Friday, 29 May 2009

Witnesses have testified in the case of 11 men in Burundi, accused of the attempted murder of albino people and selling of their body parts.

Initial charges of murder have been dropped because the prosecution failed to produce enough evidence.

Police suspect the body parts are being sold in neighbouring Tanzania, for use in witchcraft.

Forty-six albino people have been murdered in Tanzania in the past 18 months, but no-one has been convicted.

But the violence against albinos is not restricted to Tanzania; last November a six-year-old albino girl in Burundi was found dead with her head and limbs removed.

‘Desecrating graves’

Thursday’s hearing in the eastern province of Ruyigi, near the Tanzanian border, has generated a great deal of interest.


Witnesses travelled from the remote north-east of Burundi to give testimony linking one of the defendants with the killers of a married man with albinism whose body parts were allegedly taken to Tanzania.

The case began last week, but had to be adjourned after witnesses failed to show up.

The BBC’s Prime Ndikumagenge says the courtroom is so crammed many people are waiting outside to hear details of the evidence second hand.

Our reporter says eight of the accused allegedly helped traffic albino body parts and desecrated a graveyard to take the parts of someone who was buried.

The rest of the defendants are accused of attempting to kill an albino child. The accused deny the charges.

Witchdoctors in the region are known to tell clients that potions made with albino body parts will bring them luck in love, life and business.

BBC East Africa correspondent Will Ross says Tanzania’s government has promised action and the fact that there have been no reported attacks or murders of albinos for two months in Tanzania provides some hope.

Hundreds of people including witchdoctors and business people have been arrested but the justice system in Tanzania is notoriously slow and corrupt and so far nobody has been convicted, he says.

Albinism affects one in 20,000 people worldwide, but in Tanzania the prevalence appears to be much higher.

The Albino Association of Tanzania says that although just 4,000 albinos are officially registered in the country, they believe the actual number could be as high as 173,000. A census is now under way to try to verify the figures