews: Mother’s last hope to find missing Esikhawini boy: July 6, 2016; by Anelisa Kubheka; https://www.ecr.co.za/news-sport/news/mothers-last-hope-find-missing-esikhawini-boy/; News24: Praise after one albino child saved, but second still missing; by Sabelo Nsele; July 7, 2016; http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/praise-after-one-albino-child-saved-second-still-missing- 20160706; iolNews: Can I sell you an albino child?; July 9, 2016; by Staff Reporter; http://www.iol.co.za/news/crime-courts/can-i-sell-you-an-albino-child-2043617; This attack was confirmed on July 27, 2016, by the office of Commissioner Nomasonto G. Mazibuko, National Director of the Albinism Society of South Africa, 187 Lara’s Place, Bree Street, Johannesburg, 2000, Tel: +2711 838- 6529, Fax: +2711 492-0276, Mobile: +2782 755-3884, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.albinism.org.za)
Most recent killings: In May of 2016 in Nkoyoyo, Swaziland, a man with albinism by the name of Sipho Mahlalela was murdered by his wife, Pinky Zikalala. She hired 2 men to kill her husband and then tried to sell his corpse to a traditional healer (name withheld) who allegedly entered into an agreement with her. He is now the subject of intense police investigation. The wife along with the two men have since been arrested and charged for the murder. Prior to their arrest, Pinky Zikalala took the traditional healer to see the corpse at which time she asked to be paid for keeping her end of the agreement. The traditional healer is said to have backed out of the deal because he wanted Mahlalela to be brought to him alive since he needed the blood of a person with albinism for ritual purposes. (Source: TIMES OF SWAZILAND; WIFE ACCUSED OF SELLING ALBINO’S CORPSE TO INYANGA; May 27, 2016; BY THEMBINKOSI MAVIMBELA; http://www.times.co.sz/news/108061-wife-accused-of-selling-albino%E2%80%99s- corpse-to-inyanga.html)
Most recent survivors: 4 SURVIVORS OF THE SAME ATTACK: On September 02, 2013, 4 men with albinism were attacked and seriously injured in the town of Mankayane next to Manzini, in Swaziland. Mr. Vilakati received this information from the victims’ families and reported it to UTSS. He was able to visit 2 of the 4 victims in hospital; one called Thulane (19) and the other Ndzinisa (24); the other 2 remain unidentified. (Source: Mr. Dalton Vilakati, a PWA and recently appointed Member of Parliament in Swaziland – Phone number: +268-763-604-80)
World Press Freedom Index Trend for Tanzania: 2008 – 70 of 173
2009 – 62 of 175 2010 – 41 of 178 2011 & 12 – 34 of 179 2013 – 70 of 179 2014 – 69 of 180 2015 – 75 of 180 2016 – 71 of 180 2017 – 83 of 180 2018 – 93 of 180 2019 – 118 of 180
Tanzania, 187 reports: (PFI 118 of 180) All Tanzanian information on killings and attacks are gathered by UTSS through its field work and research; reports from victim’s families and police reports in Tanzania.
76 killings 84 survivors; all are deeply traumatized and some severely mutilated 1 missing 23 grave violations 3 asylums
Most recent killing: On Tuesday, February 17, 2015, the mutilated remains of a 1 year old baby boy with albinism by the name of Yohana Bahati were discovered by police in Shilabela Mapinduzi Sub-Village, a few kilometers from his home in Isabilo Sub-Vilage of Ilelema Village, Iparamasa Ward of Chato District, Geita Region, Tanzania. Both of Yohana’s arms and legs were hacked off. Two days earlier five unidentified men armed with machetes attacked the homestead. Three of them seized Misalaba (father) while two of them forced their way into the house where Ester (mother) was preparing the evening meal. Misalaba managed to fight off the attackers and ran away leaving his wife behind with two children with albinism, one year old Yohana and his 3 year old sister Tabu. One of the assailants slashed Ester’s face and body rendering her unconscious while the second grabbed little Yohana and ran away. Ester remained in serious condition in Bugando Referral Hospital in Mwanza City even after doctors operated on the machete lacerations sustained while trying in vain to protect her baby boy. A police search is underway and Yohana’s father is being held in remand prison. No other arrests have been made at the time of this report. (SOURCE: UTSS interviews with Deputy Director of Public Prosecution Ms. Neema Ringo in Dar es Salaam and Iparamasa Ward Executive Officer (WEO), Christopher Mabuba who confirmed the attack.)
Most recent survivor: On January 15, 2019, there was a failed kidnapping attempt perpetrated against a 19 year old man with albinism by the name of Eliya Sambeke Mollel in Ndulele village, Naiyobi Ward, Ngorongoro District in the Arusha Region of Tanzania. At 4:00 PM on that day Eliya was grazing cattle under the scorching sun when 2 strangers gave chase with obvious intentions to harm him.
