Reuters, Sep 23, 2009, George Obulutsa
DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Tanzania’s high court on Wednesday sentenced three men to hang for the murder of a 13-year-old albino boy, killed for his body parts in the country’s northwest, local media and a rights group said.
At least 53 albinos have been killed since 2007 in the east African nation and their body parts sold for use in witchcraft, especially in the remote northwest regions of Shinyanga and Mwanza where superstition is rife.
Witchdoctors say the body parts of albinos — who lack pigment in their skin, eyes and hair — bring luck in love, life and business. One of the accused was found with two legs belonging to the deceased, Matatizo Dunia, local radio said.
Canadian albino rights group, Under The Same Sun, welcomed the court’s decision but noted that this was just one judgment out of 53 deaths.
“This is one conviction. There are 52 other families still awaiting justice,” Peter Ash, the group’s founder and director, told Reuters by telephone from London.
The government has opened at least 15 cases against suspects involved in the killings, in which body parts like hair, genitals, arms and legs are taken for use by witchdoctors.
Authorities have arrested more than 90 people, including four police officers, for their involvement in the murders or trade of albino body parts.
The killings have sullied Tanzania’s reputation for relative calm in the region, and drawn condemnation from the United Nations and European Union.
In neighbouring Burundi, at least 11 albinos have been killed since last year. So far 13 people have been convicted, including one who received a life sentence.
Authorities in Burundi say people in Tanzania ordered the killings.