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.
The official Swahili text is available here, which is what I used for the translation (though the President departed from the published text at several points). The full speech is available on YouTube, the section on attacks against people with albinism starts at 18:18.
Here’s the translation:
I am very saddened by reports that the killing of our fellow citizens with albinism (Albino) has re-emerged after the situation stabilized in 2011. Last year (2014) three incidents occurred in the regions of Mwanza, Tabora and Simiyu, and this year on one occasion, in Geita region.
We must strongly condemn the killing of albinos. These are acts of brutality that are not expected in any society of civilized people, of people who worship God. People with albinism are fellow human beings, with the same rights to life and protection of their lives as other humans. They do not deserve what is being done to them. They should not live in fear in their own village, their neighbourhood or in their country. The whole society and all of us individually and as one have a duty to ensure the safety of their lives and their property as for all others.
In truth, the killing of albinos disgraces and demeans our country. They are intolerable acts. We must all join together to ensure that we deal with them appropriately and defeat them. We must never allow them to take us back to the bad situation of the past. I join with the Tanzania Albino Society to condemn this violence and want everyone involved in these abuses to be found, arrested, brought before a court and given the severe punishment that they deserve if found guilty.
Let me assure you that the government has always given great weight to stopping the killing of people with albinism and the cutting of their body parts while alive. We have done so untiringly since the first event after I entered office. In April 17, 2006, in Nyahunge, Geita Alfa Amon was killed, the two suspects were killed by civilians. In 2007 there were seven cases. 2008 was a very bad year, they killed 18 people.
Due to the great efforts made by the Government in collaboration with citizens, the number of killings declined to nine in 2009. In 2010 there was one incident and in 2011 there was none. In 2012 there was one incident, in 2013 one person was killed and two injured. In 2014 three people were killed and two injured, and in January, 2015 one incident in Geita.
From 2006 until 2015, 139 suspects have been arrested, among them are 16 suspected of attacks in December and January this year. 35 court proceedings have been opened, and of these 10 are ongoing at various stages. 73 suspects have been released and 15 have been convicted. Of those who were found guilty of 13 have been sentenced to death and two have received 6 months imprisonment. For six incidents the accused are still at large.
Incidents of killings of people with albinism have happened in ten regions out of 30 regions in the country. These regions are as follows: 13 incidents in Mwanza, Kagera six, five Tabora, Geita four, Mara four, Kigoma four, three Simiyu, two Shinyanga, Arusha one and Mbeya one. You will see that 41 out of 43 cases have occurred in the Lake Zone which is also leading in murders of the elderly and women because of superstition.
It is possible that recent events indicate that this crime is about to erupt again. I would like to assure our fellow citizens with albinism and Tanzanians in general, that we will not leave the situation to become as bad as it was in years past. We will use the approaches and skills that we used to address the large wave of killings that took place in 2007 and 2008, and for this reason we were able to reduce to the level of no murders in 2011.
What we are requesting from citizens is cooperation and support to expose those who commit acts of murder and cut the limbs of people with albinism. Also, they should help provide information about the buyers of the body parts and the “doctors” who encourage the demand for albino body parts. The cooperation of the people at that time enabled the success I explained. I believe this time that if we do the same then we will succeed again.
To completely eradicate cases of murder and dismemberment of people with albinism is possible. However, this will depend on people abandoning superstitious beliefs. Myths, such as that someone with the body parts of a person with albinism will succeed in business, fishing or mining, is the catalyst for all this evil that is taking place. It’s ignorance that leads a person to believe that his/her success will not depend on his/her own effort and knowledge but comes from possessing the body parts of his/her fellow human being, one with albinism.
I said in my speech at the end of March, 2008, that if possessing albino body parts could bring someone financial success in their business, then people with albinism would be the highest earners in the country and in the world. For they do not only have some body parts, but the whole body. Due to the presence of these false beliefs, efforts to educate communities to overcome these mistaken beliefs must be increased. I ask that this is should be a cornerstone in this struggle. If we are successful in this, all these problems will end. The government and society will not need to deal with these things which are not only humiliating to tell people about, but also worrying and sad.
Next week I will meet with some of the leaders and members of the Tanzania Albinism Society. I have accepted their request that I should meet with them to listen to their views and discuss how best to put an end to this problem. I believe that close cooperation between the Government and society will enable us to eradicate the killing of our fellow citizens with albinism and rid our nation this shame.