Murder cases show a rising trend in Zimbabwe, according to statistics released by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency. In 2018 more than 1,450 murders were reported, this number increased to more than 1,700 cases in 2019 and to nearly 3,600 cases in the two-year period between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021. The yearly average of 1,500-1,600 murder cases means that each month more than 100 persons are being murdered.
It is not known how many ritualistic murders (‘muti murders’) are included in this yearly average of 1,500 – 1,600 victims. Statistics only reveal part of the truth. By definition, ‘muti murders’ are murders committed in secret, and some victims (statistically recorded as ‘missing persons’) are never found. Only discovered bodies of victims with ‘parts’ (often organs) missing indicate that a murder for ritualistic purposes has been committed, but even then one has to be careful and not jump to conclusions as the perpetrator(s) may intentionally mislead the investigators by removing body parts.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the occurrence of ritual murders constitutes a problem in this Southern Africa country (as it does in neighboring countries). Recently, a debate on the persistent problem of muti murders arose after the discovery of a mutilated body in Greystone Parts, near Hatfield, in Mashonaland East and southeast of the capital Harare.
In the article presented below also reference is made to the notorious Tapiwah Makore case, referring to the seven-year old boy who was murdered for ritualistic purposes by his uncle in 2020 (see previous posts). But, as the article relates, Tapiwah Makoreh (also spelled as Tapiwa Makore) was not the only or last victim of unscrupulous murderers who are driven by greed and superstition. Unfortunately, the discovery of the dead body of Faith Musonza in Greystone Park only confirms this sad conclusion. (webmaster FVDK)
Zimbabwe grapples with ritual murders
Published: February 26, 2023 By: Staff reporter – The Zimbabwe Mail
IT is late afternoon in the heart of Greystone Park, some 20 kilometres from Hatfield, where the gruesome murder of Spar employee Faith Musonza is said to have occurred.
A relative’s home in Greystone Park is where her funeral is taking place.
A gentle breeze steadily blows across the yard as if everything is normal, but this is not the case.
Mourners have been stunned into silence as they struggle to come to terms with the sad news of Musonza’s untimely death.
“We are still trying to process everything; it feels like a dream,” said one of the relatives who appeared non-plussed at the funeral wake.
Musonza’s husband, Fradreck Chasara, was visibly disturbed, as he unsteadily alternated between a black leather couch and the carpeted floor.
Musonza was recently killed in Hatfield by unknown assailants as she headed to her rented house in Cranborne from work.
Her mutilated body was found dumped in a storm drain. Heinous crimes involving grisly murders have become prevalent of late. The sanctity of human life is no longer being observed.
In 2020, the nation woke up to news of the callous murder of seven-year-old Tapiwa Makore in a suspected ritual killing.
He was buried the following year, with his head still missing. The incident left many with a lot of unanswered questions.
Last year, in Nyanga, two related seven-year-olds were found dead in a disused house in the village, with their throats cut open and blood drained.
Several other murder cases have been reported across the country.
According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, the number of murder cases continue to rise with each passing year. At least 1 453 cases were recorded in 2018, before rising to 1 733 the following year. Between January 2020 and December 2021, 3 583 cases were recorded.
Overall, the cases averaged between 1 500 and 1 600 every year.
“A murder case is recorded every week; in some situations, even two or more, with the trend growing in all provinces,” said Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi.
Most of the killings, he said, are associated with infidelity, alcohol abuse and rituals. Statistics from the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Service (ZPCS) also corroborate the same trend.
“In January 2021, we had 630 people incarcerated for murder and the figure rose to 845 by October that same year.
“In January 2022, we had 817 and the figure stood at 984 by November,” said ZPCS.
Mental health issues
Psychologist and University of Johannesburg post-doctoral researcher Dr John Ringson believes most murders are caused by mental health issues.
“When one is mentally unstable, even a small argument can trigger aggression. We have had cases of people who committed murder for beer or small amounts of money. Mental health issues need to be addressed at national level,” he said.
Drugs and substance abuse, he added, were also causing mental health challenges that push people to commit crimes.
Traditionalist Mbuya Calista Magorimbo says some bogus witch doctors who encourage harvesting of body parts for rituals (kuromba) to boost business fortunes are also causing the unnecessary loss of human lives.
“Ritual killings for purposes of becoming wealthy have existed since time immemorial. However, the situation has since gone out of hand due to prevailing economic hardships,” she said.
“Some even harvest body parts for charms to make them powerful at work or to get healed from certain ailments. Women and children are often murder targets.”
She, however, argues that such rituals have never been proved to be effective.
“This is pure cultism, which yields nothing but generational curses, yet some people believe it actually works. Murder only brings trouble!” she warned.
Killings only attract avenging spirits and generational curses, according to Sekuru Peter Maponda, which he believes only serve to perpetuate a vicious circle of crime and murder. Roman Catholic priest Father Paul Mayeresa says avenging spirits exist.
“The Bible values the sanctity of life and does not allow killing under any circumstances. Some murders are due to either temporary or permanent insanity, while others are premeditated revenge,” he said.
“Avenging spirits exist and depending on the relatives of the deceased and their spirituality, some families end up forgiving the perpetrators while others prefer to let the dead fight from the grave.”
House of Refuge International Ministries founder Apostle Partson Machengete is of the opinion that “poverty has left most people desperate to get rich overnight”.
“As a result, they are forced to believe myths that ostensibly offer solutions to their problems. Witch doctors are fleecing the vulnerable and pushing them into unholy acts. They are made to believe the rituals will make them rich.”
He, however, feels some murder cases are genuine accidents and, in some instances, a result of self-defence.
There is consensus that communities need to be sensitised on the need to observe the sanctity of human life.
