Tanzania has officially proscribed witchdoctors from practicing in the country and so far, apologists for traditional religions have not found their voice to criticize the action. The drastic decision followed the unrelenting abductions and killing of albinos for rituals in that country. According to Tanzania's Home Affairs Minister Mathias Chikawe:"We have identified that witch doctors are the ones who ask people to bring albino body parts to create magical charms which they claim can get them rich. We will leave no stone unturned until we end these evil acts."
However the proscription has not done much to bring succor to the estimated 17,000 albinos (1 in 1429 births in Tanzania give an albino) in that country. Cases of abductions of albinos, even from their homes especially in rural settings continue to be reported and police have started arresting and detaining witchdoctors. In March, some 32 were reportedly detained in the North-Western Geita region, while another 200 traditional healers/witchdoctors were hauled into detention a week later.
Apparently, the battle is still just beginning. Government was actually forced to pronounce the proscription of traditional witchdoctors based on the realization that the evil market-demand for albinos was bound to soar in view of the country’s coming general elections - when candidates are expected to flood to witchdoctors seeking “traditional protections and goodluck charms”.
According to the Red Cross, witchdoctors are prepared to pay $75,000 for a complete set of albino body parts.
Josephat Torner, an activist fighting for the rights and safety of albinos in Tanzania averred that even family members, tempted by the huge price, have been known to sell their own kiths and kins to witch doctors for money. "I have found many parents who have been convicted for this," said Josephat, who himself is an albino. "They sold their children to the killers."
This statement has been corroborated on many occasions. For instance, the husband of Zawadi Mangidu was among the four people sentenced for her killing in 2008 in Geita at the age of 22. Similarly the biological father of 4-year old Pendo Emmanuelle Nundi snatched from home in Kwimba district was among the 15 suspects initially arrested in connection with her disappearance.
According to UN statistics, nearly 80 albino-related murders have been reported in Tanzania in the past 15 years, averaging one every other month.
At Church Arise! we have always argued (CA! VOL 16 NO 3) that while the religious preference of individuals should be respected, those whose religion overtly demand the sacrifices of fellow humans certainly need to have some explanations to make to the rest of society..For more, read: Fueled by superstition, people are violently attacking albinos in Tanzania.