Fortunately he was able to outrun them and hide. When he finally made his way home and inform his mother, she told him to prepare for a trip to Loliondo District to seek help. They woke early the following morning and walked over 50 kilometers to the village of Ngaraselo where they caught the nearest coach to Loliondo. Eliya is part of a Maasai family where his father, Sambeke Mollel, has 19 children from 4 wives. Eliya is the only one with albinism. While his mother loves him, his father has rejected him and forbidden his mother to help in any way. In addition to the rejection, his father attempted to attack him with a machete and told his mother he would do the same to her if she got involved. While Eliya is not loved, welcome or safe in his own home, he is safer now that he has been brought to Loliondo Town Council by his mother to meet the Social Welfare Officer. He was given sanctuary by a Good Samaritan more than 300 kilometers from his home. Elia told UTSS that if he goes back to school he will make sure he passes all of his exams because he wants to become a doctor. He is ready to go back to school and hopes to attend a special program at a school in Kilimanjaro where older students like him are accommodated in completing their education prior to university. At the time of this report the two unknown criminals were still at large but the following people are aware of the attack and planning to investigate; OC CID Ngorongoro Superintendent of Police (SP) Mathayo – 0784912330/0768056462; Assistant Inspector of Police Samweli Kichambati Ngorongoro – 0689976325/0754801554; and Police Officer Daniel Shija Ngorongoro Conservation – 0758714671. (Source: On January 19, 2019, UTSS was notified about this attack by the Ngorongoro District Social Welfare Officer – SWO and the Police in Ngorongoro District. Our First Response Team visited the scene of the crime from January 23 – 26, 2019, and interviewed the SWO in Ngorongoro as well as the Police in Ngorongoro, the Ndulele Village Chairperson, and the Naiyobi Village Executive Officer – VEO and Ward Executive Officer – WEO)
Second most recent survivor: THIS CASE COUNTS AS 3 ATTACKS: On January, 5, 2019, there was a failed kidnapping attempt perpetrated against a 7 year old boy with albinism by the name of Alphonce Paul George in Kawekamo Village, Fukalo Ward, Subdivision of Mwambashimba in Kwimba District, in the Mwanza Region of Tanzania. Alphonce has been living with his grandmother, Mrs. Lejina Mayeka, since the age of three when his parents, Mrs. Neema Marko (25) and Mr. Paul George, moved away and left him in her care. She told UTSS that her little grandson has now miraculously escaped three kidnapping attempts, the first in 2015 at the age of 3, the second on August 16, 2018, at the age of 6 and now this most recent one at age 7. After the first attempt, the grandmother tried to get Alphonce enrolled at Mitindo Primary School, a special needs government school that also serves as a sanctuary for children with albinism who are at risk. They refused to accept Alphonce saying that he was too young. After the second kidnapping attempt in August of 2018, she reported the matter to the Village Executive Officer (VEO), Mr. Sanda Henry who immediately reported it to the Hungumalwa Police Post as well as the Kwimba District Commissioner (DC) and the office of Social Welfare Officer, requesting Alphonce be admitted into the Mitindo School. A prompt response from the DC’s office ensured that he was admitted into Mitindo School on August 30, 2018. Grandmother went on to say that the third and most recent attempt, in January of 2019, occurred while Alphonce was at home on school break with only two days remaining before he was to return. Alphonce is once again safe at Mitindo Primary School in Mwanza where he has been enrolled as a kindergarten pupil for the 2019 academic year. UTSS First Response Team visited little Alphonce at Mitindo Special Need School and met with the school’s Head Teacher, Madam Jane D. Kibungi who said Alphonce is very charming and intelligent. She is proud to have Alphonce in her school and hopes he will succeed in his long academic journey. Because the attackers are still at large, UTSS has advised both the grandmother and the Tanzania Albinism Society Chairman for Mwanza, Mr. Alfred Kapole, to follow up with this case to ensure they get the RB case number since it has been reported to the police. For more specific information about each of the 3 attacks, please contact UTSS email@example.com. (Source: On January 19, 2019, UTSS was notified about the attack by the Tanzania Albinism Society (TAS) Chairman for Mwanza, Mr. Alfred Kapole 0763831793. UTSS First Response Team visited the scene of the crime on January 28 – 29, 2019, and interviewed Alphonce’s grandmother, Mrs. Lejina Mayeka – 0746213773; Kawekamo Village Executive Officer, Mr. Sanda Henry – 062951583; Sungusungu Secretary Kawekamo, Mr. Richard Makaji Lutema – 0763814259 and Mitindo Head teacher, Mrs. Jane Kabungi – 0764601106)
Most recent survivor of rape: On October 20, 2017, a thirty year old woman with albinism by the name of Zainabu Kulandeya survived an attempted rape by Bundala Luhende, age 20, at around 11:00 AM at her parents’ house in Mhunze Village, Kishapu District, Shinyanga Region, northwestern Tanzania. That day Zainabu was home alone when the perpetrator, who was unknown to them and not from their neighbourhood, arrived at the door claiming to be hungry and in need of food. When Zainabu told him that there was no food in the house he proceeded to offer her money in exchange for sexual favours. She declined and asked him to leave, at which time the man started forcing himself on her. Zainabu began to scream and a neighbour came to her rescue. The criminal escaped but was chased down by villagers, captured and handed over to the police. The perpetrator is now in custody at Kishapu Police Station waiting to be arraigned in court on November 07, 2017. While Zainabu survived and is safe and in the care of her parents, she is frightened and psychologically affected by the whole ordeal! The UTSS First Response Team has asked the Kishapu District Commissioner to ensure that Zainabu gets proper counseling and sent to a Vocational Training Centre where she can do something that would generate income instead of staying at home in isolation. They also asked the Community Development Officer to link her with a women’s self- help group. (Source: Initial report on October 25, 2017, from partners in the Kagera Region and the Tanzania Albinism Society (TAS) in Simiyu. On October 27 – 30, 2017, the UTSS First Response Team visited and interviewed the victim, her family, neighbours, police, social welfare department, community development department and the offices of the District Commissioner and District Executive Director after which an Understanding Albinism Seminar was also conducted for all.)