“We need all stakeholders to come together and formulate programmes that educate the community on the issues and bridge existing gaps,” urges Laws of Attraction psychologist Blessed Chinyangare.
“There is a human element and a spiritual element to this issue, hence it has to be tackled from both ends.”
Headman Zvinowanda Pfumbidzai of Machera village in Hwedza said in murder cases, the funerals and burials should be different from ordinary ones.
In African tradition, he said, murder invites curses for both the victim and the perpetrator’s families, hence rituals become necessary to cleanse the parties involved.
“Traditionally, the wronged family conducts rituals — kureverera — to provoke the spirit of the deceased to go and get revenge, so, in return, the murderer should pay damages — kuripa.
“The victim’s family should be given room to indicate their price during the process. Likewise, the victim’s family should also conduct a cleansing ceremony,” he said.
Meanwhile, in neighbouring South Africa, murder cases reportedly increased by 22 percent since 2012.
Most of the killings usually occur between Friday and Sunday.
The South African Police Service has since deployed desk-based police officers to the streets, particularly in identified hotspots, while dedicated detectives track and arrest suspects wanted for violent crimes. – Sunday Mail
“It is time we put an end to these barbaric practices.”
What can I add to this cry for the rule of law, to respect human life, and to act. Governments can no longer ignore these barbaric practices based on superstition, poverty and ignorance, and fed by greed. The numerous examples of ritual murders given in this Op-Ed are frightening: all over the country though I’ve pointed at the widespread occurrence of ritual murders in Nigeria in previous postings (webmaster FVDK).
The Illusion of money-making rituals in Nigeria – Editorial
Published: February 20, 2023 By: Editorial – This Day, Nigeria
Ritual killing remains largely a crime driven by ignorance and poverty
The recent arrest of two teenagers by operatives of the Edo State Security Vigilante Network has once again brought into sharp focus the bizarre practice of money rituals. The young men were apprehended following a tipoff by the female herbalist from whom they sought help in their desperate bid for wealth through diabolical means. But they are not alone. Just recently, some young men were reported to have stormed a health centre in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti state capital, asking for day-old babies. The unanswered question remains: What do they want to do with day-old babies? We can hazard a guess. They must belong to the growing group of desperadoes murdering innocent people, particularly women, children and sometimes the physically challenged, for ritual purposes.
These murderers, sometimes called headhunters, can go to any extent in the search of body parts for money-making rituals. And they are all over the country. Not long ago, there was a shocking discovery of three human heads inside a hotel room in the commercial city of Onitsha, Anambra State. The three heads said to have been kept inside polythene bags were reportedly discovered by police officers following a raid on the hotel. Eleven persons suspected to be kidnappers or ritualists were arrested but typically, nothing was ever heard again about the case. At about the same time, the police in Kagura in Rafi Local government area of Niger State arrested four people in connection with the alleged murder of a 13-year-old son of an Islamic scholar. They reportedly lured the young boy to a secluded area where they removed his intestines and other vital organs after he had been murdered.
So rampant is this crime that in cosmopolitan cities like Lagos, Ibadan, Benin City and Kano, cases of ritual murders have now become commonplace. Indeed, incidence of ritual killings is said to account for many missing people in the country. But illiteracy is also a great factor in this crime. Even though the belief lacks common sense, many people indulge in these bestial acts for the purpose of making “instant wealth”, what some have aptly dubbed “blood money”. Yet, it is difficult to prove that these sacrifices, done at the instruction of some crafty traditional medicine practitioners and witch doctors, can catapult people from penury into instant wealth. At least, for now, there is no single person that can be named to have become rich because of human sacrifices, except the characters in some Nollywood movies. So, to that extent, ritual killing remains largely a crime driven by ignorance and poverty.
Meanwhile, the old image of the country as a citadel of humanitarianism, peacefulness, fraternity, cultural and moral renaissance seems blurred. There is disorderliness and chaos everywhere. Amid the moral confusion, it is difficult for many young Nigerians to understand that work comes before wealth. The estrangement from pristine values now finds dramatic expression in crass materialism, inordinate ambition to get rich quick at all costs. But on the prevalence of money rituals, this is also a law-and-order failure. Indeed, the increasing cases of abduction and killing of many innocent men, women and children is a poignant reminder that the police and the other security agencies have not sent a forceful message on what awaits the perpetrators of such a most heinous crime. The largely indifferent treatment of those caught has encouraged the commitment of more crime.
This is an issue that the relevant authorities must deal with and very quickly. There is also an urgent need for enlightenment campaigns to put a lie to the erroneous belief that money can grow out of the body parts of murdered people. It is time we put an end to these barbaric practices.
Below follows a shocking account from Uganda. It is not the first time on this site that human sacrifices, ritual murders and ritualistic activities are being reported from this East African country.
The reported steep increase in the number of (reported and/or discovered!) human sacrifices is indeed extremely worrisome, the more so that we may assume that the discovered or reported cases of ritual killing are only the tip of an iceberg.
It’s a horrifying reality that mainly children are victim of these crimes which are above all based on superstition and (partly) caused by poverty. Partly caused, because according to reports not only poor people resort to human sacrifices to increase their well-being. Also (rich) businessmen do, as the 2014 case of the business tycoon Kato Kajubi demonstrates (see my posting dated May 7, 2021).
Whereas in 2019 22 ritualistic murders were recorded, this number rose to 45 in 2020, and to 65 last year (2021), resulting in the sad total figure of 132 human sacrifices which have been recorded.
Ritual killings must stop! (webmaster FVDK)
‘A big problem’: Uganda sees spike in human sacrifice incidents
Published: July 3, 2022 By: TRT News
Authorities say human sacrifices take place at advice of ‘witch doctors’ in superstition-hit rural areas to bring good luck.
