This Blog's Guiding Maxim:-

"The person who shies at the possibility of increased responsibilities or at the prospect of future uncertainties is hardly worthy of life itself, for life consists of uncertainties, problems and challenges of various types."

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Under the Same Sun - A site out to fight the cause of the Albinos

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You can contact the blog editor through this e-mail address: (ritchmbuthia at gmail dot com)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

New threat to albinos at school in Mwanza

Story courtesy of The Guardian Newspaper Tanzania

Pupils with albinism at Mitindo School, Misungwi District are exposed to hot sun as they wait in long queue for their turn to get water from a single source

Children with albinism admitted to a boarding school at Mitindo in Mwanza Region in efforts to keep them safe away from albino killers, now face a health threat.

According to the head teacher Juma Abdallah the pupils travel up to three kilometers to fetch water from a well far from the school. The school has a total of 148 pupils, 45 of whom are blind while 103 are albinos. Albinos lack pigments in their eyes, skin or hair, making their life difficult in Africa, where there is plenty of sunshine. They are more susceptible to skin cancer and sunburn.

“As you have seen, the pupils are forced to wait under the sun in a queue for a long time, risking their tender skins and weak eyes by exposing them to the sun,” he said.

Other challenges they face are shortage of blankets, bed- sheets, toothbrushes and tooth paste. The school also needs a professional matron and patron as well as regular heath check-ups. Mitindo School in Misungwi District was initially meant for blind children. Now, owing to lack of dormitories, two pupils are now forced to share a bed. “Following the outbreak of albino killings, the government directed us to accommodate the children, but their number is overwhelming and we’ve no alternative as our request for additional budget is yet to materialize,” said the head teacher.

The albinos have been killed for their body parts to be used in witchcraft by persons who seek wealth or sexual potency. At least 53 albinos have been killed since March, 2007 in various parts of the country, mostly in Shinyanga and Mwanza regions.

The killers sell body parts such including arms, legs, hair, skin and genitals to those who practice witchcraft.

Meanwhile, Mwanza Regional Commissioner Abbas Kandoro is currently cautioning parents and guardians to refrain from sending albino children there any more.

He said: "Parents too are duty bound to protect their children," adding that this is not solely a government responsibility. Kandoro called on each district authority in the region to construct a primary school where children with albinism would be mix with other children.

Government and lobby groups say Tanzania has about 170,000 albinos out its population of 40 million people.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Three albino killers to hang

Story courtesy of The Guardian Newspaper Tanzania

The three men convicted of an albino boy's murder

The High Court, sitting in this Shinyanga Region town specifically to preside over cases involving albino killings, delivered its first judgement yesterday. It convicted and sentenced to death three accused persons.

Reading the ruling, which lasted about an hour, High Court Judge Gabriel Rwakibalila said the court was satisfied that the evidence presented by the prosecution side proved beyond reasonable doubt the involvement of the three convicts in the killings.

He said the trio conspired and killed schoolboy Matatizo Dunia (13), an albino, on December 1 last year at Bunyihuna village in Shinyanga Region’s Bukombe District.

Those found guilty and now on death row are Masumbuko Madata (32) of Itunga Village, Emmanuel Masangwa (28) of Bunyihuna Village and Charles Kalamuji alias Charles Masangwa (42) of Nanda Village, all in Bukombe District. The court ruled that they committed the crime as per Section 16 of Criminal Act No. 196, as amended in 2002.

“This court has found all of you, first accused Masumbuko Madata, second accused Emmanuel Masangwa and third accused Charles Kalamuji alias Charles Masangwa, guilty of killing Matatizo Dunia, and therefore you will be hanged to death. However, you can appeal the sentence if you so wish,” the judge pronounced.

The long-awaited judgment appeared to please most of the people who had turned up at the court premises in huge numbers for an eyewitness account of the climax of the historic proceedings.

Judge Rwakibalila said the defence furnished the court with evidence meant to present the accused as innocent, adding: “But later evidence from the same side proved that the three accused were in fact solidly behind the killings.”

He explained that despite an inconsequential mix-up of some facts in submissions by the prosecution side, “the truth remained intact and hence the fairness of the judgment delivered by this court against the accused”.

