False notions on people with albinism

Beliefs About Albinism

Beliefs and myths about Albino people in Tanzania and the rest of Africa, are heavily influenced by centuries old superstitions and present till today widespread by witchdoctors.

People with albinism never die. They are not human – they are ghosts!

People with Abinism condition are perceived in many cases as ghosts that can simply vanish, a curse from the gods or from the ancestors, as devil person. It is believed that contact with Albino person will bring bad luck, sickness or death.

There are at least 20 different words with negative connotation used only in Tanzania for Albino condition: Zeru Zeru, Kaselema, Embulamwela (white dog), Mwera, Abela, Dinzelu, Tyu (white monster), Isope, Isoye, Mbulamwela, Lisowe, Risohe, Amasohe, Mlangala, Vhalangala (meaning transparent evil spirit), Mwema, Avhbema, Sope, Tupinkile, Mbilimelo, Elihehe, Lijungu.

tanzania albinos ukerewe island

Most of the listed words above have similar meaning  – whitish ghost-like creature. A local from Ukerewe Island explained that things are slowly changing and nowadays those negative words are used less frequently due to work and education of NGOs in local communities . The proper non- insulting term in Swahili would be “mtu mwenye ulemavu wa ngozi” which means a person with skin disability.

Having sex with a woman with albinism will cure AIDS.


Potions and Charms made of Albino body parts bring Wealth and Good Luck

A charm or potion made from the body parts of a person with albinism, has magical powers – bringing its owner wealth, success and good luck. So, touching  alive Albino brings bad luck and dead Albinos body parts bring good luck. And this is where the horror stories begin.  Killings, kidnappings and murders of Albinos.

Many also believe that rituals and charms increase in their magical powers if the body parts are amputated from alive person, screaming during amputation. Then there is the specific use of children, as they are easier target along with boosting magical rituals because of their innocence.

Although Albinos are in constant threat on a daily basis, the most risky time for Albino is time before elections. In 2015 when Tanzanian elections took place, Tanzanian government detained a little less than 40 traditional healers to protect and lower the possibility of Albino killings.  Who actually are buyers, is still unknown, but it is clear that the Albino trade is a huge business.

albinos tanzania ukerewe island

To spot a vulnerable Albino  person it is said that informant gets paid 100 USD, while the prices for killings are unknown to authorities.   Witch doctors  offer to pay for a complete set of albino body parts – genitals, tongue, ears, nose and all four limbs for 75,000 USD while alive, kidnapped Albino can be sold to buyer for 250 000 USD.

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