Most recent missing: On December 27, 2014, a 4 year old girl with albinism by the name of Pendo Emmanuel was abducted in Ndamhi Village of Fukalo Ward, Kwimba District, Mwanza Region, Tanzania. The police have arrested 15 suspects in connection with the kidnapping. Three of the arrestees are relatives: Pendo’s paternal grandfather, maternal grandfather and her mother. Due to the fact that her mother had just given birth to a baby girl with albinism and prison would not be appropriate for the baby, the Mwanza Regional Commissioner has ordered them to be sent to an alternative secured environment. The police have also set up a search party to look for Pendo. (Source: UTSS interview with Tanzanian police and Ndamhi Village Executive Officer as well as newspapers reports including: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-2903078/UN-demands-investigation-albino-girl- abduction.html; http://allafrica.com/stories/201501080704.html;http://dailynews.co.tz/index.php/dailynews/39960-proven-albino-killers-must-be-severely-punhed; http://www.dailynews.co.tz/index.php/local-news/40153-rc-gives-mwanza-village-five-days-to-find-msing- albino-girl; http://www.ippmedia.com/frontend/index.php?l=76048)
Most recent grave violation: On the night of April 23, 2019, the remains of a deceased man with albinism by the name of Amani Anyelwisye Kalyembe, who had been buried on February 7, 2015, were exhumed and stolen from his grave by unidentified criminals in the Mahenge suburb, Ibililo Village, Nkunga Ward, Rungwe District, Mbeya Region in the south of Tanzania. One of the relatives of the late Amani was implicated and he is under police custody. Amani’s father, Ngumbe Kalyembe Ndumbo, is so old that he couldn’t remember his own age. During the night of the robbery, criminals locked the doors of his house from outside. He was not aware of this since he was fast asleep. It wasn’t until in the morning that he realized the grave of his son, which is on his property, had been disturbed. The matter was reported to the Kiwira Police Station who in turn went to the scene of the incident. After several consultations the police decided to unearth the already disturbed grave to find out exactly what had happened. They found an empty casket with the remains stolen. Amini’s father said that before the police left the scene, they ordered local leaders to arrange a villagers meeting in order to identify those responsible. When the meeting was called, the villagers cast their secret ballots and two of the residents of Mahenge suburb were implicated, one of who was Amani’s young brother, Baraka Anyelwisye Kalyembe. He is currently under police custody for further investigations. The second accused person is said to have fled to an unknown destination. The Ibililo Village Executive Officer (VEO), Jane John Mwalukindu, together with Ibililo Village Chairman, Mpoki Wilson Mwambakila, said the incident has not only shocked the family but also the villagers at large, including government leaders at all levels of administration in the region of Mbeya.
They are still wondering how intruders could come all the way to their village and commit such a serious offence without being noticed by the villagers! “These strangers could not be alone. I know some of the villagers helped them. We will deal with it.” Jane Mwalukindu insisted. (Sources: April 24th, 2019, a UTSS resource person in Mbeya, William Simwali, called in this report; Nairobi (AFP): Tanzania albinos say they fear for lives after exhumation, April 28, 2019, https://news.yahoo.com/tanzania-albinos-fear-lives- exhumation-135245156.html; From April 29 to May 3rd, 2019, the UTSS First Response Mission investigated and Reported on the grave robbery in Mahenge Suburb, Ibililo Village in Rungwe District – Mbeya Region, conducting interviews with the Ibililo Village Chairman, Mpoki Wilson Mwambakila – 0769405031, Ibililo Village Executive Officer, Jane John Mwalukindu – 0753173452, Amani’s father, Ngumbe Kalyembe Ndumbo; and Tanzania Albinism Society Chairman in Rungwe District, Abraham Mwambungu – 0766271589)
3 asylums: On July 28, 2017, a man with albinism from Tanzania was granted refugee status in Vancouver, Canada. On June 27, 2017, a man with albinism from Tanzania was granted asylum in Chicago, Illinois. On July 27, 2016, two sisters with albinism from Tanzania who underwent brutal attack and profound discrimination due to their albinism were granted asylum in the state of California, USA.
NOTE: The first actual police documented murder of PWA in Tanzania was that of Arif in 2006.