The judge said among the trivial “slip-ups” he was referring to was the number of vehicles used by an unspecified number of police officers during arrest of the suspects.

“It is impossible for human being to remember every detail. However, this cannot change the truth,” he noted.

Added the judge: “The evidence presented in court included statements by Madata’s wife and Masumbuko’s third wife Yunis Peter, who stood as the second prosecution witness. The two women narrated in court how they saw their husbands returning home accompanied by Rajab Luchoronga, who is still at large. They also witnessed Matatizo’s severed legs being recovered from a nearby bush which Masumbuko frequently visited for soothsaying.”

Judge Rwakibalila pointed out further that the evidence presented in court by a bother to Madata showed how the accused fled alongside Luchoronga as the police approached.

“Again, third accused Kalamuji’s wife identified as Sofia Andrew explained how her husband disappeared from the family home on November 30 last year before it was reported that he had been arrested in connection with the killing of an albino,” added the judge.

Commenting on the evidence presented by the Chief Government Chemist, the judge said the first and the third accused were directly implicated in Matatizo’s brutal killing “as DNA samples collected from the boy’s blood technically proved them to have hand a hand in the killing”.

Soon after Judge Rwakibalila was through, the defence side declared that they intended to appeal the ruling.

Defence counsel Kamaliza Kayaga said he was not satisfied with the ruling against his clients and contesting it was the only option they would pursue.

The court adjourned until September 28, which is set for the hearing of another murder case. This time the accused is Joseph Lugota of Kagongwa Village in Isagehe Ward, who stands charged with killing Ng’wana Gimbishi (75) of Kilimbi Village in Mwalugulu Ward in Kahama District.

Land Mark Ruling: Three to hang for Albino Murder

A LANDMARK judgment was made today, when a high court sitting in Shinyanga region sentenced three men to death by hanging for killing Matatizo Dunia (14), an albino boy, early this year in Bukombe district...Read The Rest Here
Albino Society calls for public execution

The Tanzania Albino Society (TAS) has called for the public execution of three people who were yesterday sentenced to death for murdering an albino...Read The Rest Here

Death for Tanzania Albino Killers

A court in north-western Tanzania has sentenced three men to death by hanging for killing a 14-year-old albino boy.

They were found guilty of attacking Matatizo Dunia and severing his legs in Bukombe district in Shinyanga province...Read The Rest Here

Tanzania Albino killers death Sentence

The first verdicts arising out of the recent spate of witchcraft-related killings of albinos in Tanzania have been delivered - three men have been sentenced to death by hanging.

A court in the north of the country found them guilty of murdering a 14-year-old and severing his legs...Read The Rest Here

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Peter Ash shares his heartbeat with Christian faithfuls in Dar

When called to the podium to introduce his team and share the word of God last Sunday, Peter Ash (founder of Under the Same Sun – an organization which has the interest of albinos in Tanzania at heart) walked up the steps purposefully, one step at a time.

He took the mike from the pastor and introduced the team he’d come to church with that morning. They were, among others, his brother Paul; Don, a close friend and one directly involved in the fight against albino killings; Vicky Ntetema, BBC bureau chief in this part of the world and Samuel Mluge, the director of Under the Same Sun Tanzania.

When the preliminaries were over, he started sharing the word of God with the congregation.

He made three major points.

1.    People with albinism are first and foremost humans. The genetic condition albinism) comes second. They’re like any other human being. Their genetic condition does not rob them of their ‘humanhood’.

Albinos, just like the rest of humanity, are fearfully and wonderfully made. (See Psalms 139: 13 - 16). This is a psalm of David and it says:

“You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works; and that my soul knows right well. When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother’s womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there – you saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book before any of them ever began.”

Peter told the story of Mariam, a small albino girl who was hacked to death in the Lake Victoria region by people who were after her body parts. When he recounted how the gang slit her (Mariam’s) throat and how her legs were hewn off, tears coursed down the cheeks of some members of the congregation. Sporadic sniffles could be heard throughout the church as the sad story was being told.

2. Albinos are under a deadly attack of the devil, the father of lies. The devil is a liar and a murderer. John 8:44 says:

“You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar and the father of it.”

The devil is also a thief. John 10:10 says:

“The thief comes only in order to steal, kill and destroy.”

