The hunt for albinos in Tanzania and Burundi by witchdoctors, who use their body parts for the manufacturing of traditional medicine, has claimed over 60 lives over the past recent months.
One of the latest victims of the albino hunt is ten-year old Gasper Elikana. In October 2009, he was seized by hunters who first beheaded him to stop the boy from screaming. Then they hacked off his limbs, gave his father a last blow to the head with a machete, and ran off.
$75.000 for albino parts
According to the Red Cross, the killing of albinos - people who have little or no pigment in their eyes, skin and hair - in this region of Africa started in August 2008.
“In search for profit, witch doctors revived an old superstition that the limbs and genitals of an albino can bring quicker and better results to one’s enterprise," said Anseleme Katyunguruza, Secretary General of the Burundi Red Cross. This branch of the international aid organisation provides humanitarian aid to 48 albino children and adults who sought refuge in Ruyigi, a town situated on the border of Burundi and Tanzania.
Killing albinos is is a lucrative business for the murderers, who are paid between $200 and $5000 for their crimes. Senior police commanders in Tanzania's capital of Dar es Salaam said a complete set of albino body parts – including all four limbs, genitals, ears, tongue and nose, fetches the equivalent of 75.000 US dollars.
Albino hunters hanged
Although the Tanzanian government took long to acknowledge the severity of this manhunt, the country in September this year hanged three hunters for murdering a young boy, the first death sentences in Tanzania related to albino killings. In November last year, Burundi jailed two men for life for killing albinos earlier that year.
In search of protection, albinos from around Tanzania are flocking together in various towns. Kasulu, situated in north-western Kigoma region, is one of the Tanzanian towns that boasts an albino refuge: the Kabanga school for the disabled.
Here about 49 albinos - mostly children - are residing. The latest arrival was seven-year-old Enus Abel. He was brought to the school by his black mother. She fled her community of Kigaga after she heard that hunters were after her child's limbs.
It is said that hundreds of albinos are currently displaced and living in shelters, refuges and schools - fearing for their lives. Other remain trapped in their homes, unable to move around freely to work, trade or study for fear of the hunters.