Albinos living in Kenya have been evacuated from areas bordering Tanzania for fear they will be targeted by witch doctors as the country approaches elections next month.
So far, 35 people have been moved from their homes into protected areas away from the border because of the belief that their skin and body parts can bring luck and fortune when ground up and put into charms. A national toll-free hotline has also been set up for those fearful of attack.
It comes after Enock Jamenya, a 56-year-old albino man, succumbed to injuries sustained during an attack on September 10 in Vihiga County near Tanzania’s northern border.
Mr Jamenya told from his hospital bed how three attackers slashed at his neck, arm and head with machetes, cutting off his ear and several fingers before fleeing, leaving him in a pool of blood to be discovered by his young son.
Mr Jamenya died on September 20 after complaining of a severe headache.
Albinism is caused by a lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes and affects around 20,000 people worldwide but more in sub-Saharan Africa and particularly in .
At least 75 children and adults with albinism have been killed in that East African country since 2000 and more than 62 others have escaped with severe injuries following attacks by people seeking to supply witch doctors who are thought to pay up to $75,000 for a full set of body parts.
In March, the United Nations warned that the approach of elections in Tanzania this October risked an increase in attacks on albinos as campaigning politicians turned to sorcery to improve their odds.
As a result, children with albinism have been , ministers have urged colleagues to avoid witchcraft and police have arrested hundreds of witch doctors thought to be involved in the practice.
There had been no documented attacks on albinos since June until last week, when a woman in her 20s named Happiness who was rescued by neighbours after she was set on by a gang using a smoke bomb and a rope.
Vicky Ntetema, from , a Canadian charity set up to advocate for and support albinos in Africa, said while the number of attacks had tailed off in recent months, they have not stopped and albinos were still living in fear.
“Many attacks are not reported because people are afraid,” she said. “We know of other attacks in neighbouring countries, including in Mozambique and Malawi, where people detained say they had orders from Tanzania.”
Martin Wanyonyi, from Kenya’s Albinism Empowerment Network, said Tanzania’s crack down on violence against albinos meant that those in Kenya were now a softer target.
“We are telling the government to provide security to all albinos,” Mr Wanyonyi, himself an albino, he told Kenya’s Star newspaper.