The Fight to Stop Tanzanians Killing and Eating Albino People
Gamariel Mboya, whom we interviewed in this article, is the guy in the hat
Tanzania is known for many things, especially its great food. There is kisamvu, a mixed vegetable dish that goes great with rice; bamia, a meat and okra stew; and mchicha, a kind of peanut curry. Yet as tasty as they are, in the eyes of many Tanzanians, none of these traditional favorites really hit the spot as much as other national dishes: ones made from the hair, blood, and bones of people with albinism.
Traditional healers and witch doctors have long considered the body parts of people with albinism as being essential to their magical recipes. These practitioners of muti—or “medicine murder”—believe that their recipes heal the sick and bestow El Dorado-like fortunes on the poor. Men with HIV and AIDS have been known to abduct young albino girls, in the belief that raping them might help cure their afflictions. Fishermen often pay hunters for their human wares, believing an albino limb or two might jazz up their fishing nets and attract better catches.
Over 71 people with albinism have been murdered in Tanzania since 2006. This month, a seven-year-old boy was maimed on his way home from school, attacked by several men who decided they liked the look of his arm.
Sick of this bullshit, the good guys and gals of Tanzania have rallied and responded, forming activist groups made up of people both with and without albinism. I spoke to Gamariel Mboya, a friendly Tanzanian guy with albinism, to find out more.
VICE: Can you please tell us a little about yourself?
Gamariel Mboya: I am a person with albinism from the southern highlands of Tanzania, a region called Mbeya. I’m 29 and married. I have a daughter and work for a charity called Under the Same Sun.
What was life like growing up in Tanzania?
Not simple. People with albinism don’t get sufficient support from society, and as a result learn not to trust anyone. We’re not treated like human beings.
A Pew Forum report revealed that 43 percent of Tanzanians depend on and believe in traditional healers, who tell them people with albinism have supernatural powers. People believe our bones, our blood and our hair bring good luck and that women with albinism can cure HIV and AIDS.