Tanzania’s Hunted Albinos Relive the Horror of Having their Limbs Hacked off by Witchdoctor

Tanzania’s Hunted Albinos Relive the Horror of Having their Limbs Hacked off by Witchdoctor

The heart wrenching story of the terrifying way that albinos in Africa are living will surely have you reaching for a Kleenex. I cannot help but feel sorry for them when I hear about the lack of safety and daily fear they live in. The sadness of it all certainly broke my heart:


In Europe people with albinism are often barely noticeable. In Africa stories have grown up over hundreds of years around people with albinism that attribute supernatural powers to them.

In Tanzania, they are described as zeru-zeru, immortal spirits.

‘That’s why they kill us,’ said Miriamu softly. ‘They believe that our body parts and organs will make them rich and happy.’

In October 2008, the men with the machetes came to take Miriamu’s arms.

Back then the 25-year-old corn farmer who just read her young sisters a bedtime story when she heard a loud crack. Then a large stone smashed through the door of her clay hut. Four masked men stormed in, blinding Miriamu with flashlights. One yanked her arm up, another chopped below the shoulder with a machete.

‘His blade was dull. He hacked and he hacked,’ recalled Miriamu breathlessly, as if it were happening again.

‘Blood — blood everywhere. There was a jerk, my arm tore off.

‘That’s when I felt the burning. That’s when I screamed in pain.’

Miriamu’s sisters had run out of the hut, her parents were locked in the next room. The young woman was still fully conscious as the attackers started on the second arm.

It is only at the sound of the neighbours shouting outside that they finally stopped and ran off with their prize.
The other arm could not be saved and was amputated later in the hospital.

In East Africa people like Miriamu fear for their lives. Since the first documented murder of an albino in Tanzania in 2006, the old beliefs in the occult have undergone a terrible transformation.

Where once the hair, fingernails and urine of albinos were enough, now unscrupulous witchdoctors produce their talismans and magic potions from the arms, legs, bones, inner organs and genitals of albinos.

Things have escalated to such an extent that children have even been snatched from their mother’s arms by evil traffickers.

In Ndamhi, tears ran down Sophia Juma face as she recalled every parent’s worst nightmare when her four-year-old daughter Pendo Emanuelle was taken from her as she gave her a cuddle.

Her eyes red from crying and her voice only a long, soft wail as she told how two men entered her hut and ripped Pendo out of her arms and disappeared into the night.

The delicate woman with the hollow cheeks was still in shock. She nursed two-month-old Tatu at her breast. Tatu, like her sister, has albinism.

‘What happens if the men come back?’ she whimpered, holding her hand over the baby’s head. She only has a simple lock on her door. She does not trust her neighbours. There is no police protection. And there is absolutely no trace of her four-year-old daughter.

‘Maybe they’ll use the girl as a living stockpile,’ Sophia’s friend Josephat Torner friend suggested, as tears rolled down his cheeks. ‘Whenever they need new supplies, they’ll cut a piece off of her.’

He told MailOnline: ‘I imagine how a witchdoctor out here a few years ago had an idea. Instead of just using albinos’ hair and fingernails to make magic charms like usual, why not try using arms and legs and whole heads?’

According to the UN, the most dangerous country for albinos worldwide is Tanzania. Officially, 156 have been attacked, mutilated or killed in the country since 2006. The actual number is thought to be significantly higher because many attacks are not reported.

There are hardly any solved cases, but the past two years of police reports in Mwanza, on the southern shores of Lake Victoria, read like the script of a horror film.

On January 31, 2013, men armed with spears and machetes hacked off the left arm of an albino boy and killed his 95-year-old grandfather as he tried to defend him.

Only a few days later masked men in the same area stormed into a house containing a seven-month-old albino baby.
In the last second neighbours were able to fend off the assailants. At about this time an albino woman was overpowered by five men who cut off her left arm. In a similar incident, a 10-year-old albino boy was attacked on the way to school and lost an arm.

Since then the series of murders and mutilations in north-western Tanzania has continued unabated, like that against Pendo, 14, who last August, was thrown to the ground, had her arm held against a wooden bench and chopped off with a machete by a gang of men.

But the way that people with albinism are treated in East Africa is often contradictory.

‘Some believe we bring luck,’ explained Josephat. ‘Others are convinced we’re a curse on the family and the whole village.’

When Josephat was born, the midwife advised his mother to poison him. Neighbours accused her of having sex with a ‘tokolosh’, an evil spirit.

‘Many think that we ourselves are spirits,’ said Josephat, 32, a father of three children, none of whom have albinism.

‘They believe that we don’t die, that we just become paler and paler until we finally disappear.’

I cannot imagine living my life this way. The absolute terror of living in fear like that must be overwhelming for them. I will do only what I can, to keep them in thoughts and pray that they are able to find a safe place to live their lives.

The video is a bit dry but quite informative:

Written by Katie McGuire. Follow Katie on Twitter @GOPKatie, or email the author at [email protected]


Writer, Blogger. Political aficionado. Addicted to all levels of government campaigns.

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