Africa and ritual killings


WHEN some people are inventing gadgets that make the life of humankind simple, for example, iPads, smartphones and tablets, among others, some backward man is sitting on a reed mat in a jungle somewhere in Cameroon advising people how to make money using human parts from an albino.
The story written by Vibeke Venema of the BBC World Service, titled ‘The albino who confronted a witchdoctor’ (May 16 2016), prompted me to write this article.
The story describes how Stephane Ebongue, born with albinism, fled Cameroon in 2007 amid fears he would be murdered to appease a volcanic eruption, which seemed imminent.
“It is believed that when there is an eruption it means Epasamoto, the god of the mountain, is angry,” Ebongue told the journalist.
“To calm him down they need the blood of an albino.”
“When the volcano had erupted in 1999, lava flowed down the side of the mountain, stopping just short of Buea.
“There were no casualties, but the traditional doctors claimed the town had been spared only because albinos had been sacrificed” – (BBC World Affairs).
According to Ebongue, his elder brother, Maurice, who was also an albino, was murdered more than 30 years ago.
He was found murdered with his stomach cut open, some body parts taken out.
When Ebongue, now a journalist living in Italy, decided to confront one of the witchdoctors in his home country about why people with albinism are being killed, he was told: “You do not even know your value.
“How much you’re worth.
“Albinos are in great demand – albinos just like you.
“From your hair to your bones, you are so sought-after.
“So much so that if we hear that an albino has been buried somewhere we go and find them in order to recover some parts which are really important and help us.
“People go in search of money.
“They kill albinos not for the pleasure of killing them, but to make money.
“That is why they get killed.” – (BBC World Affairs, May 16 2016)
In Tanzania alone, it is estimated that 74 people with albinism were murdered between 2000 and 2015 and their body parts used as charms or muti to make money.
“Body parts sell for around US$600 in Tanzania, with an entire corpse fetching US$75 000,” according to an article written by David Smith in The Guardian on January 14 last year.
This led to the Government of Tanzania banning witchdoctors in a move to end albino killings.
To protect children with albinism, they were placed in special homes.
In one incident in Tanzania, it was reported that a four-year-old girl with albinism was kidnapped from her home by men armed with machetes in the northern Mwanza region and the police arrested 15 people, including the girl’s father and two uncles although they could not find the girl.
This means that children with albinism are not safe even from their own parents and immediate relatives.
“The situation is so bad because people with albinism are afraid of going out and are not going to work,” wrote David Smith, quoting Ziziyada Nsembo, secretary-general of the Tanzania Albinism Society.
“Children are hiding in the house.
“Mothers take children aged one and two to a special centre for their safety where they are like orphans.
“They lose the love of their mothers.”
In Zimbabwe, albinism is not a risk factor to ritual murders although there have been some reports of people being murdered for rituals.
In 2011, the NewsDay wrote about how ritual murders were rocking Masvingo.
“Several incidents have been reported where children or adults were found dead with missing body parts,” the NewsDay reported.
“The belief in the town is that the body parts were being sold in South Africa.”
These ritual killings seem widespread in many African countries as they are embedded in most African beliefs.
Here in the UK, the body of a boy, given the name Adam by the Metropolitan Police, was found floating in River Thames.
“A boy whose mutilated torso was discovered floating in the River Thames last September was the victim of a gruesome West African ‘religious’ sacrifice intended to bring good luck and was trafficked into the country expressly for the killing,” reported The Guardian newspaper on June 2 2002.
The boy’s origin was traced to Benin.
This shocked not only the African community in the UK and the Netherlands, but the entire European Union community.
“Adam was well-treated before he was killed.
“Traces of a common over-the-counter cough medicine were found in his stomach, indicating someone wanted him in good health for the day of his execution.” (The Guardian June 2 2002).
I grew up in a village where there was a girl with albinism.
Her mother was very protective of her and she was loved by the entire community.
When I went to Monte Cassino Mission in 1984 for my secondary education, there was a girl with albinism and she was not treated any differently because of her skin condition.
She died last year after battling with skin cancer and most of the girls in our cohort (stream) contributed towards her medical care until she died, many thanks to a lady called Vimbai Chinganyanya who organised the fundraising and took charge of most of her medical bills.
That is ubuntu/hunhu.
Wake up Africa!
Killing somebody for body parts will not make you rich.
It will only bring bad luck to your families and in addition, the wrath of the law.
It is murder.
We need to move on and stop believing in some of these archaic practices which have no place in the age of technology.
Why don’t we use these ‘witchcraft sciences’ to invent things that will make our lives easier?
Perhaps the Government of Tanzania was right to outlaw witchdoctors.
The killing of people with albinism had become an embarrassment to the East African country.


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