Burundi: suspected gangs abduct young albinos

Burundi AlbinoBy Nangayi Guyson – Bujumbura –  Suspected gangs with links to Tanzanian witch doctors kidnapped a five-month-old albino girl and chopped off a young albino boy’s arm in Burundi during the New Year night, officials said on Saturday.

The suspected gangs attacked a family on Vumwe hill in Kinyinya and abducted a newborn girl aged barely five months,” said local justice official Nicodeme Gahimbare.

“They fled toward the nearby Tanzanian border. We fear the worst because we think they are attempting to cross into Tanzania to sell this newborn’s limbs to witch doctors,” said Kinyinya’s top official, Gaston Gashirahamwe.

A boy also died after having his arm cut off by gunmen in central Burundi.

“Four bandits armed with rifles and machetes attacked a family with three albino children on the Gahweza hill” late on Thursday, top local official Joseph Ntahuga said.

“They chopped off this 12-year-old boy’s left arm before they were forced to flee by the screams of the family,” he explained.

He said Ephraim Havyarimana died before an ambulance could rush him to hospital.

Two young albino boys were killed and dismembered in south-eastern and northern Burundi in October as authorities thought they had brought an end to a gruesome string of killings.

Albino murders in Burundi had until then occurred mainly in the eastern region of Ruyigi, near the border with Tanzania, where it is suspected the body parts are sold to witch doctors.

Burundi last year sentenced eight people found guilty of killing albinos and trading their body parts to prison terms ranging from one year to life.

The wave of killings started in Tanzania, where more than 60 albinos were murdered since 2007 and their limbs hacked off to be sold to witch doctors who concoct charms.

According to Kassim Kazungu, who chairs Burundi’s albino society, the 12-year-old boy’s death brings to 16 the number of albinos, mainly children, who were killed in his country since 2007.

State of terror
“Albinos in this country live in a permanent state of terror and with the fear of being murdered at any time. We ask the government to reinstate the death penalty for these cases,” he said.

Beliefs attributing albinos special powers have long existed in the region but it is suspected that most the sorcerers’ clients resort to charms made with albino limbs with the hope it will make them rich.

While Tanzania has killed, arrested and sentenced albino murderers, the police there have not found the end users of the witchcraft.