Tanzania presidential candidate denounces albino killings

Albino body parts are prized as lucky charms in the east African nation.
Albino body parts are prized as lucky charms in the east African nation.PHOTO: REUTERS

DAR ES SALAAM (AFP) - Tanzania's ruling party presidential election candidate on Tuesday (Oct 20) denounced the killing of albinos, whose body parts are prized as lucky charms in the east African nation, as "silly" and a "national shame".

The Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party candidate, John Magufuli, was speaking during a campaign rally in the northern district of Sengerema, situated on the southern shores of Lake Victoria, ahead of this Sunday's elections.

The polls have been marked by fears of a spike in albino murders, with rights groups warning that some politicians may also be seeking lucky charms.

Magufuli, however, described such beliefs as "utter nonsense".

At least 76 albinos have been murdered since 2000 with their dismembered body parts selling for around US$600 (S$834) and entire bodies fetching US$75,000, according to United Nations experts.

Dozens more have survived having parts of their bodies hacked off while still alive.

"It is silly for a fisherman to think that he will catch huge amount of fish by having parts of an albino's body. This is a great national shame and must stop right now," Magufuli said.

In March, outgoing President Jakaya Kikwete said attacks against people with albinism were "disgusting and a big embarrassment for the nation".

Albinism is a hereditary genetic condition which causes a total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes. It affects one Tanzanian in 1,400, often as a result of inbreeding, experts say.