Human sacrifices continue unabated in the remote and rural areas of the landlocked East African country of Uganda despite authorities enacting tough laws and threatening death sentences.
According to officials, 132 incidents of human sacrifices have been recorded in the last three years. The numbers have spiked from 22 sacrifices in 2019, 45 in 2020 and 65 in 2021.
Most victims of such “ritual sacrifices” are children, apparently because they are easier to abduct and seen as “pure” and so of “higher ritual value”.
Anadolu Agency quoted authorities as saying on Sunday that the sacrifices are being carried out by witch doctors or local traditional healers, dotting rural areas.
Admitting that human sacrifice is a big problem, Lucas Oweyesigire, the police spokesman for the Kampala region, said most such practices take place in rural areas.
The so-called leader of traditional healing and witch doctors, Mama Fina, has also condemned human sacrifice and described those recommending the sacrifice of human beings as “fake”.
Taking advice from witch doctors
Police spokesman Fred Enanga said only last month they “arrested a man identified as Musilimu Mbwire on suspicion of killing his two sons in human sacrifice.”
According to preliminary investigations, a rich man had paid Mbwire money and convinced him to sacrifice his two sons at the instructions of a witch doctor.
Superstitions lead people in rural areas to seek help from witch doctors, who in turn offer weird prescriptions, including human sacrifices to turn around their luck.
A more worrisome part of the superstition is to undertake human sacrifice to put the body at the foundation of a building to bring good luck.
Timothy Mukasa, a local leader in Kampala’s suburb of Kireka, said many multi-storey buildings in the town have been built on a human body.
“The witch doctors tell owners to put a human body at the foundation of the construction of the buildings,” he said.
In 2014, authorities apprehended and later sentenced a tycoon Kato Kajubi for sacrificing a child and then putting his body in the foundation of a building that he was about to construct.
David Musenze, a journalist who studied psychology, said there are not many qualified counsellors to attend to psychological and mental issues of people, which makes them take advice from witch doctors.
“People go to witch doctors to help them get jobs, be promoted at jobs, or kill their enemies, along with many other problems,” he said.
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 …”
Recently, I posted on this site a large number of ritual murder cases in Nigeria. For this reason I wished to draw the readers’s attention to other African countries where similar crimes are being committed. However, these days Nigeria is making headlines which one cannot ignore. The number of ritual murders in Africa’s most populated country can no longer be counted – if that ever was the case. In my research and reporting on ‘money rituals’ in Nigeria – as ritualistic killings are commonly called in this West African country – I already experienced that I could hardly cope with the fast rising number of reported ritualistic murders committed by Yahoo boys, Yahoo Plus boys and whatever the names are that are given to these criminals who have no respect for a human life.
The below article by Hakim Jamiu is a cry to end these gruesome practices. She offers a grim insight in the recent spate in ritual murder cases in Nigeria, a devastating picture, and sketches a possible explanation for these practices which are based on superstition and fed by greed. I recognize a number of cases she mentions, some are notorious cases, whereas I am always unpleasantly surprised to learn about more ritual murder cases hitherto unknown. She does not have to dig deep to unveil ritual murder cases in nine states: Akwa Ibom, Ekiti, Kwara, Lagos, Plateau, Rivers, Ogun, Ondo, Osun. I can without much effort add nine more states. Also see my previous posts on Nigeria (click on the category African countries in the top bar and select Nigeria in the drop down menu thus appearing).
I have repeatedly mentioned on this site that Nigeria ranks Number One in ritual murder cases in Africa. The following article confirms this sad conclusion. (FVDK)
Nigeria: a harvest of ritual deaths
Published: March 17, 2022 By: Hakim Jamiu – The Cable, Nigeria
Nigeria is fast gaining notoriety as a country of ritualists with stories of ritual killings daily reported in the traditional and social media. The latest of this cannibalistic atrocity is the gruesome murder of 22-year-old Oluwabamise Ayankole who was abducted after boarding a Lagos state government-owned Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) bus and was later murdered and had parts of her body removed which confirmed the suspicion that she may have been killed for ritual purposes. Bamise, who was on her way home from work, was thereafter tossed out of the BRT Bus at Ebute Ero. Bamise, according to eyewitnesses, was still alive after she was tossed out of the vehicle at the Ebute Ero bridge but she gave up the ghost because she did not get help on time. Social media was awash with her last chat and video expressing fears for her safety inside the desolate BRT bus in which she and another lady and three men were the only occupants. As if she knew, her instinct warned her of the danger ahead but she was helpless. Murder in a BRT bus which is expected to be one of the safest means of transportation owned by the government of Lagos state is a sacrilege.
Bamise’s gruesome murder is only an addition to the harvest of deaths by ritualists in the last few weeks across Nigeria. While many Nigerians are yet to grapple with the shock of the gruesome beheading of Sofiat Kehinde, a 17-year-old girl in Abeokuta by four ritualists between ages 18 and 20, the murder of Bamise sent shock waves to all as anybody’s child, relative or friend could be the next victim. Late last year in Ado Ekiti, a seven-year-old girl, Demilade was sent on an errand by her mother four houses away but the little girl disappeared immediately and all efforts to find her proved abortive until her corpse was found in a pastor’s house the following day! Timothy Adegoke checked into a hotel in Ile-Ife to write his postgraduate examinations but he never came out alive as he was murdered overnight and buried some metres away from the hotel. The proprietor of the hotel is currently standing trial!
In Ogun state, a woman connived with her husband to kill her visiting friend and dismembered her. The remains of the victim were later found in a bucket in the couple’s room. A ritual killer, Timothy Odeniyi who was arrested by Amotekun Corps in Ondo state confessed that he used to harvest human parts at burial grounds which he sells to his clients. In Jos, 20-year-old Moses Oko killed Jennifer, a student of the University of Jos and removed some of her body parts. In Ikorodu, Lagos state, a suspected internet fraudster (Yahoo+), 32-year-old Afeez Olalore killed his younger brother for ritual purposes. In Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, Uduak Akpan, a serial ritual killer killed 20-year-old Iniobong Umoren, a job seeker and buried her in a shallow grave. In Ilorin, Kwara state, a next-door neighbour allegedly murdered a groom-to-be for ritual purposes.
