Saturday, 9 November 2019

Ritual Killers Target Albinos' Body Parts in Zambia

By Paul Shalala
A poster the Albinism Foundation of Zambia
is circulating against killing of albinos
Parents of children born with albinism across Zambia are now employing extra security for their children following a number of cases in which albinos have been killed or brutally attacked by ritual killers.
Some Zambian fortune seekers believe that using albino body parts can make one rich.
This myth has led to many albinos being killed or their body parts being chopped off.
In the latest case, a seven year old female albino in the mining town of Kitwe lost her left arm and hair after three assailants broke into her family house.
Dorothy Mulenga, who is a Grade One pupil at Mutupa Primary School, was sleeping with her sister and parents on Tuesday night when the three men stormed their house in rural Kitwe and snatched her in the dead of the night.
“The three men were armed with machetes, they broke the window, jumped into our house and grabbed my daughter. They threw her outside and ran with her towards the bush,” said Joseph Mulenga, the 27 year father who watched the attack as it unfolded.
Mulenga says as he and his wife pursued the attackers, they sliced off her left arm and dropped her 100 meters away from the house.
“They ran away with my daughter’s arm. Am worried about our safety. They may come back and kill me so that they can get her. We are asking our government to guarantee our safety.”
Police said the motive of the attack was not known.
“The couple decided to shout for help and after realizing that the neighbours would come, the criminals immediately chopped off the left arm of the girl just slightly above the elbow using a machete and took away the piece to unknown destination,” said Police Commissioner Charity Katanga who presides over the Copperbelt region where the attack happened.
The house where three criminals abducted Dorothy Mulenga
A visit to the family house by this blogger revealed a trail of blood from the house to a nearby bush where the girl had been dumped by her attackers.
Four days after the attack, no one has been arrested.
But this case has brought a lot of good will from civic leaders, human rights activists and other well-wishers who have donated money and material things to support Dorothy and her family.
Dorothy spent three days in the Intensive Care Unit of the Kitwe Teaching Hospital and she was only moved to a general ward on Friday.
Due to worries about ritual killers striking again, the juvenile is being guarded while in hospital and access to her is strictly supervised.
Another recent case of an attack on an albino happened on 31 October when a 39 year old man was murdered in the eastern Zambian town of Nyimba in a night attack by ritual killers.
The attackers used a knife to cut his throat but before they could get any body parts, villagers pursued the attackers who were at the time dragging the albino to a nearby bush.
The attackers scampered in all directions upon seeing the villagers in pursuit.
“The deceased was attacked while he was sleeping in his grass thatched house and in the process his throat was completely cut and was stabbed twice on the left side of the chest’” said Zambia Police Service Spokesperson Esther Katongo.
After intense investigations, Police arrested four people, who included a married couple who are believed to be the masterminds of the murder.
They have all been charged with murder and are scheduled to appear in court in the coming week.
This case has brought anxiety in eastern Zambia especially among the albino community.
Chief Ndake of the Nsenga speaking people of Nyimba has immediately summoned all his Headmen in the area to sensitise them against the myth that albino body parts are a lucky charm.
In an interview with the Zambia News and Information Services which has been shared widely to all media house in Zambia, the traditional leader expressed shock that such a gruesome murder happened in his chiefdom.
And a clergyman in the region has called for citizens to protect all albinos from ritual killers.
“They (albinos) just have a deficiency of scientific attribute that makes them look the way they look but in terms of humanity, they are as good as anyone else and they should be left alone to do whatever they want,” said Bishop William Mchombo of the Anglican Diocese of Eastern Zambia.
And in northern Zambia, a 73 year old albino had her fingers cut off and a tooth removed by unknown people on 25 July this year.
Three suspects were arrested in this matter, who included a grandchild of the victim.
The three are still appearing in court while the victim was relocated from her village for her own safety.
Over the years, the Albinism Foundation of Zambia (AFZ) has been supporting and relocating many albinos who are attacked or those who do not feel safe.
John Chiti
The organization says most of these attacks are carried out by ritual killers and people who sale albino body parts to buyers both locally and abroad.
“Most of the cases where albinos are being attacked are happening in rural areas because there is lack of security. We note that these cases are increasing because there is trafficking of body parts from one country to the other,” said AFZ Executive Director John Chiti, who is a prominent Zambian musician.
He goes on to explain that in Chama, a town which borders Malawi, a young girl was attacked last year and one of her hands was chopped off.
Mr Chiti says with the help of the Police, the hand was recovered in Malawi and this proves that trafficking in albino body parts is an international activity.
“We are asking the Police to do their job and ensure that people attacking albinos are brought to book. To the families of albinos, please stay safe, take care of the children because our lives are in danger due to these ritual killers who are after us,” he added.
And a young parent who has two children living with albinism in the mining town of Kalulushi says he has started taking precautions for his children.
“I have two children who are albinos and we are worried now. Should we be guarding them everytime? When they are going to school, should we escort them? This is very worrying. Our children are now a target and for me, am now guarding them throughout,” said the parent who sought anonymity.
For years, albinos were living freely in Zambia and there was even a common adage that “Albinos do not die, they just disappear.”
However, now they are being killed or attacked for being what they are.

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