Togo, 1 report: (PFI 76 of 180) 1 killing Most recent killing: On September 23, 2017, a 2 year old boy with albinism by the name of Nanhladja Monnoble was reported missing between 8:00 and 9:00 PM in the city of Dapaong in the locality of Pana Bagou in northern Togo, West Africa. The little boy was later found dead and burried. It was reported that the victim’s body was supposed to be exhumed on the third day following his burial and taken to the neighbouring country of Benin to serve in witchcraft practices for the purpose of bringing riches. Some of the 4 suspected murderers have been arrested and are currently in the hands of the local police. The Togo Albinism Association ANAT says “We have a video footage of the burial of the little boy. We firmly condemn this act and demand your support to say NO to these acts in our country.” (Source: UTSS was contacted on September 28, 2017, by the Togo Albinism Association: Association nationale des albinos du Togo (ANAT); Chairperson: Mr. Souradji OURO-YONDOU; Secretary: Mr. Abdoul Karim Nassirou; Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Uganda, 8 reports: (PFI 125 of 180) 8 survivors
Most recent survivor: This report counts as 2 separate PWA attacks – On October 7, 2016, 2 boys with albinism were kidnapped in the village of Bujuko in Central Uganda. They are part of a family with many children among whom four have albinism. The mother is facing many challenges after separating from her husband who wanted to sacrifice one of the children with albinism. The kidnapping occurred while four of the siblings were on their way to school and the two older boys were blindfolded with handkerchiefs believed to have chemicals on them. Some people saw the boys in a taxi and telephoned their mother asking if she knew where the boys were going. Oblivious of the situation, she denied that they were her children but the other person insisted on their identity. A one and a half day search began for the boys who were miraculously found alive and well in a medium income Kampala suburb looking for their way home. It was a long search using police, local radio stations and word of mouth. The case is still under investigation and a lot of information is not yet available. (Source: Olive Namutebi; October 17, 2016; African Albino Foundation Uganda – AAFU had been supporting the family for over 3 years prior to this attack; Email: email@example.com; Website: https://albinofoundationuganda.wordpress.com/)
USA, 2 reports: (PFI 48 of 180) 2 survivors
Omitted. See the original reports for details. (webmaster FVDK)
Most recent killing: On December 22, 2015, a 36 year old man with albinism by the name of Jeffrey Sikanyai was attacked & killed in Mandevu, Lusaka’s Zani Muone West area, Zambia. He was left to die after his right forearm was cut off, most likely with an axe, for what appears to be ritual purposes. His body was found on the roadside the morning after his attack. Jeffrey was well-known in the area, and his family and friends said they were shocked by the death as he was very friendly. “We wouldn’t say he had any enemies. He was friendly with most people. Also, his movements and whereabouts were predictable.” (Source: Zambia Daily Mail; Albino killed, arm chopped; by Online Editor KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka; Posted in Editor’s Choice, News on December 24, 2015; https://www.daily- mail.co.zm/?p=53668)
Most recent survivor: On November 4, 2017, a 19 -year- old woman with albinism by the name of Miriam Kumwenda survived a brutal attack where her right hand was chopped off by unknown assailants in Buyoyo Village, Chief Chikwa’s chiefdom, Chama District, Muchinga Province, Zambia. Narrating the ordeal from her bed in the Chama District Hospital, Miriam told Zambia News and Information Services (ZANIS) that she was attacked the previous Saturday night. Arroused from sleep by a knock at the door, she inquired who it was. A man who identified himself as a Mr. Nkhowani asked her to be let in but she ignored the request. The attacker then forced an entry, covered her mouth with a cloth to prevent screaming and carried her into the bush. Once in the bush other attackers appeared and started beating her up. When they started cutting her left arm one of them said that it is the right hand that was needed and her left arm was to remain intact. At this pointed she was hit on the head and lost consciousness. The assailants left her for dead. When she came too, Miriam started crying. Her parent found her later and rushed her to a nearby health center for medical attention. The Chama Police have been notified and said they are investigating the matter, referring all queries to Police Commissioner Godwin Phiri who could not be reached for a comment by broadcast time. Police sources said that two suspects are currently in custody while the other is on the run. (Source: Lusakatimes.com; An unknown people attack an Albino adolescent girl in Chama District; November 7, 2017; https://www.lusakatimes.com/2017/11/07/unknown-people-attack-albino-adolescent-girl-chama-district/)
Most Recent Grave Robbery: On an unknown date between June 23 and October 30, 2018, the grave of a woman with albinism by the name of Judith Mwanza was violated in the Nyimba district within the Eastern Province of Zambia. Eastern Province police commissioner Luckson Sakala said that Judith Mwanza died on June 21 at the age of 54 and was buried on June 23, 2018. Police have launched a manhunt for the people responsible. Sakala also said Nyimba District Council Chairperson Maxwell Kapanta reported to police that some unknown people had trespassed on the Chipambe graveyard sometime between the burial on June 23 and the discovery on October 30, 2018. Police visited the scene and found that Judith’s grave was tempered with and that “After a physical check, the police officers’ discovered that in the coffin there were two pieces of Chitenge material, a blanket, a skirt, used gloves and a blouse but the body was missing.” (Source: Albino Exhumed in Nyimba; October 31, 2018; by Chris Phiri; Zambia Reports: https://zambiareports.com/2018/10/31/albino-exhumed- nyimba/?fbclid=IwAR2ySEv9jR9F88nlS95LUhED5cMmeQ_sNqX2-ErZBc0ESxzH_ZZlk2s1zzI)
Second Most Recent Grave Robbery – On Saturday, January 27, 2018, relatives of Mr. Leonard Kombelwa, a deceased person with albinism, noticed that the grave in Mutuwambwa village, Western Zambia, had been tampered with and reported the matter to the police. Investigations found that the casket, together with the body, was missing. Mr. Kombelwa died of skin cancer at the age of 75 and was buried in his home village on August 4, 2016. So far one suspect has been caught and Police are hunting for two others. (Source: bbc.com; Grave robbers steal albino body in Zambia; January 30, 2018; By Kennedy Gondwe; Lusaka; http://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-africa- 42461098?ns_mchannel=social&ns_source=twitter&ns_campaign=bbc_live&ns_linkname=5a708f022811 85064bc63fc8%26Grave+robbers+steal+albino+body+in+Zambia%26&ns_fee=0&ocid=socialflow_faceb ook#post_5a708f02281185064bc63fc8 and John Chiti, Executive Director of Albino Foundation of Zambia; February 3, 2018; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Mobile: +260 977 977 026 and +260 954 095 428; Lusaka Zambia)
Zimbabwe, 2 report: (PFI 127 of 180) 1 killing / 1 asylum In 2011 the severely mutilated body of a 26 year old woman with albinism was discovered.
