Albino killings in Tanzania are on the rise again. According to UN analysts the situation is likely to get worse as we get closer to the general elections in October, 2015 as it always does every election season. An indication that politicians are involved in the albino killings either directly or indirectly.
In response to the increasing numbers of albino killings, the Tanzanian Government in December, 2014 outlawed witch craft in the country. But according to critics the ban has not been effectively enforced.
Further proving the ineffectiveness of the ban is the recent brutal murder of Yohana Bahati. Yohana was little boy (1 year old) living with albinism. His body was found mutilated in the Biharamulo Forest Reserve near his home in Geita. This was two days after he had been kidnapped by a gang (of 5 men) from his home. He was literally snatched from his mother, Esther Jonas who is currently nursing severe injuries.
The murder of this young boy caused public outcry, locally and internationally. International organizations, media houses and celebrities condemned the killings of Albinos in the country.
In an effort to spread awareness, local celebrities took to social media with the #MimiNitakulinda campaign which when loosely translated means I will protect you. The campaign called for the society to love and protect people living with Albinism in Tanzania.
The #MimiNitakulinda campaign although a great initiative is not enough. We need to do more!
These are the few ideas that I have on what more we can do as a society.
1. Take the campaign from Social Media to the Field
Social media only creates awareness among the urban elites and international community. However, these groups are the least affected by this problem. The most affected are the communities living in the affected regions, especially those in the Great Lake regions. Let us target them in future campaigns.
2. Move from creating awareness to education and empowerment
Tanzanians are aware of the albino killings and why they are happening. So, lack of awareness is not the problem. The problem is that people in these communities are struggling with poverty. Families have sold their own children living with albinism, all in an effort to make money. This is a clear indication that they need to be empowered with skills and opportunities to make an income. As such, we should strive to empower them.
3. Train the media on how to report on people living with Albinism
Media coverage on Albino killings is the most problematic. I have noticed that a lot of media coverage, both local and international, have mentioned the value of an albino corpse as reported by a Red Cross report. This needs to stop. In my opinion (as farfetched as it may seem), this could only encourage the implicated parties that they can afford it and the unemployed youth (even those in urban areas) to get into the trade of killing albinos for money.
It seems that there is a need for the media to be trained on how to report on such sensitive issues.
Here are a few extracts of media coverage on the murder of Yohana Bahati.