The Tanzanian government urged politicians against seeking witchcraft to widen their chances of winning the general elections in October. Tanzania’s deputy home affairs minister Pereira Silima warned lawmakers of phony promises from witch doctors who use albino body parts in spells and charms claiming to bring good fortune, Reuters reported.
“I want to assure my fellow politicians that there won’t be any parliamentary seat that will be won as a result of using albino body parts,” Silima told Tanzania’s national parliament late last week.
For the first time, the Tanzanian government acknowledged a link between lawmakers and albino killings. Silima said past reports of politicians who sought magic potions from witch doctors could be true since albino attacks increased during elections. Witch doctors will pay as much as $75,000 for a complete set of albino body parts, according to a Red Cross report.
“As sad and disgusting as it is to hear a government minister admitting that politicians are involved in albino killings, I am glad that finally this is an official acknowledgement,” Vicky Ntetema, executive director of Under the Same Sun, a Canadian nonprofit working to defend albinos, told Reuters.
In March, the United Nations warned of a marked rise in albino killings and attacks in Tanzania and other East African countries as politicians turn to witch doctors to help them win elections. Tanzania banned witchcraft earlier this year in an effort to stop a trade in albino body parts. Police have since arrested more than 30 witch doctors to curb attacks, Reuters reported.
“These attacks are often stunningly vicious, with children in particular being targeted,” United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement in March. “As a result, many people with albinism are living in abject fear. Some no longer dare to go outside, and children with albinism have stopped attending school because of the recent spate of assaults, murders and kidnappings.”
Albinos, who lack pigment in their skin, hair and eyes, are subject to violence in many parts of Africa. But kidnappings, attacks and killings of albinos are more common in Tanzania, where an estimated one Tanzanian in 1,400 has the congenital disorder. At least 75 albinos, including children, have been brutally killed in Tanzania since 2000, according to the United Nations.