Professor John Makumbe was contacted by Zimbabwe police and taken to the morgue to assist in identifying the body. He noted that she had albinism and that her breasts and genitals had been removed. (Source: Professor John Makumbe, a professor of political science at the University of Zimbabwe and president of the Zimbabwe Albino Association (Zimas))
On November 29, 2012, a woman with albinism from Zimbabwe was granted asylum in Atlanta, Georgia. (Source: UTSS served as expert witness in this case)
Almost nine weeks have elapsed since my last post, on June 30. As was the case when I introduced a four-week pause in my reporting on ritualistic activities and killings in Sub-Saharan Africa, this silence does not mean that there weren’t any ritual murders in this period. On the contrary, far from it!
The nine weeks’ pause resulted in a substantial backlog. Newspaper articles published during this period report new ritual murders all over the continent. A quick scan shows that in the past two months ritual murders have been committed in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe (in alphabetical order), in most countries more than one. In Nigeria, with 211 million people Africa’s most populated country, ritual murders – aka ‘money rituals’ – were reported in the following states: Delta, Ekiti, Imo, Niger, Osun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo and in the FCT Abuja.
Moreover, newspapers in Ghana reported extensively on the Kasoa case whereas in Zimbabwe the Tapiwa Makore trial was widely covered.
It is important to mention that the murder cases reported are likely to constitute the tip of the iceberg and that our quick scan only covers the anglophone African countries.
Of the countries mentioned above two countries stand out: Ghana and Nigeria. For this reason I will elaborate on the ritual murders in these two West African countries in my next postings (webmaster FVDK).
Warning: the following article contains graphic details, the reader may find the article shocking.
The following article from Eric Naki, the Political Eitor of The Citizen, a South African online news magazine, contains several frank observations which are worth specifically mentioning here.
First, Naki, citing an expert on ritual murders, Dr Alunamutwe Rannditsheni, from Limpopo province, tells us that ritual murders are a worldwide phenomenon, occurring not only in Africa or Sub-Saharan Africa. I am very happy with this expert-observation even though it results in mixed feelings because of its sad contents. I have also mentioned it in my introduction to this website on ritual killing, witchcraft and superstition in African countries (‘Why publish this site‘).
Secondly, reportedly, kidnappings, human trafficking, and ritual murders, often referred to as ‘muti murders’, are well-known crimes in nearly all 16 member-states of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). This is shocking. The combined population living in the 16 SADC-countries totals about 300 million people.
Lastly, the well-informed author confirms the ghastly details of the way muti murders are committed. Organs or other body parts are extracted live from the poor and helpless victims, not seldom children. The reality is sometimes too hard to describe and too revolting to imagine.
Ritual murders, human trafficking, kidnappings, and associated fear and torture are a plague in many African countries and must stop immediately. To the governments which have a sacred obligation to protect their citizens I would say: ‘If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.’ (webmaster FVDK).
Muti murders: ‘Genitals only work if cut from live victims’
Published: May 20, 2021 By: The Citizen, South Africa – Eric Naki
Victims were lured with promises of jobs, but when they arrived at the destination, they would be abducted and taken away to have their body parts cut off.
An expert on ritual murders, Dr Alunamutwe Rannditsheni, from Limpopo, said ritual killings were a worldwide phenomenon and not only an African problem.
Almost all of the SADC countries experienced ritual killing-related kidnappings and human trafficking.
A 2008 investigation by the Human Rights League in Mozambique found such murders were rife in the country. It found people were trafficked between countries with the purpose to remove parts to be trafficked separately.
The league, which interviewed survivors, eye-witnesses, families of victims and civil society in Mozambique and South Africa, found body parts were forcibly removed from children and adults, causing death or severe disability.
“Throughout the report, informants share personal experiences, which confirm that body parts are taken across the border between South Africa and Mozambique.”
A custom’s official in Sofala province, Mozambique, said: “They say the treatments with genital organs only work if they are taken from a person alive.”
In some instances in Mozambique, victims were beheaded before the parts were removed.
“The murderer cut her throat like she was a goat. He cut her head just like that and removed her genital organs, leaving all the rest,” the report quoted a police officer at Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique as saying.
In another case, a female stall holder at Ressano Garcia on the border with South Africa was fingered for ritual murders.
“The police searched and found that she was carrying genital organs of adult men … I don’t know how many exactly, it was several. But they were from adult men, I saw them myself,” an officer said.
Cases of muti killings were also reported in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, Malawi and Tanzania. People living with albinism were the main targets in Tanzania.
Community leader and businessman Phumudzo Mukhwati alleged the ritual murder gangs had spread to provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North West and Gauteng.
Victims were lured with promises of jobs, but when they arrived at the destination, they would be abducted and taken away to have their body parts cut off in Limpopo or a neighbouring country.
It seems appropriate to start this introduction to the following article with a warning because of its graphic contents. Sorcery accusation-related violence (SARV) is sometimes too gruesome to tell or to read. I’ve read a lot of articles on ritual murders in recent years and ‘ve seen many pictures, yet my stomach was turning when I read the following report on sorcery accusation-related violence. It describes horrible acts of mobs or sometimes individuals which take place not only in Africa or Sub-Saharan Africa, but in countries and regions all over the world. Common characteristics are that people are ill-informed, not or poorly educated, and have limited opportunities and no perspectives for improvement of one’s lives, in combination with a weak rule of law and often a lack of political will, as one well-informed interviewee rightly stated (see below).
