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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.

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