A young woman and her 4-year old son, both albinos, were killed in Burundi by a gang of armed men. The authorities have said the victims were murdered for their body parts, which according to witchdoctors bring luck in love, life, and business.
"The two people were killed on midnight Sunday by a gang of criminals who found them at their home," Reuters quoted Deogratias Ntahompagaze, police chief in Cankuzo, the province where the two victims were found. "The young lady had her breasts cut off and her child had his eyes removed and the tongue cut."
The deaths of the woman and boy bring the number of albino people, who lack pigment in their skin, eyes and hair, killed in Burundi since 2008 to 13.
Burundi, situated in central Africa, is home to around 500 albinos and their lives are not safe. The same counts for neighbouring country Tanzania, where dozens of albinos have been killed over the past years. Last year, Digital Journal reported how ten-year old Gasper Elikana was seized by hunters in October 2009. First he was beheaded, and then they hacked off his limbs, gave his father - who was kidnapped as well - a last blow to the head with a machete, and ran off.
According to the Red Cross, the killing of albinos started in August 2008. “In search for profit, witch doctors revived an old superstition that the limbs and genitals of an albino can bring quicker and better results to one’s enterprise," said Anseleme Katyunguruza, Secretary General of the Burundi Red Cross.
This branch of the international aid organisation provides humanitarian aid to 48 albino children and adults who sought refuge in Ruyigi, a town situated on the border of Burundi and Tanzania.
Killing albinos is indeed a lucrative business for the murderers, who are paid between $200 and $5000 for their crimes. Senior police commanders in Tanzania's capital of Dar es Salaam said a complete set of albino body parts – including all four limbs, genitals, ears, tongue and nose, fetches the equivalent of 75.000 US dollars.
The Burundian association of albinos strongly condemns the killings and urges the national government to take severe sanctions against the criminals. "I think albino killings continue in Burundi because the guilty people are not seriously punished," said Kazungu Kassim, head of the albinos' association.