Albino: the Unfortunate European in Unfortunate Africa

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Recently, a headless body was found on the street in Chikwawa, a southern town in Malawi. The parents of a harmless two year old girl, Tiwonge Chisomo in Zomba district of Malawi have been living in perpetual fear after receiving threats from anonymous people. Not long ago, police in Tanzania rescued a six year old boy from aggressive attackers who wanted to hack him to death. What of the parents, Amali and Haima who decided to withdraw their two kids from school ““ and most recently, from the public in general – for fear of being mercilessly slaughtered?

One could go on with different graphic examples of instances like those above, but the one thing that the stories, share in common is that the victims in those horrific stories are not criminals. Nor have the kids committed atrocities. Neither have they broken any law. Their only “crime“ is their colour. Their skin colour. They are albinos – victims of a hereditary genetic condition which causes an absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes.

In Africa, where superstition is the order of the day, the myopic belief that expensive concoctions made from albino`s body parts bring good luck, has made albinos not only vulnerable, the group has become a victim of human rights abuse. Ironically, albinos vulnerability to medical complications makes them equally vulnerable to social discrimination as well. But that is not all. With albino body parts selling for around $600, with an entire corpse fetching $75,000 in Tanzania, a poor country, struggling to put food daily on the table for its citizens, you begin to appreciate the precarious situation of albinos in such a country and other places, where albinism has become synonymous with merciless murder.

Recently, the President of Malawi, Dr Peter Mutharika has seriously condemned violence against albinos and ordered an immediate crackdown on the culprits of the barbaric crime, which to many, amounts to a genocide. Our societies are reflections of discriminatory discourses. From prejudice against women to unfortunate discrimination against other minorities, mistreatment of albinos in Africa is far worse than even their medical complications. In Tanzania, for example, apart from being hunted for the myopic, watery belief that their body parts bring “good luck,“ – an act which has resulted in those body parts being sold not only in Tanzania, Malawi, Burundi, Zaire and other places – many witch doctors make fortunate from the poor albinos and gullibility of their African customers who believe in the power of the expensive albino concoctions.

“Ironically, since you strongly believe that those body parts of albinos bring good luck and riches, instead of killing them, why don`t you keep or befriend albinos and hopefully benefit more abundantly from the whole body – rather than from the parts of the body alone?“ Kata Kata`s reporter asked one Zanzige Ntumbuka, who is under police custody for allegedly killing his albino neighbour for charms.

Ntumbuka looked at her disrespectfully with disbelief as if she had asked the silliest question. The reporter had to cross check her question and wondered who was mental. ““ She or those believers in albino concoction fallacies.
“It is not only the albino but the things mixed with the parts that make the charm work too good.“ He responded sheepishly albeit fully convinced of his shallow belief.

Definitely, a combination of gullibility and superstition is a dangerous life path for any country trying to follow a genuine developmental progress. In Africa, where many do, more often than none, not know the cause of albinism or the fact that it can be hereditary, albinos are still not only discriminated against, they are hunted by albino hunters and heartlessly murdered, and their body parts sold to witch-doctors. Because of the superstition, often parents kill their own newly born albinos to “save them and the family“ from discrimination in the society. Other parents even go further by killing their innocent albinos because they are regarded as a taboo or bad omen. Those albinos who are lucky to survive the rat race still face insurmountable obstacles and challenges in their lives. Some of them are mercilessly raped or sodomized because of the superstition in countries like Zimbabwe that sleeping with an albino can cure diseases such as HIV/AIDS. In other words, albinos are often systematically infected with deadly HIV/AIDS by those who myopically believe that they are the cure of their AIDS. Double jeopardy, one would say!

However, a little knowledge of the cause of albinism can not only reduce discrimination against albinos, it can save their lives. Albinism, a hereditary genetic condition which causes an absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes, is not only limited to the human race. The animal kingdom is not free of albino. It is not strange to see albino gorillas, snakes, birds, reindeers or even albino frogs. One might be tempted to ask why those African native doctors don`t try their concoctions, or even sleep with those animals – not that these animals do not have right to live, anyway. When our reporter confronted one man in Mzuzu, Malawi who gave his name as Nzama over albino killings, he insisted remorselessly that he was advised by a well-known native doctor to sleep with an albino in order to become rich. Furthermore, he narrated ““ and believed strongly – that his rich neighbour did exactly the same. The following day when our reporter gave him an albino frog and gorilla to sleep with, Nzama was visibly shocked, insulted and bitter.

“Eeee they have an albino gorilla too? Me, I don`t do any nyafu – nyafu with gorilla. Me, I am a gentleman.“ Nzama screamed at our reporter angrily.

However, the reporter reminded him that albino is the same ““ whether human or animal albino. Unfortunately, Nzama seemed to pay little attention to the explanations of the reporter, but clearly retaliated that he wanted to get rich, “just like our politicians.“ Then he looked steadily at the reporter and added, as if to remind her the obvious truth: “˜You think those rich – rich men don`t do the same. Some of them even sleep with mad women and snakes?`

Unfortunately, it is difficult to ascertain Nzama`s claims. However, what is obvious is that many African countries often display a lukewarm attitude towards stamping out the barbaric albino killings. Clearly, with the nonchalant attitude, would one be blamed for suspecting that the politician, government official and law enforcement agents are part of the albino problems? The appointment of an albino minister, as in the case of Tanzania is a good step in the right direction. However,  without making a strong legislation to ban the illicit trade or enforcing the law by the law enforcement agents, only encourage the evil practice to continue.

Education, enlightenment, strong law backed up by zero tolerance of the law enforcement agents against those who engage ““ directly or indirectly – in albino killings are the best way to eradicate this inhuman practice and make albinos in African not only feel safe. The measures will give albinos some sense of belonging, identity and peace, which they badly need. With his in mind, soon the unfortunate Europeans would become fortunate in Africa.

The above story is a parody. It is entirely fictitious; therefore none of the characters mentioned in the story are real.