Africa

10 wicked misconceptions towards Albino people in Africa

Albino people are entirely not a human being; that is what some African superstition believed. Some see them as ghosts or evil spirits, while some believe that albinos are immortal and that their bodies have magical healing powers.

In many countries in Africa, witch doctors still practice dark magic, although the persecution of albinos takes place primarily in Tanzania and Malawi. Customers are willing to pay high prices for Albino’s body parts because they are used in spells to bring happiness, victory, and prosperities.

Life as an albino in Africa is horrible. Below are the ten wicked misconceptions towards Albino people in Africa. They are so tragic and almost unbelievable.

1. Preservation of darker complexion

Discrimination against albinos has existed for many years, and yet nothing has been done to end it until very recently. In 1892, a Chicago researcher, Charles Staniland Wake, was traveling across Africa, and he was shocked to meet an albino man.

Charles admits the story after a year of not seeing any other white men, and it was frightening for him. Local villagers said they believe albinos are demonic ghosts and that it is rare to see an adult because they are customarily killed at an early stage.

Despite having the superstitions explained to him, Charles concluded that the real reason they killed baby albinos was to preserve the darker complexion of the village. He wrote: “Black can become white, but white can never turn to Black. This sounds like the final extinction of the dark races of man.”

2. Albino’s body parts are lucrative

In Tanzania, a young albino girl was walking home from school, and a man spotted her. Then, he noticed where the albino girl lived. Some days later, three men showed up at her home, cut her arm, threw it in a plastic bag, and ran away.

a young albino girl's was chopped off
©The Students for Humanity Review – a young albino girl’s was chopped off

Hundreds of albinos in Tanzania have suffered the same fate, and are now waiting for prostheses donated by charities abroad. But selling albino body parts to sorcerers can make someone rich. The average income of a person in Tanzania is only about $50 a month. Body parts are sold piece by piece for about $2,000 each, and a whole corpse can raise to $75,000.

In a country where people live in abject poverty, and superstition folktales that albinos are demonic, one can easily spot reason people are willing to do this without remorse.

3. Exhumed the buried Albinos

An Albino identified as Stephane Ebongue was discriminated during his childhood in Cameroon. He later went to university and became a journalist in Italy. In 2016, he returned to Cameroon and confronted a wizard with other BBC journalists.

Instead of welcoming him like a human being, the Wizard treated him like a lion ready to pounce on his prey. He forced Ebongue to hold magic wooden sticks during the interview. The sorcerer kept saying how much Ebongue was worth. He explained that they are so precious that he exhume the buried bodies every time an albino dies.

Ebongue tried to ask the Wizard if he felt remorse for killing people, or if he was worried about being arrested for murder since he admitted all his crimes very openly. The man replied that he earned so much money that every time the police came to visit him, he bribed them, and they left.

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4. A curse for giving birth to Abino

Some Africans believe the old superstition that giving birth to an albino child means that there will be a curse on the house. Parents are eager to abandon them without resorting to killing.

Because it is too dangerous for albino children to go to regular school, many of them never leave their homes. For those who are concerned about getting an education, they live in a different boarding school.

Albino twins beg for money at a mosque in Senegal
©REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly – Albino twins beg for money at a mosque in Senegal

These camps were built after the government realized that they had to intervene to prevent the killing of several albinos. Every night, high doors are locked, and the grounds are monitored by security. In other words, while it protects the lives of albino children, it also isolates them from the outside world.

Once they have grown up, they become too old to stay and hide in school, and they will be forced to figure out how to live in a world that hates them.

5. Destined to be poor

Because of what many people felt about the superstitious tales regard to albinos, they are discriminated against by society and cannot find employment. Many grown-up albinos are being forced to depend on the support of their family members.

In a documentary produced by RT concerning Albino in Africa, a 50-year-old albino man was attacked, and his hand was cut off. His sister accepted him to stay with her, but he was allowed to sleep outside the house, covered with a mosquito net.

10 wicked misconceptions towards Albino people in Africa

In several societies, education has been a way out of poverty. However, albinos are born with poor eyesight, and it is difficult for them to get a standard education. According to the Red Cross, many teachers always assumed that all albino children are very stupid.

10 wicked misconceptions towards Albino people in Africa

However, they find it difficult to see the black interactive board. Among the things the Red Cross does to help albino children is to teach them to read Braille because many of them are almost blind. They also provide lenses and magnifying glasses to help them learn.

6. Magical power of curing HIV/AIDS

To make matters worse, the belief of “magical powers” of albinos have led to a rumor that if a man with AIDS sleep and make love with an albino, they will be cured, which has led to the abduction and rape of young Albino girls. As a result, they also contract aids.

Albinos are extremely susceptible to skin cancer. Their bodies do not produce melanin, so their skin has no pigmentation and no natural protection against the sun. They always wear hats and reapply sunscreen throughout the day.

According to a study conducted by the European Organisation for Research on Treatment of the Directorate of Cancer Education in Stockholm, Sweden, African albinos generally form skin tumors on the face and neck. With a lack of appropriate medical treatment, these tumors can become massive, often leading to an early death. According to this study, African albinos generally do not survive to the age of 30.

7. Creation of Albino Island

Because albinos are so often rejected by society, many of them decided to start their own community on the small island of Ukerewe, off the coast of Tanzania. In 2014, about 70 albino people will live there. Some of them have been lucky enough to have a family that doesn’t believe in superstition, and they peacefully live together.

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However, there is no guarantee of safety in living in Ukerewe. In as much it will take about three hours away from the much larger town of Mwanza, an albino man, Kapole, was attacked in Ukerewe. The man believes that as long as people still thought that albinos were magical, they would never be safe.

Kapole moved to Mwanza town and started an organization called the Tanzania Albinism Society. On the wall of the building, he wrote, “We don’t melt in the sun. We don’t disappear. We live and die like normal people.”

8. Winning election

It’s been documented that several politicians in Africa still believe in magic, and they will pay witches for spells that will guarantee victory.

Does one wonder how this horrible practice could still be active when there should be a lot of educated people in government? Erick Kabendera, an investigative journalist in Tanzania, has noticed that albino killings increase dramatically at the time of the presidential election.

Politicians are believed to afford to pay the outrageous price for Albino’s body parts. When faced with this theory, politicians have responded that they think that the fishermen are the ones who pay for the spells.

So it is not surprising that if politicians are the ones demanding that albinos be killed, they will not intervene to try to protect them.

9. Deserve to die for a spell

Although there are many superstitious Africans who believe that albinos deserve to die, there are many educated people who are horrified. Since the government is so corrupt, people literally get away with murder. A lot of young activists have taken up the case to chase away these serial witch killers.

In 2015, a rumor spread that Jane Faidha Bakari, 58, was a witch and lobbied men to kill an albino for a spell. People were angered and gather at Bakari’s house in the middle of the night. More than 200 angry villagers turned and dragged her out of the house. They cut her body into small pieces as her husband Moses stood and watched.

10. Arresting the perpetrators

For centuries, community leaders, the police, and the judiciary of some various parts of African countries have done little or no effort to stop the killing and discrimination of albino people.

In 2015, after several albino activists and the UN spoke out on these issues, the government of Tanzania finally stepped up its efforts and did what it should have done years before. They arrested 225 self-acclaimed “healers” who practiced without a medical license, as well as witch doctors who were known to demand albino body parts from bounty hunters.

Any sorcerer who hasn’t been caught will also think twice before revealing themselves publicly, now they are aware of being arrested for such practice, yet the discrimination is still active. Unfortunately, many witch doctors still practice the spell in other African countries.

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