The article mentions a few countries in Africa, notably Central African Republic, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, but it does no require much imagination to add other African countries. The belief in witchcraft is widespread on the continent. This is not to say that everybody in Africa believes in witchcraft but the number of superstitious people and people who believe in witchcraft (juju, muti, money rituals) cannot be counted, that’s for sure.
‘Sorcery’ still a motive for torture, killing in 21st century
Published: April 28, 2021 By: CGTN – Sim Sim Wissgott
Two women were attacked and tortured in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby on Sunday, accused of witchcraft. They were interrogated and burned with hot irons to get them to admit to killing a woman who had died earlier in the week, local media reports said.
One managed to escape and alert the police. But this was not an isolated incident in the Pacific island nation.
Local media reported in February that six women had been accused of sorcery. Police managed to free two women in July after they were held and tortured for four days, accused of killing a villager a week earlier by removing his heart.
Attacks like these are so widespread that Papua New Guinea (PNG) actually has a term and acronym for them: sorcery accusation-related violence, or SARV.
While authorities and politicians regularly condemn these as “barbaric acts” and “uncivilized” behavior, SARV continues.
This type of violence is not limited to PNG either. Accusations of sorcery remain a very real threat in many communities around the world and claim dozens – if not hundreds – of lives every year.
Other sorcery-related killings in recent months have included a 70-year-old man in eastern Jharkhand state who reportedly practiced exorcism and sold herbal medicines; a family of five, accused of black magic after several people in their village fell ill and died; and a middle-aged man who was beheaded “on suspicion of sorcery” in neighboring Odisha state in December.
Another elderly man in Odisha was killed last month after villagers accused him of witchcraft.
“The deceased used to throw ash and some powder in front of the houses of villagers which raised doubts that he was practicing some witchcraft. In a fit of rage, some youths of the village killed him with stone and hammer and fled the spot after dumping his body in the bushes near the canal,” a police officer told local media.
Reports have emerged in recent months from South Africa, Nigeria, and Nepal of people being beaten, tortured or killed on suspicion of witchcraft. Countries like Tanzania and Ghana have also been fighting SARV for years.
There are no definite figures on how many people fall victim to SARV every year around the world. In many cases, the crimes go unreported as victims fear retribution.
The problem is significant enough that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights held an experts’ conference in 2017 to discuss ways “to end harmful practices related to witchcraft.”
There were 372 anti-sorcery attacks reported between 2013 and 2016 in PNG, according to UK charity Oxfam. In India’s Assam state, a dozen are killed every year, according to local media.
Although men can be targeted, victims of witchcraft-related violence tend overwhelmingly to be women and girls.
As a result, the issue is often paired with women’s rights and gender equality. Victims are generally among the most vulnerable members of the community. Mob mentality, lack of education and poor policing are also contributing factors.
“Sorcery-related violence stems from poor education, lack of awareness, limited opportunities coupled with deteriorating capacity for law and order and a lack of political will,” PNG’s Oro Province Governor Gari Juffa told The Guardian last year.
There have been reports of people accused of being witches after a member of their community fainted, suffered an epileptic fit, or died without warning.
A woman and her daughter were accused of sorcery in PNG earlier this month and were tortured by relatives after the woman’s husband died of COVID-19 .
Attacks are often brutal, with victims hacked to death, maimed, gang-raped, slashed with knives, burned with hot irons or hit with rocks, leaving them horribly scarred – physically and mentally – for life.
Relatives can also be targeted by association: in the case of the family of five killed in Jharkhand state in February, a middle-aged couple was suspected of witchcraft, but their son, daughter-in-law and five-year-old grandson were also murdered.
Children of alleged witches are especially seen as a threat, human rights campaigners say.
The perpetrators rarely act alone but attack their victims in groups: in the latest case on Sunday in PNG, the two women were attacked and tortured by up to 20 men.
Police often say the attackers’ identities are known to them but communities and survivors may be reluctant to come forward and cooperate with law enforcement, meaning many perpetrators get away with their crime.
Some progress has been seen. The Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Act was passed in India in 2015, making it a crime to accuse anyone of sorcery.
The Catholic Church’s Pontifical Mission Societies declared last year August 10 as World Day against Witch Hunts.
PNG repealed its 1971 Sorcery Act in 2013, which sanctioned sorcery-related violence. At the same time, it drafted a Sorcery National Action Plan to raise awareness about the issue and find ways to combat it.
The country even has a hotline now for anyone who may be the target of sorcery accusations.
The latest cases however have prompted concerns that sorcery-related violence may be once again spreading. While such cases are usually found in the more remote regions of PNG, last weekend’s attack occurred in the capital.
While action plans and strategies have been drafted, funding and effective implementation are still wanting, local officials say.
The following plea to end ritual killings focuses on children who are targeted in numerous countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Vulnerable, innocent children are mutilated and murdered by ruthless and criminal people who want to increase their wealth, health, power or reputation – by all means. The Nigerian author of this article, which dates from 2016 but could have been written yesterday, OmoTola Omolaya, specifically mentions a number of countries notably Botswana, Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
I don’t know the author’s reasons to limit himself to aforementioned countries. In each and every African country where ritual murders are committed, also children die at the hands of unscrupulous murderers who very often get away with their ugly crimes.
