Four men have been sentenced to death by hanging, for killing a 54-year-old albino man.

Mail Online, 3 November 2009.

Tanzanian television footage showed the men, who killed Lyaku Willy and removed his head and legs, leaving the courtroom in Shinyanga region under heavy police escort.

Mr Willy’s killing was one of a spate of attacks on the country’s estimated 200,000 albinos in the past two years, mostly in the remote northwest of the country near Lake Victoria, where superstition runs deep.

Sentenced to death: The four men who killed Lyaku Willy

Mr Willy, who suffered from learning difficulties, had his throat slit and his torso was dumped in a well by the four men convicted of his murder.

Mboje Mawe, Chenyenye Kishiwa, Sayi Gamaya, who is the victim’s brother-in-law, and Sayi Mafizi all denied the charges.

The court heard how Mr Willy was lured to his death by promises he would be taken to hospital for treatment to a lesion on his leg, the Tanzanian Citizen reported.

Senior State Attorney Edwin Kakolapi gave a graphic description of how the men persuaded Mr Willy to stop to wash his leg in a river, before launching the attack and drowning him.

Superstition about the ‘luck’ brought by albino body parts runs deep in Tanzania (file picture)

‘The four men then pulled the lifeless body out of the water and the first and second accused proceeded to cut off the head, while the third and fourth accused chopped off the limbs,’ Mr Kakolapi said.

Mawe allegedly admitted during interrogation that he and his co-accused had killed Mr Willy.

He reportedly told investigators that they had intended to sell the body parts to a witchdoctor.

The body parts are prized in some regions of Tanzania, where witchdoctors say albinos – who lack pigment in their skin, eyes and hair – bring luck in love, life and business.

Albino hunters who believe in black magic or ‘muti’ kill their victims and harvest their blood and body parts such as hair, genitals and limbs for potions.

Known as the ‘tribe of ghosts’, ‘zeros’ or ‘the invisibles’, African albinos have suffered appalling treatment for decades, with murders often taking place in the open.

Fishermen on the shores of Lake Victoria are known to weave albino hair into their nets and bones are ground down and buried in the earth by miners, who believe they will be transformed into diamonds.

Genitals are made into treatments to boost sexual potency and with body parts fetching thousands of pounds, trade continues too boom.

‘We are glad that the family and friends of Lyaku can finally have a sense of justice after this horrific loss,’ Peter Ash, founder of Under The Same Sun, a Canadian campaign group, said.

‘We urge the authorities to swiftly act on the sentence. Justice delayed is justice denied.’

The convictions bring to seven the number of people sentenced for murdering albinos, following the first conviction of three albino killers in September.

‘The albino community still lives in a state of absolute fear,’ said Ash, a Canadian albino.

‘Just last week (an) innocent 10-year-old was butchered to death in Geita. His father now fights for his life in hospital due to an attempt to save his son.’

Ash called on the government to protect albinos.

The killings have tainted Tanzania’s reputation for relative calm in the region, and been condemned by the United Nations and European Union.

Many Africans believe that having sex with an albino will cure them of Aids, leading to countless rape cases against albino women, leaving them HIV positive.


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