As Tanzania Cracks Down on Albino Witchcraft Murders, Malawi Sees Rise in Attacks

AFP / Milliyet Daily Handout / Bunyamin Aygun
AFP / Milliyet Daily Handout / Bunyamin Aygun

A man in Malawi was arrested this week for attempting to murder a 16-year-old albino boy. Authorities say attacks against people with albinism have risen in the past year, as witch doctors claim potions made with the body parts of albinos can change the fate of those willing to pay to kill them.

The AFP reports that the man has been arrested, but that the attempt to kill the albino boy was only the latest in a string of incidents, including six murders in the past year. The result has been a climate of terror for albino Africans who have taken to staying indoors and keeping their children from school to prevent them being hacked to pieces.

Voice of America notes that, in addition to hacking attacks and murders, abductions have also increased in frequency in Malawi. One of those incidents, this week, involved the kidnapping of a two-year-old girl, prevented by the intervention of an angry crowd. Thirteen have been arrested for the string of violent acts against albinos this year.

In another incident, an 11-year-old was kidnapped by her own uncle, who told police he had been offered $6,500 to kidnap her for use in witchcraft rituals.

Boniface Massa, the head of an albino community organization, told reporters albino individuals are struggling to lead normal lives while fearing abduction, dismemberment, and murder. “Our major concern is the security aspect. Most of us are living in fear. We can’t do our things freely because we are not sure who to trust, even our own relatives or our neighbors,” he said.

The rise in cases of albino attacks in Malawi follows a major crackdown on the practice of using albino flesh for witchcraft in Tanzania. In Tanzania, desperation to acquire albino flesh had grown to such intensity that hacking attacks became common– individuals try to chop off an albino’s limb or piece of flesh to escape with something while not having to endure the dangers involved in killing or abducting someone.

In December, Tanzania made witch doctors illegal altogether. The country announced this week that the new law had resulted in the arrest of over 200 witch doctors and assorted traditional herbalists who were still looking to find sellers of albino flesh. Thirty-two witch doctors were arrested in the past week. This has not stopped the attacks on albinos, however, it has just made them more risky for those partaking. Authorities noted in their announcement of an increase in arrests over albino attacks that a one-year-old was murdered last week for his albino body.


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