Arusha – Tanzanian police said on Wednesday they had arrested 15 people following the kidnap of an albino girl in the north of the country, where albino body parts are sold for witchcraft.
Three members of the four-year-old girl’s family were among those arrested, including her father and two uncles, said Vicky Ntetema, from the Under The Same Sun group, which campaigns for rights for albinos.
Police have also given villagers five days to find Pendo Emmanuelle Nundi, who was snatched on 27 December from her home in the Mwanza region by attackers armed with machetes.
Top local government official Magesa Mulongo visited the village to appeal for information on the missing child.
“The whole world now considers the villagers as having no heart,” Mulongo said, according to a local newspaper.
At least 74 albinos have been murdered in the east African country since 2000, according to United Nations experts. After a spike in killings in 2009, the government placed youngsters in children’s homes in a desperate effort to defend them.
“When an albino is targeted, almost always neighbours or family members are involved,” said Ntetema.
“Very few people have the courage to tell the police that a brother or uncle was involved in the kidnapping and murder of an albino, people are afraid of reprisals that might follow.”
A hereditary genetic condition which causes a total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes, albinism affects one Tanzanian in 1 400, often as a result of inbreeding, experts say. In the West, it affects just one person in 20 000.
In August a UN rights expert warned that attacks against albinos were on the rise because Tanzania’s October 2015 presidential election was on the horizon, encouraging political campaigners to turn to influential sorcerers for support.
Albino body parts sell for around $600 in Tanzania, with an entire corpse fetching $75 000.