Keita, Red Cross seek to protect albinos

November 22, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 22 – Malian singer Salif Keita and the Red Cross have made a joint appeal for better protection of albinos in Africa\\\’s Great Lakes region, where dozens of them have been brutally murdered.

"We are telling governments that they are not doing enough," said Matthias Schmale, under secretary general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

"That includes bringing the people who committed those crimes to justice," he told AFP at the launch of a report by the IFRC on the plight of albinos in the region.

Over the past two years, at least 56 albinos were killed and dismembered in Tanzania and Burundi and their limbs were sold to witchdoctors to make lucky charms.

The report was supported by the foundation of Salif Keita, a world-famous albino musician from Mali who is also a human rights activist.

"Salif is 60 years old and that most likely makes him one of the oldest albinos on the continent," his brother Mamad ou Keita said.

"The others have been killed at birth, or assassinated or have died of skin cancer because they are inadequately protected, don\\\’t have access to treatment or are marginalised," he told AFP.

Several albino killers have been arrested and sentenced to heavy jail terms in both in Burundi and Tanzania but it remains unclear who the so-called lucky charms\\\’ clients are.

"We have evidence the phenomenon is being covered up but it is a question we need to ask the governments," Schmale said.

Beliefs surrounding "white-skinned blacks" have been entrenched in some African communities for centuries and albino body parts can fetch thousands of dollars. The spate of murders started in Tanzania two years ago.

"It is the acute misfortune of albino people in this part of Africa that, at a time of worldwide economic crisis, they have fallen prey to contract killers (working for witchdoctors whose clients must, at least, be wealthy) who profit from their murder," the IFRC report said.

The Tanzanian police estimates at 75,000 dollars (50,500 euros) "the value to witchdoctors of a complete set of albino body parts, including all four limbs, genitals, ears, nose and tongue."

Tanzania\\\’s Red Cross has appealed for 246,000 dollars to expand humanitarian work in the east African country\\\’s most affected regions.

Salif Keita earlier this month released a new album entitled "La Difference" and dedicated to Africa\\\’s albino community.


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