Mondo Bizarro Nov 8 2008
MURDER & MAYHEM IN TANZANIA
A tale of albinos...and the witchdoctors who slice and dice them for cash.

Tanzania has been recognized as one of Africa’s most politically stable and progressive nations since achieving independence in 1960. But this reputation has taken a hit since the killings of at least 30 albinos, perpetrated by men seeking body parts for witchcraft. Most of the killings have occurred in the past 10 months, including a grisly triple murder that took place hours after a large rally was staged in the capital city of Dar es Salaam to denounce the practice.

Among Tanzania’s population of 40 million are more than 200,000 albinos, whom superstition has surrounded since antiquity. But only recently have reports of killings begun to surface. The first confirmed albino killing for the purposes of witchcraft took place eight years ago, when half a dozen people were killed and skinned in Mbeya, in the southwest of the country.

Authorities say those involved in witchcraft—especially workers in the mining and fishing industries—believe albino body parts bring good luck. Demand is particularly high for albino skins, not just in Tanzania, but throughout a swath of Africa that includes Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. A single skin reportedly sells for anywhere between US $134 and $537. Killers also harvest victims’ arms, legs, hair, breasts and genitals, according to police. Local media have reported incidents of armless and legless victims who were left bleeding to death.

Zihada Msembo, who serves as secretary general of the Tanzania Albino Society and who is an albino herself, said, “When you sleep, you are unsure of waking up in one piece. They are cutting us up like chickens.” On her office wall hangs a photo of a limbless, partially skinned corpse, the result of a 2007 attack.

A Tanzanian woman named Susannah Rutahiro recently witnessed a killing, and gave a chilling first-person account that sounded like something out of a horror movie. She described eating dinner in an enclosed courtyard with her husband Nyerere when four men burst through the door and began to hack at him with machetes, screaming, “We want your legs! We want your legs!” What was left of her husband was laid to rest sealed in cement to prevent graverobbers from raiding his coffin.

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