However, I fully agree with his conclusion: African governments need to act!
Warning: the following article contains graphic details which may shock the reader (webmaster FVDK).
It’s time for Africa to protect its children from the web of ritual killings
In 2011, BBC did a documentary on witch craft and ritual killings in Uganda and one of the gory stories was about a three-year old boy found in the outskirts of Uganda lying in a pool of blood. His penis had been cut off by ritualists and he was rushed to the hospital to save his life. While speaking with a BBC correspondent, even though the parents are advocating for the ban of witchcraft in the country, the mother is more concerned about her son’s future. She said, “every time I look at him, I ask myself how his future is going to be as a man without a penis. Also I wonder what the rest of the community is going to look at him with a private part that looks like that of a female.”
Like the little boy, a lot of children have fallen victim to kidnappers and ritual killers. Due to their vulnerability, they are easily abducted on their way to school or heading to fetch water. These children, considered pure, are sacrificed by witch doctors to appease ‘the gods’ and bring a myriad of solutions which include wealth, good health, and fertility among others. Hearts, ears, livers and genitals are considered as key ingredients of the rituals.
Although the BBC documentary was released in 2011, not much has changed in Uganda. Very recently, six cases of mutilation and murder of children were reported by a charity organization during the recent Ugandan elections. The Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM), a charity that cares for survivors of attempted child sacrifice, reported that children were used as good luck sacrifices during this period in order to bring wealth and power. Though Moses Binoga, coordinator of the anti-trafficking task force at the interior ministry, did not confirm KCM’s report, he agreed that children had been reported missing in the election period.
This shocking revelations show that it is now unsafe to be a child in Africa. Ritual killings is not peculiar to Uganda, it takes place in other African countries such as Liberia, Tanzania, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland. The repeated occurrences of these killings without a penalty is a blatant violation for the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. According to this charter, an individual is entitled to respect for his life and integrity of his person. However, disrespect for a person (children) life thrives in several African country.
Why ritual killings are still prevalent in Africa:
Ritualists are often patronized by the rich and wealthy
In Tanzania, children with albinism are targeted for sacrifices by witch doctors who gets paid by politicians to be successful in their election bids. Also, the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law reports that in Swaziland and Liberia, politicians allegedly commission ritual killings to improve their odds in elections. The same pattern obtains in Uganda as well, where the wealthy pay witch doctors in a bid to expand their fortunes. In Ivory Coast, (where the rate of child abduction is so high that the UNICEF had to intervene) there are speculations that ritual killings by corrupt businessmen and politicians used body parts in ceremonies to confer supernatural powers.
Superstitions, culture and religion.
Africa is still entrenched in dogmas, myth and belief in magic. There is still a prevalence of confidence in charms and witch craft which has been handed down since time immemorial. Ritual killings are culturally acceptable in some parts of South Africa, therefore, the practice is not usually reported by community members. Occultism and other forms of religion permit ritual acts to appease the gods, abate misfortune and seek supernatural help. Many also perform these rituals out of fear of unpleasant spiritual consequences if they falter.
The web of culture, religion and superstition often results in an ethical conflict between protection of human rights and respect for the beliefs and practices of other cultures.
Not many have been convicted of crimes associated with ritual killings in Africa. Due to the coat of secrecy surrounding ritual killings, it makes it difficult to hold the responsible parties accountable and liable for their unlawful actions.
A part of the Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations says that the countries should:
Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere
End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children
Children are the most vulnerable in any society and it is the duty of leaders all around the world to provide a safe haven for its young. Africa needs to stop neglecting the safety of these innocent children. Its leaders should enact laws that protect them from gruesome murders that cut their lives short even before their prime.
It is time to enforce the African Charter, because although it permits religious practices, it does not favor jeopardizing a human life (under which ritual killings fall). African governments need to hold those responsible for taking human lives accountable. It is time for Africa to protect its children.
A few days ago my attention was drawn by an Op-Ed article in an online Namibian newspaper, New Era Live. The article was entitled: “Ritual killings: Cry my beloved humankind“. It is a cry for attention, a cry for vigilance, a cry for leadership and for stiffer sanctions for those who are responsible for these heinous crimes, including traditional healers and – too often – relatives of the innocent victims, in many cases young children.
The anonymous author (a staff reporter) starts his or her plea stating “I want to share with you the excruciating pain that stabs my heart every time I read or hear about the senseless loss of life due to ritual or muti killings.”
I was shocked reading this. Is the present situation that bad? How frequent are ritual murrders (‘muti murders’) in Southern Africa?
I monitor relevant events in African countries with particular interest, as this site also demonstrates. Whereas I feel a kind of pride or joy when confronted with readers and/or reporters rejecting the repulsive practices of ritual or muti murders, it also hurts to see a confirmation of the plague that terrorizes too many people in too many African countries.
“One shudders to think about the many muti killings of people, young and old, that are happening almost on a daily basis in Southern Africa in particular, (…)”, the anonymous author continues.
