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Monday, November 23, 2009

Missing link in Albino killings

Story courtesy of The Guardian Newspaper Tanzania

"...the only missing link in the pyramid of albino killers is the rich man who looks for albino human parts"

A Canadian-based human rights group has questioned Tanzania's commitment to stop albino killings for failing to name the forces behind the macabre acts.

Peter Ash, President and founder of a Canadian-based NGO observed here on Friday that the only missing link in the pyramid of albino killers is the rich man who looks for albino human parts.

“So far, it is traditional healers and killers that have been named and brought to justice. We want the consumers, the rich that can afford million of shillings to be named” said Ash.

Ash was addressing an International Press Conference at Nyawilimwa village after laying a wreath on the grave of a ten-year child Gasper Elkana, who was brutally murdered and his leg chopped off at Geita District, Mwanza Region by unidentified assailants.

Gasper, who had gone out for a short-call escorted by his father at around 20 hours on the night of October 23, 2009, was slashed by a machete and when his guarding father made an attempt to help him, he too was hit on the head and wounded seriously.

“I read about Gasper’s death with profound shock and imagined the calamity as having struck my family, because this family and mine have so many things in common. The age of Elkana Gasper’s father and I tally and so do the late and my son’s, ” he said.

At least 54 Tanzanian albinos have been murdered since 2007, with most of the killings taking place in the remote northwest regions of Shinyanga and Mwanza, where superstition runs deep.

The High Court, sitting in Shinyanga municipality to preside over cases involving albino killings, delivered its first judgement in September where 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 tendered by the prosecution side proved beyond reasonable doubt that three of the convicts were involved in the killings of the ablbino.

The same court early this month, delivered its second judgment by convicting and sentencing to death by hanging four accused persons.

The immediate reaction to the ruling by some sections was to dismiss it as a non-starter. However, it restored the trust of many people in the country’s judicial system. Meanwhile, chairman of Tanzania Albino Society (TAS) Mwanza Region Alfred Kapole wants the government to speed up the pending albino cases.

He expressed disappointment that the cases have stalled for the second time for lack of funds.

Albinos lack pigment in their eyes, skin or hair, making their life difficult in Africa where there is plenty of sunshine and they are more susceptible to skin cancer and sunburn.

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