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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Not enough done to protect albinos

Editorial courtesy of The Guardian Newspaper [20th April, 2010]

The spate of albino killings that have rocked the country since 2007 leading to the loss of an estimated 53 innocent lives have done a telling blow to the image of Tanzania to the extent that only a total and successful war against the perpetrators of this heinous crime can repair the damage.

By hunting down and killing persons with albinism in such brutal manner as chopping off their limbs in the belief that the body parts would give one supernatural powers to make quick riches have made Tanzanians be perceived as a society of 21st century savages.

It is an unfortunate position we have found ourselves in as a nation, but which we believe we can disentangle ourselves from if we make hard decisions and execute them decisively.

The actions we have in mind are those that will act as a deterrent against further attacks on the innocent people whose only ‘crime’ is the colour of their skin.

It is precisely because of the need to bring to an end these atrocities that people all over the country had warmly received the February 1, 2010 court ruling in which four men were sentenced to death for albino killings.

The expectations of many people then were that the court ruling would discourage further violent acts being carried out against albinos.

Disappointedly, this has not been the case, and as the President of a Canada-based Non-Governmental Organisation, Peter Ash said over the weekend the killings are now moving closer to the country’s business capital Dar es Salaam which has hitherto been seen as a safe haven for those running away from the dangerous areas in the rural areas.

The Canadian who heads an NGO named Under the Sun (UTSS) and which is committed to the welfare of persons with albinism in Tanzania is of the view that the government has been rather slow in dealing with cases of albino killings.

We agree with Ash’s observation, since the truth remains that out of the 61 cases of albino killings reported in different courts in the country, there are only two convictions so far. At this speed we wonder how long it would take to see justice not only being done but also seen to be done.

We wish to call on the government to speed up the prosecution of all the pending cases. This we believe will act as a deterrent against those who believe they can kill people at will and go scot free.

Most worrying is that the judicial procedures are moving at a snail’s pace when fresh perpetrations are now being reported in areas such as Morogoro and Coast regions, with fears that Dar es Salaam may sooner than later be another scene of man-to-man brutality.

We therefore join UTSS and other stakeholders in appealing to the government not to backtrack on its obligation to provide additional security to people with albinism because it is now evident that they are still targeted for their body parts.

We also wish to commend the Canadian NGO for targeting nine regions to support education for people with albinism and call on other local and international institutions to emulate this goodwill.

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