In 2019, Nigerians were alarmed about the arrest of one of Nigeria’s notorious ritual killers called Gracious David West in Port Harcourt who confessed to having killed at least 15 women for ritual purposes. In November 2019, one-year-old boy Eniola Kolawole was declared missing at Sotitobire Miracle Centre, Akure, Ondo state and has not been found till today. Irate youths set the church ablaze but the pastor who had been on trial has since been discharged and acquitted. One Shakirat was murdered in Iwo, Osun state and her body was dumped behind her mother’s shop with some of her parts missing!
It is an understatement to say that Satan has taken over our affairs completely as cases of ritual killings keep rising by the day! The question now is, are rituals for money-making real? Perhaps this is why the Nigerian-American media scholar, newspaper columnist and activist, Farooq Kperogi while bemoaning the unending spate of ritual murders in Nigeria argued, “the only solution lies in the liberation of Nigerians from stupid, backward, unproductive and murderous superstitions. The witch doctors who tell people to bring the body parts of murdered people to make them rich are often one of the most wretched people you can find on earth. If money rituals were real, they would be wealthy and won’t let anybody in on the secret”. Not many people agree with the view of Kperogi because if money-making rituals do not exist, why is ritual killing on the increase across the country? There have been many unverifiable variants and anecdotes concerning how money rituals work especially among yahoo boys which is called Yahoo plus. There is a type whereby ebora (a spirit) will bring the money to the yahoo boy after necessary sacrifices with human parts have been done. There is another type that will make the victim, usually, a foreigner obey whatever the yahoo boy says including sending millions of dollars on request. There is yet another type that involves using the pant of a woman. The pant, as they say, will fetch the ritualist a lot of money. It is not only yahoo boys that are into the ritual killing but they may have influenced others who are not into internet fraudsters to kill for rituals because of the belief that it is working for them. Some yahoo boys even go to the extent of eating human faeces, having spiritual baths in broad daylight at a public place, appearing only in pants in broad daylight to withdraw money from ATMs and so many bizarre and silly things!
The question remains, how much is ritual killing giving those involved in it that is worth the desperation of taking the life of a fellow human being? Definitely, it cannot give billions because many of the Yahoo plus boys even get broke after about three to six months while some go mad! So what’s the need for ritual killing? Apart from Yahoo boys, there are reports of a well-organised clientele of ritual killers which means that not all who are involved in ritual killing directly use the human parts but they are agents of some powerful personalities who buy the parts from them. There are reports that human parts markets exist in some areas of Lagos. It is also ridiculous that human life has been so reduced to nothingness that a human head is sold for as low as N20,000. Research also shows that many people who seek power and wealth like politicians and businessmen also use human parts for charms for good fortune and for fortification against real and perceived enemies! I wish to remind this group of politicians and businessmen that the greatest fortification and blessings come from God who is the custodian of power and fortune.
The underlying factor responsible for the present malaise is desperation on the part of our young ones who are eager to get rich quick. There is unprecedented moral bankruptcy and total collapse of family values of hard work, honesty and integrity. We should go beyond lamentations and take drastic actions. We must dig into the root cause of this barbaric act and approach it from there. What we are seeing are symptoms rather than cause. Our society has been sold to the dogs and many souls sold to the devil, the result is what is confronting us. A 17-year-old wanting to ride the latest automobile sold for millions of naira, not through any work but by any means. Society celebrating any rich person not minding the source of his or her wealth is responsible for the present madness. Images of boys displaying wealth on social media and messages that all that matter is money and the message is sinking fast and spreading like wildfire!
In one of the videos that circulated on the social media, a boy was asked if he could use her mother for rituals, he didn’t hesitate before saying yes as long as he will be rich! That’s what our society has turned to! We are breeding monsters and heartless beings who would not mind going to any length just to be rich! A child who would not blink an eyelid before killing his own mother for rituals would kill anybody without thinking about it! It is such a pity! It is common these days to find human head in a cellophane bag carried by a teenager sitting next to you in a bus! Human parts have become very common like animal parts ! It is such a shame that we have become a cannibalistic society! It is now normal to suspect the man or woman sitting next to you in a public place as a ritualist! It is that bad!
Beyond lamentations that have not helped, we must all resolve to end this monster that is threatening to consume all of us. Nobody is immune from ritual death. Bamise and other victims of ritual killings must not die in vain. Now that the driver of the BRT bus and his cohorts have been apprehended, their trial must be swift and transparent. Cameras must be installed in all BRT buses that would be monitored at a base station and on no account must this be switched off by any BRT driver.
The national and state houses of assembly should begin to work on laws to empower special courts to try ritual murder cases with stiffer penalties. Everybody must be vigilant and we must de-emphasise material wealth in our society while the source of wealth of emergency millionaires and new kids on the block must be questioned and such characters ostracized by the rest of the society as it was the practice on the days of yore when there was sanity.
We must say no to ritual killings! We are neither animals nor vampires! Even animals don’t kill themselves senselessly as we are witnessing presently!
The town of Fana has a bad reputation. Reportedly, in less than four years, eight ritual murders have been committed in this small town, located some 80 miles (125 km) from the nation’s capital Bamako. This time the victim was a retired soldier, who was brutally murdered. In the night of June 9 to 10 (Tuesday – Wednesday), the murderer or murderers attacked him in his house and sliced his throat savagely. Bakary Sagaré was 50+ years old when he died.