The devil, through the mouths of witchdoctors, promises wealth which comes at a price – human life! This is a great lie and one that should be fought against at all costs.

3. People with albinism need their brothers and sisters (those who don’t have albinism) to join in the war against this violence. This is where the church comes in. The church needs to stand for justice, mercy and faithfulness. The community around us needs to be sensitized on the repercussions of allowing this evil to continue having a field day in our country. It is the responsibility of each and every member of society to see to it that the violence and animosity against albinos comes to a stop.

He mentioned this blog as being one of the vehicles that is championing an end to violence against albinos in Tanzania. I was deeply humbled by this sentiment. (I really appreciate the mention of this blog on that podium, Peter).

He closed with strong and weighty words; words laden with prophecy ad finality:

“I see a day when albinos in this country (Tanzania) will walk free!”

AMEN!![My voice]

I wish, hope and pray so too.

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It's our call, dear brethren

Dealing with the violence aginst Albinos: Where do you fall?

Dealing with the violence against Albinos: Where do you Fall?

Different people have different ways of dealing with problems and challenges in their lives. How would you deal with the problem of violence against albinos if you were to take a stand?

I have prepared some questions (below) that could help you work out what you’d do or rather what your choice would be.

In the questions, the cracks in the house stand for the problem of violence against albinos.

Check what you would do…

a). Are you one who would opt to fill the cracks instead of finding out why there are cracks (to avert something even more sinister from seeing the light of day)?

b). Are you one who would paint the cracks to make them 'invisible'?

c). Are you one who would dig up the sides of the foundation to find out why the building is shaky?

d). Are you one who would literally demolish the building, the cost of the building notwithstanding, to build a more stable one in its place?

e). Are you one who would run after lizards that crawl out of the cracks, instead of paying attention to many a cranny threatening the stability of your building?

f). Are you one who would sit by, arms folded and watch as the building crumbles in one big heap?

g). Are you one who would exhibit the ostrich syndrome. That is, hide your head in the sand and think that because you cannot see the cracks then they are non-existent?

So, where do you fall?

It’s our call, dear brethren

I have continually noted – with growing uneasiness – that most Tanzanians blame the government for almost anything negative that happens in their environs.

Someone, at whose front door is a huge mound of garbage, would be heard blaming the government for not removing the litter from his doorstep! The logical thing to do would be to remove the ‘eyesore’ from in front his house in order to avoid outbreaks of diseases such as cholera.

The same mentality takes centre stage in the fight against albino killings. Most Tanzanians think (and wrongfully so!) that it is up to the government to bring these killings to an end.

The government alone cannot do much. All of us must join hands and work towards a common goal: an end to albino killings.

The ball’s in our court (or part of the game); let’s play with the intention of winning. Our albino brothers and sisters are waiting and watching. We can do better than we currently are doing concerning this grave issue.

Albino killings must be ended

Story courtesy of The Guardian Newspaper Tanzania

The High Court in Shinyanga has finally resumed the trials of people suspected to have been involved in the killings of albinos. Prior to the resumption, there was a lull due to a reported lack of funds, much as the trials were of great public interest.

We are quite encouraged that leaders of the Judiciary have taken quick measures to ensure that the cases resume. It is our hope that this time around, the trials are going to be conducted right to the end.

As it goes, justice delayed is justice denied. For that reason, it is pertinent that the cases are conducted non-stop until the verdicts are issued. We are stressing the need for expedition of the trials not because we are pre-judging the accused, but mainly because the credibility of the courts and the nation will be at stake if the trials are prolonged unnecessarily.

Secondly, at the end of the trials when the court hands down the punishment to those who might be found to be guilty, the penalties shall serve as a lesson to those who have been involved in the killing spree of albinos.

These crimes of highly detestable nature have also cast a dark cloud over our law organs and state investigation agencies, as there was a feeling -- and this persists, especially within the albino community -- that the arrests and eventual prosecution of the culprits was taking questionably long.

We therefore hope that the trials that are taking place in Shinyanga Region will not lead to complacency in the police force. No stone should be left unturned until all the killers are identified and brought to justice.

We must also insist on quick and unrelenting investigation whenever there are reports of such macabre killings anywhere within the borders of this country. We stress this, not because we have no trust in the competence of the state investigators, but because this is one of the ways of putting to an end the killings.

