White Shadow review (in the Guardian): a brutal, honest portrayal of Tanzanian albinism

Alias is the young albino boy who lives in fear of his life. Photograph: White Shadow /Pressshot

Alias is the young albino boy who lives in fear of his life. Photograph: White Shadow /Pressshot

This review was originally published by the (UK) Guardian Africa Network on March 19, 2015.

White Shadow, released this week in the UK tells the story of a teenage Tanzanian boy with albinism, Alias, who lives in constant fear of his life.

The film, by German director Noaz Deshe, tells a fictional story informed by the situation facing Tanzania’s albino population today.

At least 75 people with albinism have been killed in Tanzania since 2000, with many suffering violent attacks. A belief that albino body parts can be used to bring good fortune has been a key factor in fuelling the violence. Continue reading

Access to Information bill to be fast-tracked through Tanzanian parliament

Tz map flag FOI

UPDATE, 28/3/15:

Following concerted lobbying by a coalition of media and civil society organisations, (including my employers, Twaweza), the government has dropped plans to fast-track the Access to Information and Media Services Bills. The bills may yet be presented to parliament in the current session for first reading, but the Attorney General, George Masaju, has promised that stakeholders will be given time to read and comment on the bill. 


 

Tanzania’s long-awaited Access to Information bill – promised by President Kikwete 18 months ago and included the current Open Government action plan – may be about to become a reality, though in far from ideal circumstances.

The Tanzanian government announced late last week that six bills*, including the Access to Information Bill, will be rushed through parliament over the next two weeks, under a “certificate of urgency” (hati ya dharura). This allows all three stages of the bill to be conducted in a single session: introducing the bill to the house (first reading), debate (second reading) and a vote (third reading).  Continue reading

Is there still time for NEC to complete biometric voter registration for Tanzania’s constitution referendum?

Nipashe, 11/3/15

Nipashe, 11/3/15

The cartoon above highlights that we are rapidly running out of time for the official education process. But the bigger obstacle seems likely to be the voter registration process. Is there still enough time for Tanzania’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) to complete biometric voter registration by April 30, 2015?

Using some figures shared by NEC and quoted in the media, I have done some rough calculations. It’s not possible to be precise, and there are several assumptions involved, so I cannot give a firm conclusion. But I think it gives a useful indication of the challenge.

So, on the back of an envelope …

Continue reading

Chart #37: Spiritual beliefs in sub-Saharan Africa – religion, superstition and attacks on people with albinism

These interactive charts draw on data I have used before – the 2010 Pew survey of religious beliefs in sub-Saharan Africa (see full report and data here – pdf). I post the data again here with more detail for you to explore – you can select what specific belief you wish to examine using the drop down menu.

It’s particularly interesting in the context of heightened attention on superstitious beliefs in Tanzania, following the recent spate of brutal attacks on people living with albinism. As I have posted before, attacks on people with albinism have been more common in Tanzania than elsewhere in Africa.

 

So what do the charts tell us?

I want to make one main point, which is this: in several areas of superstition / supernatural belief, Tanzania is way ahead of the rest of Africa.

According to this survey, 93% of Tanzanians believe in witchcraft, 80% that some people can cast spells, and 96% in evil spirits . In all three cases, Tanzania “leads” in these beliefs. In fact, compared to most of the surveyed countries, Tanzania “leads” by a long distance.

Second, several commentators have argued that if Tanzania was more god-fearing, attacks on people with albinism would not happen. But this data shows that Tanzanians’ beliefs in more respectable aspects of religious belief – such things as angels, heaven and hell – are very similar to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. It seems unlikely that the problem is that Tanzanians are not sufficiently religious. Beliefs in Islam and Christianity exist alongside very widely held beliefs in witchcraft, evil spirits and curses.

Finally, exactly the same points can be made about violent attacks on people accused of practising witchcraft – usually elderly women. Nipashe newspaper reported yesterday on four recent mob murders of people in their 80s in Dodoma and Mara regions. They were accused of using witchcraft to bring drought to their villages.

Translated excerpts from President Kikwete’s monthly address – on attacks against people with albinism

President Kikwete declined to receive the planned demonstration by the Tanzania Albinism Society (TAS) yesterday, which was then banned by the police. However, in his latest monthly address he spoke extensively on the topic. I have translated the key excerpts, which are pasted below. Continue reading

Chart #36: Chinese influence in Tanzania

The increasing presence and influence of China in Africa is controversial to some. But not, it seems, to Tanzanians. New data from the latest round of Afrobarometer surveys has just been released, with some analysis (pdf) of how Tanzanians perceive Chinese influence.

I have four charts for you. First, how influential do Tanzanians think China actually is, compared to other countries / institutions?

Continue reading