Tanzanian albinos shelter in terror from killers

Tanzanian albinos shelter in terror from killers

Tue Dec 1, 2009 12:06pm GMT

Single Page[-] Text [+] By Katrina Manson

MISUNGWI, Tanzania (Reuters) - In remote northwest Tanzania, two parents sob for their 10-year-old albino son, who was beheaded to stop him screaming by men who then hacked off his leg in front of his father.

The family had previously tried to have their boy registered at a school where many albinos shelter but he was refused entry because it was full. His murder at the end of October marked an end of a three-month lull in the killings.

"When he was born I thought what kind of child is this, but then he turned out to be fine and happy," said Mwakami Kilijiwa, standing over the fresh grave of her son Gasper, who was buried in concrete so killers cannot return and steal his bones.

"I had been scared (for him) ever since another albino child was killed in a nearby village a few years ago."

An estimated 200,000 albinos live in Tanzania, although fewer than 8,000 have registered officially.

Ash, a pastor-turned-businessman who was bullied and beaten as a child for being albino, helps distribute sun screen, hats and sunglasses to albino children who risk cancer because their skin lacks protection against the hot African sun.

"This child died because of government refusal to take him into the school," he told Reuters.

"More needs to be done to provide security in the communities where albinos now live in terror," the International Federation of the Red Cross said in a report last week. Continued...

It said albinos faced "a silent emergency" and that the killings had triggered a "small scale humanitarian crisis" as albinos fled their homes to hide from potential killers.

The report said conditions at the school were so overstretched that headmaster Juma Abdallah feared his institute could turn into a "mini refugee camp".

Children sleep two to a bed and 103 albinos shelter within its barbed wire confines. The school cannot close for holidays for fear of attacks on its pupils.

"The government has not taken serious action to stop the killers," said Alfred Kapole, chairman of the Mwanza Albino Society of Tanzania, dressed in a shirt saying "Stop discrimination against albinos" in Swahili.

"No one knows when or where they will be attacked next. Everybody is too scared even to work," he told Reuters at the school.

Albino trader Leah Magesa, 30, wearing a cloak over her head to protect her from the sun, fears working after dark because of the attacks and had lost more than 50 percent of her business.

"How can you think you can get rich by killing albinos?," she asked.

Meshack Maganga
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