Wherever there is a will, there is a way. If we are determined to put the saga of the albinos—who are our fellow countrymen and women, our own kith and kin—to an end, then we should not only resolve to end the shameful killings, but also to manifest this resolve through concrete and credible action.

We all know that apart from the human tragedy brought about by the killings, the image of our nation is at stake. Also, the good name of this generation is threatened. We have to see to it that our great-great grandchildren remember this generation of Tanzanians affectionately as both responsible and of historical importance.

Moreover, the so-called saga of albinism in Tanzania is tarnishing our hitherto extremely good name abroad. Tanzania has been known as an island of peace in the Great Lakes Region and should remain so.

It is thus the duty of each and every one of us to protect human life, which is sacred. On the other hand, political leaders, members of the law-enforcing organs and the Judiciary bear even a heavier responsibility. That is why we keep writing about this particular issue.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Truth as it ought to be Told: Human body parts don’t Create Wealth

Kazungu Kassim, head of a Burundi albino association, listens to proceedings inside a courtroom in Ruyigi, eastern Burundi

Snapshots of the full article Click on the link below the snapshots to read the full article

...A 35-year-old man in Lake Tanganyika was accused of trying to sell his 24-year-old wife to Congolese businessmen for $2,000 (Sh150,000) while in Mwanga District a mother was alleged to have sold her albino baby girl to a group of men who slaughtered her and drunk her blood...

...They are cutting us up like chickens. Our biggest fear now is the fear of living. If you leave work at night as an albino you are unsure of reaching home safely. When you sleep you are unsure of waking up in one piece. In the streets you hear people plotting how they can get you,” lamented Zihada Msembo, Tanzanian Albino Society secretary general...

...Fishermen for instance, have this macabre belief that if they weave strands of red albino hair into their nets, fish will be attracted by the glimmer. Although poverty and ignorance are the major causes of these barbaric acts, Nigerian films are being accused of touting the efficacy of witchcraft...

...On further questioning the man confessed that a businessman was going to pay for the head by its weight...

...However, albinos in Burundi, affected by the killing wave in Tanzania, got a moral boost when eight men charged with killing albinos in the town of Ruyigi were sentenced to life imprisonment.
“I think it will reduce the amount of attacks on albinos in our country,” Mr Kazungu Kassim, spokesman for Burundi albinos, told journalists...

Read The Full Story Here

Court hears how Bukombe albinos `were murdered`

Story courtesy of The Guardian Newspaper Tanzania. It appeared in yesterday's (17th Sept 2009) edition of the paper.

The High Court in Shinyanga Region’s Bukombe District, sitting specifically to preside over cases in which three people are charged with albino killings, was informed yesterday that the accused were behind the planning and execution of a spate of such murders.

Winding up the public prosecution’s submission, State Attorney Prudence Rweyongeza told the court that Masumbuko Madata of Itunga Village and Emmanuel Masangwa and Charles Kalamuji alias Charles Masangwa, both of Bunyihuna Village in Bukombe District, were behind the killings of albinos reported around the Lake Victoria zone.

Rweyongeza said investigations leading to court action after filing the murder case, no. 24 of 2009, revealed that the accused killed Matatizo Dunia (13) on the night of December 1 last year as the youngster slept in a house at Bunyihuna village, and disappeared with his body parts for witchcraft purposes.

He told the court, presided over by Judge Gabriel Rweyongeza, that the prosecution brought two types of evidence - circumstantial and through affidavits.

“In the right of the seriousness of the crime committed, which has tarnished the country’s image, the prosecution presented in court evidence from 15 different people who are credible and reliable and who have proved beyond reasonable doubt the involvement of the accused in the crime. I pray that the court convict the accused accordingly,” he pleaded.

Commenting on the affidavit presented, Rweyongeza said the evidence basically proved the brutal killing of Standard Four schoolboy Matatizo Dunia of Bunyihuna Village in Iponya Ward, Bukombe District.

He added that the accused were positively identified as having committed the crime and actually confessed to have done so.

The prosecution further submitted that all the accused had confessed through affidavits to have collaborated in planning and executing the scheme leading to the killing of the boy. They were later arrested after being found in possession of the boy’s legs.