If the authorities fail to apprehend the killers, the danger exists that the population will take the law into their own hands, but mob justice may aggravate Mali’s numerous problems. In the north and centre of the country, terrorists and Tuareg separatists have been challenging the authority of the government of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK) since the disastrous military coup of captain Sanogo in 2012. Recently, a huge manifestation in Bamako showed the dissatisfaction and anger of the population, tired of the growing insecurity in the country. The growing unpopularity of the once very popular Keita may even further endanger Mali’s political stability. Rumors about an intervention of the military have already started to circulate. Certainly interesting developments which merit to be monitored closely. in the meantime, the inhabitants of Fana hope that the criminals responsible for the murder of Bakary Sagaré will be arrested and put on trial.
The original articles are in French and are shown below (webmaster FVDK).
Les habitants de la ville de Fana se sont encore réveillés avec un crime devant leur porte, l’assassinat Bakary Sangaré âgé de plus de 50 ans. C’est un militaire à la retraite, dit-on. Il a été égorgé chez lui dans la nuit de ce mardi au mercredi 10 juin. C’est le 8e crime du genre dans cette ville où la petite albinos a été également tuée. Pour l’instant, aucune information officielle n’est donnée sur les raisons de ce crime, sur son ou ses auteurs. En attendant sur Facebook, la nouvelle endeuille et les messages de compassion et de condoléances pleuvent.
Pour d’autres, c’est l’occasion d’en finir définitivement avec cette pratique. Et pour cela, l’État doit s’assurer en prenant en main la sécurité de la population. Ces actes montrent combien, les populations sont exposées face à des bandits, à des auteurs de crimes rituels. Pour eux, c’est un signe de la faillite de l’Etat face à sa responsabilité de protéger les populations et de leurs biens. Encore, c’est la faute aux autorités incompétentes et corrompues, pestent de nombreux internautes.
En revanche, d’autres estiment que c’est un travail qui doit se faire en synergie entre la population et les autorités pour venir à bout de ces actes cruels dans cette ville. Parce qu’ils accusent que ce sont des charlatans connus de tous dans la ville qui sont à la base de ce crime.
Comments of readers / Commentaires des lecteurs :
Konimba Sidibé : Fana dans le cercle de Dioila au Mali en deuil à nouveau : les coupeurs de têtes ont encore sévi hier soir pour la huitième fois en moins de 4 ans (dont le cas de Ramata la petite albinos arrachée des mains de sa maman à leur domicile). Bakary Sangare est leur nouvelle victime. Peu de progrès ont été faits dans l’identification et le châtiment des criminels et leurs complices : les populations doutent fortement que l’Etat ait pris le problème au sérieux et se sentent abandonnées à leur triste sort. Cri de cœur pour libérer Fana de cette insécurité morbide !!! Que l’âme des victimes repose en paix.
Yacouba Aliou Toure : C’est une honte pour le monde du troisième millénaire. Dans la loi islamique, la sentence pour le magicien de couper sa tête à l’épée. Il ne sera pas enseveli, il n’est pas aussi enterré dans le cimetière des musulmans. La magie est la chose la plus horrible sur la Terre. Qu’Allah nous en garde. Amine.
LASSINA DEMBELE ALÉAS TEACHER : une situation séculaire insaisissable depuis la nuit des temps à Fana et environnants… Ce crime crapuleux perpétré hier à Fana le 09/06/2020 ; le corps d’un homme sans vie a été retrouvé décapité par des personnes non identifiées. Ce n’est pas une première fois que ces genres de scènes scandaleuses et hystériques se passent encore à fana semant la panique et de la désolation à la population civile de fana et environnant. Cette situation reste sans solution depuis des décennies à Fana. Les autorités compétentes judiciaires et la population civile de la ville doivent conjuguer leurs forces afin de mettre la lumière sur les Criminels auteurs de ces crimes crapuleux de Coupeurs des têtes.
Zanze Bouare : triste comme nouvelle, on doit sévir contre ces criminels. Il n’y a pas d’autorité au Mali.
Dramane Kélépily : l’arrivée de la police n’a rien servi à Fana que Dieu bénisse la ville et qu’il fasse démasquer les coupables, Paix à l’âme du disparu. Honte aux autorités incompétentes et corrompues !!
Bourama Keita : Sans la collaboration de la population, les autorités ne peuvent rien faire. Tous unis, nous pourrons mettre fin à ça. Mes sincères condoléances aux familles des disparus.
Mamadou Barry : Tout le monde sait que ce n’est pas un terroriste qui a commis le forfait. C’est bien un charlatan. Ils sont connus de tous à Fana. Paix à son âme.
Bafing Sangaré : la question que je voulais savoir, c’est pourquoi toujours à Fana ? La situation est de plus en plus inquiétante vraiment…
Awa Sidibé : Il y a certainement à Fana des tueurs protégés qui ne craignent rien d’où ces crimes à répétitions.
Abdoul Karim Niambélé : C’est triste. Je compatis à la douleur des parents des victimes. Que le Tout Puissant les accueille parmi ses Élus dans son paradis. Et pendant ce temps, on crie sous tous les toits que nous sommes en sécurité. Que Dieu sauve le Mali.
Thomas Seydou Doumbia : Allah akbar, paix a son âme. Je remarque à chaque fois qu’il y a un événement politique, il aboutit à un crime à Fana à nous de chercher la vraie raison.
Molière Sidibé : Vraiment, c’est dépassé, il est temps qu’il y ait une implication avec rigueur pour mettre fin à ces drames.
Tidiani Konate : En réalité, le Mali vit actuellement dans une situation d’impasse. Notre sort dépend de notre visibilité, notre mobilité, car les membres de ce gouvernement ne se soucient plus des peuples, mais seulement de leurs places. Que Dieu libère Banico en particulier et le Mali en général.