Also revealing is the following statement:
“A study carried out in South Africa by scholars Randitsheni, Masoga and Madzusi (2017) revealed that “[some] pastors, businessmen, traditional leaders and leaders are involved in ritual murders”. The three scholars give more details of their research findings in their paper titled “Some perspectives on the impacts of ritual murders in the Vhembe district of South Africa: An interpretive phenomenological approach” which was published in the Journal of Social Sciences (Volume 48, Number 3). This is not to give an impression that ritual murders occur in South Africa only. Other scholars who have conducted researches in this area have revealed similar results in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Tanzania, Nigeria, Eswatini, Uganda, and Namibia, just to mention a few countries. “
I am flabbergasted. At the same time I am proud of the author and everyone who thinks alike. It strikes me that this cry for justice, for the eradication of this scourge in our contemporary societies, comes from Namibia. Apparently, much more occurs beneath the surface in this Southern African country than one would think at first glance. The ‘New Era’ newspaper which published this op-ed is a leading source of community and national news in Namibia. Its owners and editors are to be commended for their courageous decision to publish this view. May many more newspaper owners, editors and journalists join the war against ritualistic murders in Africa.
Together it will be possible to eradicate this medieval belief in superstition. Nothing is impossible. “You never fail until you stop trying.” (webmaster FVDK)
“Ritual killings: Cry my beloved humankind”
Published: October 22, 2020 By: New Era Live, Namibia
If you are reading this article, wherever you are, prepare to shed tears. Prepare to travel with me on this emotional journey, as I interrogate the evil that men do, that of ritual killings, which have left people questioning the essence of life, since some people can take it away from you or someone at once, just like that. I want to share with you the excruciating pain that stabs my heart every time I read or hear about the senseless loss of life due to ritual or muti killings.
The world has turned topsy-turvy, completely upside down, and everyone’s life is at risk, either directly or indirectly. People fear for their lives and the lives of their children and loved ones. Everyone’s life is in danger as there are some immoral people who have taken the law into their hands, and can decide how many more days you are left with alive on this earth. It is horrendous.
The stonehearted murderers can be anyone ranging from, paradoxically, people closest to you, to complete strangers. The love of riches and fame, the eagerness to get rich quickly without working for it, and the love of power and fame have led people to involve themselves in atrocious, inhuman activities. One shudders to think about the many muti killings of people, young and old, that are happening almost on a daily basis in Southern Africa in particular, and elsewhere in the world. Research reveals that ritual killings are so rampant in Africa that some researchers have described ritual murder as a pandemic. The grisly killings of innocent victims, especially children and women, have shocked communities, societies and the whole world.
Many unsuspecting victims have been lured by people they know and killed for ritual purposes. We have read and heard about small children and teenagers who have been brutally murdered by their close relatives. As you read this article, or as you sit there at home or in a classroom – wherever you are – always bear in mind that you may be a candidate for ritual murder. Many victims have lost their lives through the involvement of their close relatives or loved ones. In these cases, it becomes tricky for the law enforcement agents to prevent such murders as relatives and loved ones are supposed to take care of the children, and not to kill them.
The belief that a human being’s body parts or limps bring luck, riches and power to people has fuelled the crime of ritual killing. Corpses have been discovered without heads, private parts and internal organs, suggesting that these are the most sought-after parts to be used in muti or medicinal concoctions. As the evil men harvest human body parts for their benefits, societies are traumatised, yet it is in these societies that we find the perpetrators of this heinous crime. It is in these societies that most of the killings are secretly planned and executed. The irony is that some respectable members of these communities promote these ritual murders for various reasons. Some of them are leopards clothed in sheep’s skins.
A study carried out in South Africa by scholars Randitsheni, Masoga and Madzusi (2017) revealed that “[some] pastors, businessmen, traditional leaders and leaders are involved in ritual murders”. The three scholars give more details of their research findings in their paper titled “Some perspectives on the impacts of ritual murders in the Vhembe district of South Africa: An interpretive phenomenological approach” which was published in the Journal of Social Sciences (Volume 48, Number 3). This is not to give an impression that ritual murders occur in South Africa only. Other scholars who have conducted researches in this area have revealed similar results in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Tanzania, Nigeria, Eswatini, Uganda, and Namibia, just to mention a few countries. As I write, the Zimbabwean community is failing to come to terms with how a man could have allegedly taken part in the planning and ritual killing of his brother’s seven-year-old son. The account of the cold blooded murder of the fateful boy by the co-accused man, in this case, is available on Youtube for those who have the guts to listen to such a chilling narrative of a despicable act.
The ubiquity of ritual murders in Africa proves that the crime is a scourge in our contemporary societies. The crime is a cancer that is spreading in our societies at an alarming rate. The belief in supernatural powers and superstition are the driving forces of ritual murders and sacrificial killings in our societies. Traditional healers tell you, for example, that in order for you to be successful in life, you must kill your son or daughter, or someone you love dearly like your wife. Foolishly, some people believe this and they murder their loved ones for nothing. It is also true that the moral fabric of our societies is decaying at a fast rate. The African concept of Ubuntu seems to be melting away fast, leaving a culture of violence in our societies. One result of the loss of Ubuntu is that the sanctity of human life is no longer respected; this is why some people can be hired to kill for money.
Concerned researchers on ritual murders have gone to the extent of studying ancient civilisations. They have revealed that the bible is replete with sacrificial killings or offerings of human beings. In some religions, sacrificial killings happen today. In order to curb ritual murders, families should be vigilant and protect their children. Community leaders and politicians must denounce these killings at gatherings. Stiffer sentences must be imposed on criminals convicted of ritual murders. Let us teach the love of one another as humans in our homes. Ubuntu teachings should find a place in our homes. Let us be exemplary to our children since psychologists have proved that children learn what they live. Say no to ritual killings and save lives.