Beliefs Culture

Tanzania bans witch doctors after scores of albino people are killed in ritual slaughter

A witch doctor works in Kenya. In the neighboring Tanzania, the government has banned similar witch doctors after their actions fueled the killing of Albinos for their body parts. Religion News Service photo by Fredrick Nzwili
A witch doctor works in Kenya. In the neighboring Tanzania, the government has banned similar witch doctors after their actions fueled the killing of Albinos for their body parts. Religion News Service photo by Fredrick Nzwili

A witch doctor works in Kenya. In the neighboring Tanzania, the government has banned similar witch doctors after their actions fueled the killing of albinos for their body parts. Religion News Service photo by Fredrick Nzwili

(RNS) The government of Tanzania has banned witch doctors due to ritual killings of albino people for their body parts.

The witch doctors reportedly fueled the killings by inducing local people to believe “magic potions” made from body parts brought good luck and wealth.

Some religious leaders have welcomed the move but warned that a blanket ban could affect access to traditional medicine offered by healers and herbalists.

Now the leaders are calling for a new approach, even as the government clarifies it was targeting cheats.

“I don’t think the ban will end the problem,” said the Rev. Leonard Mtaita, a retired general secretary of the Christian Council in Tanzania. “A lot of people, including senior politicians, visit these witch doctors. I think the best approach would be to educate the communities about these issues.”

Tanzanian Roman Catholic scholar Pius Rutechura said that although the move was welcomed, it needed to be accompanied by a series of other actions.
“We need to research and understand why witch doctors prefer albino body parts and why people believe them,” said Rutechura, vice chancellor at the Catholic University of East Africa in Kenya.

In the last three years, more than 70 albino people have been slain. In the latest incident, on Dec. 27, an armed gang led by a witch doctor kidnapped a 4-year-old girl in the northern Mwanza district

Last year, the United Nations warned of increased attacks on albinos in Tanzania because of the upcoming 2015 general elections, when political campaigners visit influential witch doctors to seek help in winning the election.

YS/MG END NZWILI

About the author

Fredrick Nzwili

Fredrick Nzwili is a journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. For more than 15 years, he has written about religion, politics, peace and conflict, development, security, environment and wildlife. His articles have appeared in international media organizations among others; The Tablet, The Christian Science Monitor, The National Geographic and Kenyan local newspapers; The Standard and the People Daily.

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