Dioba Dembélé : vraiment, on va de mal en pis, il faut que la population s’implique davantage au côté des autorités pour la sécurité définitive de la zone.
Abdoulaye S. Dembele : Dioba Dembélé, penses-tu que la population ainsi que les autorités veulent la fin de cette barbarie ? J’en doute. Sinon, on n’allait pas arriver là.
Au Mali, principalement dans les localités de Fana (cercle de Diola), les coupeurs de tête pour des rituels humains ne cessent de surprendre la paisible population par ces actes démoniaques. Cette fois, c’est un homme d’âge avancé du nom de Bakary Sangaré, (ancien militaire) qui a été décapité dans son domicile. Cet acte barbare et lâche s’est passé dans la nuit du mardi 10 juin au 11 juin dernier dans la même localité de Fana dans le cercle de Diola.
En effet, la population de la ville de Fana s’est réveillée avec une mauvaise nouvelle. Suite à la découverte macabre du corps sans vie d’un ancien militaire du nom de Bakary Sangaré, qui a été froidement assassiné. Les malfrats ont tranché sa tête de la manière la plus cynique, avant d’abandonner le reste du corps. Selon les témoignages des habitants, le défunt Bakary, ancien militaire qui vivait seul chez lui a été froidement tué par des hommes inconnus. (Huitième fois en moins de 4 ans dont le cas de Ramata la petite albinos arrachée des mains de sa maman à leur domicile).
Une enquête est ouverte par les forces locales en collaboration avec le juge d’instruction de Fana pour traquer les malfrats et leurs complices continuent à semer la terreur et la psychose dans la ville de Fana. Face à cette situation (…)
The same article, by the same author Abdul Karim Sanogo, was published by the Malian daily MaliKonokow. The link follows here (webmaster FVDK).
Au Mali, principalement dans les localités de Fana (cercle de Diola), les coupeurs de tête pour des rituels humains ne cessent de surprendre la paisible population par ces actes démoniaques. Cette fois, c’est un homme d’âge avancé du nom de Bakary Sangaré, (ancien militaire) qui a été décapité dans son domicile. Cet acte barbare et lâche s’est passé dans la nuit du mardi 10 juin au 11 juin dernier dans la même localité de Fana dans le cercle de Diola.
Another article on the same murder, dated June 10, 2020:
Les populations de la paisible ville de Fana ont eu un réveil brutal. Ce matin, suite à la découverte macabre du corps sans vie d’un ancien militaire du nom de Bakary Sangaré, qui a été froidement assassiné. En effet, les malfrats ont tranché sa tête de la manière la plus cynique, avant d’abandonner le reste du corps.
D’après les témoignages des habitants, le défunt Bakary, ancien militaire qui vivait seul chez lui a été froidement tué par des hommes inconnus.
Quant à la gendarmerie de Fana, les responsables ont affirmé ne vouloir rien dire avant la fin des enquêtes.
«Pour l’instant, nous ne pouvons rien dire à qui que ce soit avant la fin des enquêtes. Nous sommes sur les enquêtes en collaboration avec le juge d’instruction de Fana. Nous attendons que tous les éléments soient réunis pour nous prononcer sur cette affaire. Tout ce que je peux vous dire, c’est que nous avons constaté le cadavre d’un homme comme vous le voyez sur les réseaux sociaux et les enquêtes sont en cours», a déclaré le Capitaine de la Brigade gendarmerie à Fana.
A suivre !
The Malian daily Mali Actu published the same text. It is not known which article appeared first, maybe Mali Jet’s article, which has been reproduced above, signed with the author’s name, Gaoussou Kanté (webmaster FVDK).
Les populations de la paisible ville de Fana ont eu un réveil brutal. Ce matin, suite à la découverte macabre du corps sans vie d’un ancien militaire du nom de Bakary Sangaré, qui a été froidement assassiné. En effet, les malfrats ont tranché sa tête de la manière la plus cynique, avant d’abandonner le reste du corps.
It is not known with certainty how many people in Africa are affected by OCA, which stands for ‘Oculocutaneous albinism’ (see below). It maybe a quarter of a million, it may be more. What we do know is the plight of persons with albinism. The lack of melanin which brings this condition with it, results in unhealthy effects of ultraviolet radiation exposure. Moreover, widespread superstition causes many wicked people to believe that albino body parts bring wealth and/or power. As a result, persons with albinism are chased, kidnapped, murdered.
The article below contains many examples of these gruesome practices which occur in many African countries. The author, Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor of the Liberian newspaper, The Daily Observer , is to be commend for drawing attention to these outdated and cruel practices which constitute a serious violation of the human rights of people with albinism and have no place in a modern society.
Warning: the following article contains graphic details of cruel ritualistic activities (webmaster FVDK).
Africa’s Shameful Acts of Racism: The Plight of Persons with Albinism (PLWA) in Africa
Published: December 2, 2019 By: Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor, The Daily Observer (Liberia), Webmaster Admin
Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior to another, and that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics. On the African Continent, we have seen the impact of colonialism and its attributes of racism and discrimination.
The former Apartheid system in South Africa and its institutionalized racial segregation was an extreme expression of European treatments of Africans. The miserable treatment of people living with Albinism by fellow Africans is not only unfortunate, it is shameful.
The condition known as ‘Oculocutaneous albinism’ (OCA) is a genetically inherited autosomal recessive condition and OCA2, tyrosine-positive albinism, is the most prevalent type found throughout Africa. Due to the lack of melanin, people with albinism are more susceptible to the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation exposure.
