An angry mob in Malawi has reportedly set a group of people on fire, beating them and using gasoline to burn and kill them. The mob apparently believed the group of people were in possession of human bones. There has been an uptake in the sale and trade of human body parts in the region, with a special significance on the bones of an albino, which supposedly bring good luck.
Criminal gangs prowl the streets in Malawi, Burundi, and Tanzania armed to the teeth and making life a nightmare for people with albinism. These “albino hunters” abduct and kill anyone they can find with the characteristic melanin-free skin, including children and even their own relatives. According to the International Red Cross:
Burundians – no less shocked by the killings than their Tanzanian neighbours – believe the market for albino body parts exists mainly if not exclusively in Tanzania, generated by big-money buyers who use them as talismans to bring luck and above all wealth. Senior police officers in Dar es Salaam said a complete set of albino body parts – including all four limbs, genitals, ears, tongue and nose – was fetching the equivalent of 75,000 US dollars.
Many of these abductions and murders go unreported to the police, so the number of people affected by these bloody gangs could be much higher than the world knows. As of now, about 50 cases of violence agains albinos have been reported, 11 murders and about 34 attacks that included some form of body mutilation. According to Malawi police spokesman Nicholas Gondwa:
“Over 30 criminal cases were reported that included killings, abductions, and being found with bones of persons with albinism. Just imagine, there are even some daredevils who go to cemeteries to dig graves where people with albinism were buried. All that is done in the name of hunting for the body parts or bones of albinos,”
The exact origin of the occult significance of albino body parts is unknown, though some blame witch doctors who prey upon the poor and ignorant. It is believed that these occult leaders started the tale that the body parts of albinos hold special powers and can be used as charms for good luck. The story has taken a life of its own, however, as violence escalates. According to the Executive Director of the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi, Boniface Massa:
“There are all sorts of baseless misconceptions. They include the wrong belief that having sex with an albino will cure HIV and Aids. Some are hoodwinked into believing that our body parts can make one get rich quickly, either by using parts such as eyes to be visionary and forward-looking. Those are empty lies,”
While the lies spread like wildfire, the police are spread thin to react to the violence. They have enacted a shoot-to-kill policy for anyone caught in the act of abducting or killing albinos. However, the community also seems to be taking matters into their own hands.
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