Kidnap of Tanzanian albino child sparks call to enforce witch doctor ban

Tue Feb 17, 2015 1:38pm EST
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By Kizito Makoye

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The abduction of an albino child in Tanzania sparked calls on Tuesday for greater action to enforce a newly-imposed ban on witch doctors to stop the killing of albinos whose body parts are prized in black magic.

The one-year-old boy was grabbed from his mother in his home in the Geita region of northwestern Tanzania on Sunday, a month after the government announced a nationwide ban on witch doctors who are accused of fuelling a wave of attacks on albinos.

More than 70 albinos, who lack pigment in their skin, hair and eyes, have been murdered in the east African nation in the past decade, according to U.N. figures, many hacked to death and their body parts removed to make charms and spells that witch doctors claim bring good luck and wealth.

Joseph Konyo, Geita police commander, said the boy, Yohana Bahati, was snatched by an armed gang in his home from his mother, Esther Bahati, 30, who was hit with a machete as she tried to protect her son at Ilemela village in Chato district.

"Unfortunately this family resides in a protected forest area ... so it was extremely difficult for the police to immediately arrest the suspected robbers," Konyo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The police, who have launched a manhunt for the boy, said two other albino children in the house were not harmed.

"We have stepped up security in the area to ensure that no one else is hurt," Konyo said.

This is the second abduction of an albino child in the northwestern area in two months. Pendo Shilinde, a four-year-old girl, was abducted in December by an armed gang accompanied by a traditional healer from her home at Ndami village in Mwanza region. She is still missing.   Continued...