The National Institutes of Health reported that about 200,000 Americans are affected; and around the world, it is between one in 17,000 and one in 20,000 people are people living with albinism. However, it is prevalence in parts of Africa, but it is far higher than the global average. People living with Albinism makeup about one in 4,000 people in South Africa and perhaps one in 5,000 in Nigeria. According to a 2006 review published in the journal BMC Public Health, the prevalence in Tanzania is one in 1,400, but this estimate is based on incomplete data. Since Tanzania’s total population is more than 40 million that would suggest an albinism community of about 30,000. A census is underway, however, and the Albinism Association of Tanzania believes the total figure could be more than 150,000.
People living with Albinism suffered in the hands of fellow Africans
The human rights organization Amnesty International quoted the Malawian police’s description of the gruesome murder of Mr. Machinjiri: “About four men trafficked him to Mozambique and killed him. The men chopped off both his arms and legs and removed his bones. Then they buried the rest of his body in a shallow grave.”
There are superstitions in some parts of Africa that albino body parts bring wealth, power or sexual conquest, and that having sex with a person living with the condition of albinism cures HIV and AIDS. Attackers sell albino body parts to witch doctors for thousands of dollars, according to Amnesty International. In Tanzania, some 75 people living with albinism were reported killed between 2000 and 2016.
Also, there have been reports of people living with albinism killings in South Africa; although such crimes are less common there than in Malawi, Tanzania and Burundi. Last February, a South African court sentenced a traditional healer to life in prison for murdering a 20-year-old woman living with albinism.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN agency that deals with human rights issues reported in 2016 that hunters of people living with albinism sell an entire human corpse for up to $75,000, while an arm or a leg could fetch about $2,000”.
In many African countries, it is sad and shameful the atrocious manner in which people living with albinism are treated; their lives are compounded by “exclusion, stigmatization, and denial of basic rights such as the right to education and health,” according to Amnesty International. People living with Albinism continue to experience social isolation and stigma which includes name-calling, mockery, and exclusion from certain community activities.
It is reported in Zambia that at least ten people living with albinism are murdered in ritual killings every year. Some believe their body parts bring wealth or luck. Those born with the genetic condition are calling for an end to this madness. There are more than 25,000 people living with the condition in Zambia.
According to the Albinism Foundation of Zambia (AFZ), Executive Director John Chiti, more than 25,000 persons with albinism in Zambia are currently in need of sunscreen lotion.
In an interview with Africa Renewal, Ms. Ero, said that the albinism situation in Africa, “is a tragedy.” She referred to the 7,000 to 10,000 people living with albinism in Malawi and thousands of others in Tanzania, Mozambique and other countries as “an endangered people”, facing a “risk of extinction if nothing is done.” Tanzanians call people living with albinism zeru,zeru, meaning “ghosts.”
Prevailing Superstitious Mindsets
Superstitious mindsets in some African countries continue to seek murdered for body parts, including infants and babies. Most of the attacks have taken place in Tanzania. Murders and attempted attacks, though in smaller numbers, have also been documented in Burundi, Kenya, Swaziland, Guinea, Nigeria, South Africa, Congo, Zambia, Namibia, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso.
The Converson.com conducted research and looked at media reports published between 2008 and 2011 on albinism and murders in Tanzania. It published a data set of 563 media reports in both English and Swahili from Tanzanian national newspapers.
The data showed that the Tanzanian press portrayed and explained violent attacks against persons with albinism in four ways. They were:
“When I was at primary school, people used to laugh at me, tease me – some didn’t even like to touch me, saying that if they touched me they would get this color. People used to abuse me on the road when I took the buses to school. They would run after me – crowds of kids following me – shouting ‘zeru, zeru’. (zeru, zeru, is a derogatory term).
The Conversation.com has identified the following recommendations.
There is an urgent need to address the violence faced by this vulnerable group. Public health awareness is an important first step.
Adequate health services for skin and vision disabilities should be prioritized.
Putting out messages that counter the stigma against people living with Albinism is also important, as is access to education.
Interventions must consider Albinism’ human rights. For example, putting children with albinism in camps may protect their right to life and security,but it restricts their rights to freedom of movement, and family life.
In addition, African Governments should seriously advocate against harmful practices against people living with albinism. State parties should take all appropriate measures and offer support and assistance to victims of harmful practices, including legal sanctions, education, and advocacy campaign to eliminate harmful practices perpetrated on persons with albinism, such as witchcrafts, abandonment concealment, ritual killings, etc.
One thing for sure, the people living with Albinism did not create themselves; they were created in the same way you and I were created by the God who doesn’t make a MISTAKE. Their birth process is the same as you and me! Their mothers’ carried them for nine (9) months in their wombs before giving birth to them.
Who are we – be it an individual or government to decide that they should not live because they are different? Did God ask he needs our HELP to make His decision? The Almighty God does not need the assistance of mortal humans to run his affairs. The actions of those individuals perpetuating violence against persons suffering from albinism are no different than King Leopold II of Belgium, Adolph Hitler of Germany, Napoleon Bonaparte of France, and White racists today.
In Genesis 1:31(NIV): “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…” God himself said it was Good, NOT bad. God doesn’t create anything UGLY! So, why individuals, including governments, are killing these innocent people? In addition, 1 Thessalonians 5:22 instructs us to “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Accordingly, the GENOCIDE against these poor innocent people must be STOPPED!
Now, take a closer look at the beautiful tapestry of the people living with Albinism provided here. The question that readily comes to mind is any of you better looking than the people living with Albinism provided in these photos? I DOUBT IT! Therefore, let the persecution and killing of people living with Albinism STOP before the wrath of God descends upon us.
As Africans, it is embarrassing to read or hear that other Africans are discriminated against due to their race. Racism is contrary to God’s plan for humanity. The divisions we face today in contemporary Western nations are due to Race, the color of one’s skin or ethnic background. And obviously, this perception is not part of God’s plan.
