The Grisly 'Charms' That Spurred a Witch Doctor Ban

Tanzania's albinos are attacked for their body parts for black-magic potions
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2015 4:03 PM CST
This photo taken Aug. 29, 2012, shows Angel Salvatory, 17, with her half-brother and mother, whom she had not seen in her four years away from home after her own father led a group to attack her.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(Newser) – Being kidnapped and killed for body parts sounds like something out of a horror movie, but for Tanzania's albino population, it's a horror that's all too real. The country has issued a ban on witch doctors to try to stem such murders, which officials say are carried out for black-magic purposes, Reuters reports. Officials accuse witch doctors of convincing people to bring them those who suffer from albinism—an inherited disorder that decreases or eliminates the pigment melanin, affecting skin, eye, and hair color—so they can grind the body parts with herbs and other elements to make good-luck charms and spells. The going price for albino body parts in Tanzania is about $600, while an entire body is worth about $75,000, the AFP reports.

About 1 out of every 1,400 people has albinism in Tanzania, compared to 1 in 37,000 in the US, per the Harvard International Review. Two reasons have been cited for this high number: It’s believed the albinism genetic mutation originated in this region of East Africa, and albinos tend to marry each other because of ostracization, increasing their chance of having albino children, NPR notes. The BBC reports that 70 albinos have been killed in Tanzania in the past three years, followed by only 10 murder convictions, though Reuters and AFP cite UN stats showing about 70 murders over the last 10 or 15 years. Either way, Mathias Chikawe, the country's home affairs minister, says a task force has been set up to nab persistent witch doctors, especially in five areas where albino abductions happen most. (Swaziland has set up a similar initiative.)

My Take on This Story
Show results without voting  |