Rweyongeza asked the court to ignore “inconsequential issues of contention” among witnesses such as the number of police officers and the vehicles used during the arrest of the suspects at Itunga village.

“These are trivial and cannot alter the truth about the people behind the crime,” he said, adding: “Witnesses are human beings and cannot remember everything.”

He submitted that one prosecution witness, first accused Madata’s wife Yunis Peter, willingly and without being swayed by prejudice or vengeance against the accused, explained before Judge Rwakibalila and the court assessors how her husband was busy with secret plans with third accused Kalamuji.

He quoted the woman as having explained how her husband made “endless trips” on November 30 last year “to accomplish his evil mission of killing the innocent boy and hide the body parts in the bush”. The case was adjourned until today, when the judge will hear presentations by court assessors before giving the date for ruling.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Peter Ash drums up support for albino protection

Story Courtesy of The Guardian Newspaper, Tanzania

Peter Ash with an albino girl

President and founder of a Canadian non-profit organization, Under the Same Sun, Peter Ash, jetted in Dar es Salaam over the weekend calling for justice to the families who lost their loved ones due to genetic disorder.

Ash has albinism, a genetic condition which results in significantly reduced vision, but such condition has of late ignited a spate of killings by get-rich-quick fellows always associated with witchcraft.

He told journalists at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) that his heart drives him to do whatever he can to provide resources to assist those most disadvantaged by disability, discrimination and poverty.

“Our mission remains unchanged. It is to provide resources which allow these groups to increase their quality of life and gain increased independence,” said Ash.

He said for Tanzania's 170,000 albinos, there was an increasing sense of fear and abandonment. With the government unable or unwilling to protect them from the machetes of the witchdoctors' henchmen, there is no place to hide and little reason to hope.

As the slaughter of albinos continues, promises from Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda that the killers would be brought to justice swiftly have been fulfilled. Now the Kahama and Shinyanga High Courts have been holding trials for four of the suspected killers of victims with albinism.

This is the third time for the founder of the Canadian NGO is visiting Tanzania. During his second visit, Ash and his delegation met with leaders in the albinism community as well as religious leaders and government officials, including Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda and Vice-President Dr. Ali Mohamed Shein. Unfortunately, four months later as the killings continue unabated, Ash seriously questions if there is any political will for the government to provide meaningful protection for its citizens with albinism.

The most recent victim was 4-year-old Muanda Sita of Madilana village in the Bariadi District, Shinyanga Region. The killers, wielding machetes, overtook the little boy and hacked off his legs one by one as he screamed in agony. His slaughter brings the number of killings of Tanzanians with albinism during the past month to four.

In addition, other African countries are now reporting similar occurrences, including neighboring Burundi where at least 12 people with albinism have been slaughtered in the last year. However, Burundi does not appear to be afflicted with the same kind of judicial apathy.

While the trials in Tanzania are dragging, nine people in Burundi have recently been convicted for the murders. All nine killers are serving time in jail, with one of them serving a life sentence.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This War will one day be won, but first…

I was reading the book of Nehemiah in the Bible today when my eyes lighted on a verse that moved me. The sheer resolve and determination that oozes from the verse got me thinking and wishing, wishing, wishing …

The verse, Nehemiah 4:14, says: “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”

This came at a time that Nehemiah was rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem and some people were taunting and mocking the builders. There were instances when the security of the builders was threatened. So they had to work with their weapons (swords, spears, shields) at hand.

They were doing a good thing and they refused to be intimidated or even join the bandwagon of the complacent fellows who were satisfied with the way things were. They dared to be different and that drew immense opposition.

This reminds me what Albert Einstein said: Great spirits have always encountered violent oppositions from mediocre minds.

I guess this has a great lesson for us here in Tanzania as we fight against the violence levelled against albinos; and as we champion for the prosecution of albino murderers.

We cannot dare allow complacency and intimidation to fill our hearts as we fight this good fight. Though some of us have been cowed into believing that nothing good will come out of this war, there are positive indications that this war is already half won. We just have to keep at it without giving up hope. You know, from those to whom much has been given, much will be required.

If there is no other motivation to fight this good fight, let this one suffice: There is no substitute to human life. Guard it with all you can and however you can!