In the words of Maya Angelou: “We, the black people, the most displaced, the poorest, the most maligned and scourged, we had the glorious task of reclaiming the soul and saving the honor of the country. We, the most hated, must take hate into our hands and by the miracle of love, turn loathing into love. We, the most feared and apprehensive must take the fear and by love, change it into hope. We, who die daily in large and small ways, must take the demon death and turn it into life.”
A teenage albino boy has reportedly been killed and dismembered in Burundi. An albino rights group said the 15-year-old’s body was found late on Saturday, according to the AFP news agency. “The young albino was killed atrociously … his murderers cut his right leg off at the knee, his right arm and his tongue,” said Kassim Kazungu, the head of Albinos Without Borders.
Previous albino killings in the African country have been linked to people practising witchcraft. More than 20 albino people have been killed in Burundi since 2008. (iitalics added by the webmaster FVDK)
In 2016 a five-year-old albino girl was kidnapped from her home by gunmen. The child’s dismembered body was discovered shortly afterwards. (Also see my October 4, 2018 posting).
Burundi’s government has banned witch doctors who claim to perform spells and charms using albino body parts to bring good luck and wealth. But in some areas a complete albino skeleton is worth as much as $75,000 (£62,000), according to the Red Cross.
Around 500 albino people live in Burundi.
Officials believe killings are carried out by local residents who work with witch doctors in neighbouring Tanzania, where 53 albino people have been killed since 2007 for their body parts. (italics added by the webmaster FVDK).
There are around 170,000 albino people living in Tanzania.
Related article: Albino teen found dismembered in Burundi
Published: August 19, 2019 By: Agence France-Presse
NAIROBI, Kenya – A 15-year-old albino boy has been found dismembered in Burundi a week after going missing, the first such killing in the country in three years, a local albino group said Sunday.
Albinos, who have white skin and yellow hair as a result of a genetic disorder that causes the absence of pigmentation, are killed regularly in some African countries for their body parts, which are used in witchcraft rituals.
The teenager was found dead late Saturday in the northwest of the country along the Rusizi river separating Burundi from the DR Congo, not far from his home village.
“The young albino was killed atrociously… His murderers cut his right leg off at the knee, his right arm and his tongue,” said Kassim Kazungu, the head of the local association Albinos Without Borders.
More than 20 albinos have been killed in Burundi since 2008, with the last case in 2016 when a five-year-old girl was found dismembered after being taken from her home.
Kazungu said a four-year-old albino boy had been missing since October 2018 from the village of Cendajuri near the Tanzanian border, but that he had “no hope” of finding him alive.
Some experts believe the demand for albino body parts in Tanzania — where such attacks are the most prevalent — has fueled such killings in border areas.
Pastor receives funding boost for iconic rehab centre for child sacrifice survivors
Together, we will end child sacrifice, Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga says.
Pastor Peter Sewakiryanga who runs Kyampisi Childcare Ministries, a Christian charity seeking to stamp out child sacrifice in Uganda, has received a cash donation of $134,225 (approximately Ush491 million) for a rehabilitation centre expected to be a safe place for children who have been victims of child sacrifice and trafficking.
Pastor Peter received the funds from the Bruce Campbell Entrepreneurial Business School whose founder and Principal Business Coach, Mr Bruce Campbell, has been extensively awarded for his work through various international bodies.
This happened in Australia over the weekend.
“We are humbled by the incredible continuous support of the Bruce Campbell Entrepreneurial Business School,” Kyampisi Childcare Ministries said in an update on Sunday.
“Thank you for this generosity, partnering with us in our efforts to build a new Trauma Rehabilitation Centre for kids abused through Child sacrifice and trafficking. What a community full of love and compassion. Together we will End Child Sacrifice,” they added.
Pastor Peter takes care of several child survivors of trafficking and human sacrifice and has built an extensive network linking communities and security to track suspected cases.
In his remarks earlier in March, Mr Bruce Campbell said, “This will be the largest rehab centre of its kind in Uganda (& maybe Africa). So honored to be a board member and help guiding this life changing organisation.”
The organisation, Kyampisi Childcare Ministries (KCM) condemns witch doctors’ brutal ritual of child sacrifice, and has brought to books several culprits this year in the capital of Kampala alone.
In his recent interview with local media, Pastor Peter explained that victims of child sacrifice in Uganda carry with them serious and disturbing life scars and injuries which include complete genital mutilations, castration, deep stab wounds, missing tongues, ears, as well as emotional and psychological scars that need life time healing.
Working each day to bring Christ’s hope and healing to these children, Sewakiryanga’s devotion to the cause in 2017 attracted The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) who during an interview with the preacher, joined undercover detectives and armed police in a hunt for witch doctors accused of kidnapping and killing children.
“When they get the child, most times they cut the neck, they take the blood out, they take the tissue, they cut the genitals or any other body organs that they wish that the spirits want.” Pr Sewakiryanga said.
Child body parts are especially prized in rituals because people believe mixing their blood with herbs makes a strong concoction that can cure diseases and appease local spirits. Genitalia are especially prized.
“The problem is increasing and many children are killed, and there are very few actually that survive, most of them die.” Pr Sewakiryanga added.
According to CBN News, Kyampisi Childcare Ministries is the only organization in the country providing long-term financial and medical care to survivors of child sacrifice.
“We want to see that the life of a child who has survived is supported, that they are socially able to stand and heal from the injuries, and that they can have a life after that,” said Pastor Sewakiryanga.
He also works with Ugandan lawmakers to help draft specific laws targeting perpetrators of child sacrifice.
In 2018, Pastor Peter was one of two Ugandan activists recognised by The European Union (EU) for their tireless campaign to stop child trafficking.
He was credited for championing research and spearheading an awareness campaign in communities to stop the crime.