Three sentenced to hang for murder of an African 'ghost'

Landmark ruling in Tanzania offers protection for albinos threatened by trade in 'magical' body parts

Three men have been found guilty by a court in Tanzania for murdering an albino boy, in a ruling that campaigners hope will help protect the minority group from being slaughtered for their body parts. The landmark verdict is the first time anyone has been convicted of killing an albino despite more than 50 murders in the past three years.

Albinos – who suffer from a genetic defect that alters their skin and hair pigmentation – have been targeted by modern day witch doctors in East Africa who believe their body parts add potency to black magic rituals.

A string of brutal attacks in which members of the minority group have been literally hacked to pieces, with children as young as five being killed, has provoked angry criticism of the government. Tanzania, while an extremely poor country, has long enjoyed relative stability and is renowned for its spectacular national parks and Indian Ocean coastline.

The President Jakaya Kikwete has spoken out against the killers and banned witch doctors earlier this year, while police have arrested scores of suspects but Tanzania's justice system is notoriously slow and yesterday's conviction was the first of its kind.

The court in the north-western Shinyanga district, close to the shore of Lake Victoria, sentenced the three men to death by hanging for the murder in December last year of 14-year- old Matatizo Dunia. One of the accused was found with both of the boy's legs when he was arrested.

There are an estimated 17,000 albinos in Tanzania and some researchers believe the genetic defect may have originated in East Africa. Today many albinos in the region suffer intense prejudice and are routinely referred to as "zerus" or invisibles.

The skin, hair, eyes and limbs of albinos can command thousands of dollars on the black magic market in Tanzania. These sums – often paid by educated, ambitious city dwellers who travel to rural witch doctors for help with business, family or sexual problems – have been sufficient for freelance killers to hunt the pale-skinned minority.

At least 53 murders have been recorded since September 2007 with the most recent killing taking place last month. While most of the attacks have taken place in the Shinyanga and Mwanza areas in the north-west, albinos are at risk all over the country and body parts have turned up in neighbouring Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.

The Tanzanian Albino Society (TAS) had been warning for years of the growing threat to their community but found initially that there was little official interest in the killings. The UK-based agency, Action on Disability and Development (ADD), which supports TAS, said it "applauds the efforts of the Tanzanian authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice" but called on the courts to commute the death sentences to life imprisonment on appeal.

Since last year, authorities in Tanzania, stung by an international outcry, have launched a public awareness campaign to attack the superstitious beliefs and last year the President appointed the country's first albino MP, the 48-year-old Al-Shymaa Kway-Geer.

There have been 90 arrests so far in the huge East African nation, including four police officers, which has confirmed fears in some quarters that there is official involvement in some of the killings. There are another 15 cases going through the courts in the country.

A local BBC journalist, Vicky Ntetema, was last year forced to flee Tanzania after receiving a string of death threats following an undercover investigation into the trade in body parts.

A Canadian businessman and campaigner, Peter Ash, himself albino, said authorities must pursue the killers in every case. "This is one conviction. There are 52 other families still awaiting justice," he said.

Speaking before the trial on a tour of the country, the campaigner who set up the Under the Same Sun organisation, highlighted the case of a five-year- old girl named Mariam. She was attacked by a group of men in the city of Mwanza. "One of them slit her throat, drained her blood into a saucepan and drank it in the presence of her two siblings," he said. The men then chopped off her limbs and ran off. "Mariam did not have the benefit of being unconscious first," he added. "She was killed, like an animal, by grown men who did this deliberately while her siblings watched."

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music

Animal welfare charities have urged the boy band to cut the scenes

News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin married in Venice yesterday
peopleAmal and George Clooney 'planning third celebration in England'
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley at the premiere of Laggie at Toronto Film Festival 2014
theatreActress 'to make Broadway debut'
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Focused Business Analyst - Finance and Procurement System Implementation

£350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reading are...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM - A high q...

Head of ad sales international - Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you the king or Queen o...

Note Taker - Scribe

£10 per hour: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experienced note taker...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker