Tanzania’s high court has sentenced four men to death by hanging for killing a 50-year-old albino man, local media reported late on Monday. Television footage showed the men, who killed Lyaku Willy and removed his head and legs, leaving the courtroom in Shinyanga region under heavy police escort. Willy’s killing was one of a spate of attacks on the country’s estimated 200,000 albinos in the past two years, mostly in the remote northwest of the country near Lake Victoria, where superstition runs deep.
Their body parts are prized in some regions of Tanzania, where witchdoctors say albinos — who lack pigment in their skin, eyes and hair — bring luck in love, life and business.
Albino hunters kill their victims and harvest their blood and body parts such as hair, genitals and limbs for potions.
“We are glad that the family and friends of Lyaku can finally have a sense of justice after this horrific loss,” Peter Ash, founder of Under The Same Sun, a Canadian campaign group, told Reuters in an email.
“We urge the authorities to swiftly act on the sentence. Justice delayed is justice denied.”
The convictions bring to seven the number of people sentenced for murdering albinos, following the first conviction of three albino killers in September.
“The albino community still lives in a state of absolute fear,” said Ash, a Canadian albino.
“Just last week (an) innocent 10-year-old was butchered to death in Geita. His father now fights for his life in hospital due to an attempt to save his son.”
Ash called on the government to protect albinos.
The killings have sullied Tanzania’s reputation for relative calm in the region, and been condemned by the United Nations and European Union.