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THE ALBINO GENOCIDE IN AFRICA

Albino Africans are routinely murdered in Africa and people are not standing up for them. What is being done to them in Africa is horrific. They are being murdered and cut up for their body parts because of stupid false claims of satanic witchcraft.

Edna Cedrick is haunted daily by the image of the decapitated head of her 9-year-old son. Police asked Edna to identify it after the boy, who had albinism, was snatched from her arms in a violent struggle.



The death was one in a recent surge in killings and abductions of people with albinism in southern African countries. They are targeted for their body parts, which are sold to be used in potions made by witch doctors who claim they bring wealth and good luck.

At least 18 albino people have been killed in Malawi in a "steep upsurge in killings" since November 2014, and five others have been abducted and remain missing, according to a new Amnesty International report released Tuesday. The toll is likely much higher because many killings in rural areas are never reported, according to the report. Malawi police also have recorded cases where the bodies of people with albinism have been illegally exhumed.

Malawian police say the growing violence comes after neighboring Tanzania imposed tough measures against such trade in January 2015.

Cedrick, the mother of the murdered boy, recounted his abduction to The Associated Press last month while holding the murdered boy's surviving twin brother, who also has albinism. In the middle of the night, she said, she woke to the sound of people kicking down the door of the house. Her husband was away.

"Before I could understand what was happening, they sliced the mosquito net and grabbed one of the twins," the 26-year-old said, tears in her eyes. "I held on to him by holding his waist, at the same time shielding the other with my back."

When they could not overpower her, one assailant hacked her in the forehead with a machete, she said. "This dazed me, and I lost hold of my son and he was gone. I shouted for help, but when my relatives rushed to our house, they were gone."

The boy's twin keeps asking where his brother is, she said. She lies, saying he will return.

On the same day of the interview, a deadly attack was carried out in another part of Malawi on 38 year-old Fletcher Masina, an albino father of four. When his body was found, the limbs were missing.

"The macabre trade is also fueled by a belief that bones of people with albinism contain gold," the rights group says, noting another mistaken belief is that sex with a person with albinism can cure HIV. The report also points out widespread discrimination against people with albinism, including by family members.

Activists in Malawi recently took to the streets to protest, marching to parliament to present a petition calling for strict penalties for people who attack or kill people with albinism. President Peter Mutharika has since established a committee to look into the issue, which he called disgusting.

"That anybody could think that you can be rich by using bones or something like that because some witch doctors have said so. ... That's stupidity," he told a political rally on June 1.

Police concede that a lack of security has caused persons with albinism, and their parents, to live in fear of attack.

"In rural areas where these attacks are rampant, we do not have enough police officers," the officer in charge in Machinga district, Isaac Maluwa, said.

"When I was growing up there was a stigma," says Ziada Ally Nsembo, an albino who helps lead a group called the Tanzania Albino Society. "But people weren't getting their bones cut—that only starting happening a few years ago."

When an AP crew in Machinga district stopped to talk to a man riding a bicycle and carrying a 3-year-old albino boy, he charged at the crew with a knife.

The man, 31-year-old Razik Jaffalie, later explained that he is in dire straits after giving up his work as a bicycle taxi operator to protect his son.

"My life has come to a standstill," Jaffalie said, then declared: "Anyone who will come to try to snatch my child from me will have to kill me first."

Amid the fears, there are stories of optimism. Mina Godfrey, a 13-year-old girl with albinism in Machinga district, said she placed first in her latest school exams and hopes to become a lawyer. But this comes after she survived being abducted from her bed at night by her uncle.

"I was deep in sleep when next thing I realized was that I was outside the house, naked, while heavy rains pouring down on me," she said. "When I screamed, my uncle grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and I choked."

She tried to flee but was tied to a bicycle that her attackers used to transport her.

"But when we went to the next stop, they untied me to negotiate with the buyer and started discussing before moving away a little bit, giving me an opportunity to run away again," she said. She escaped to a nearby house, where she squatted until the owner found her in the morning.

Though albinism occurs around the world, it is most prevalent in Africa. The World Health Organization reports that as many as one in a thousand people are albino among certain African ethnic groups.



The UN report says that there are tens of thousands of albinos in Africa. They have a genetic condition that deprives their skin, hair, and eyes of melanin, making albinos vulnerable to the sun and to bright light. Almost all albinos are prone to skin cancer.

Albinism doesn't usually affect life span, albino activists in sub-Saharan Africa say their countries' generally poor health care systems often delay cancer diagnosis and treatments, resulting in early death.

Witch doctors, who are still popular in Tanzania and across Africa, even in top socioeconomic ranks. "Even government officials in this county are consulting with witch doctors," says Erick Kabendera, a prominent Tanzanian journalist who has investigated the killings of albinos.

Kabendera says many victims of albino killings are children, a fact noted in the UN report.

"Some even believe that the witchcraft ritual is more powerful if the victim screams during the amputation, so body parts are often cut from live victims, especially children," the report says. "The use of children is likely linked to the pursuit of innocence, which, it is believed, enhances the potency of the witchcraft ritual."

The false beliefs are thought to be especially strong in the Lake Zone, a populous area in Tanzania's northwest that is a staging ground for huge fishing and mining industries.

Some miners from the region are known to use albino body parts as talismans, burying them where they're drilling for gold, while some fishermen weave albino hair into their nets.

"The buyers of albino body parts are people who need wealth—they believe it's an easy way to be rich," says Al-Shaymaa J. Kwegyir, Tanzania's first albino MP. "Men ill with HIV and AIDS have been known to abduct albino girls, in the belief that raping them might help cure their afflictions."

With the body parts believed to be fetching tens of thousands of dollars on the black market, the trade is thought to be driven by the wealthiest members of society.

Kabendera, who has covered the killings for Tanzanian newspapers and has helped produce a documentary about the issue, says that even politicians are thought to be complicit in the murders.

"If a politician needs to win an election, they will consult a witch doctor, but then politicians will blame the fishermen [for murdered albinos]," he says. "They are the scapegoats."

"Mutilation and murders of children with albinism are mostly met by social silence and indifference," says a report released last year by the UN's Special Representative on Violence against Children.