Tanzania police arrest man accused of trying to sell albino niece for witchcraft

An albino girl smiles in Mitindo Primary School in Nyawilimilwa, Mwanza region of Tanzania, in a file photo. REUTERS/Katrina Manson

By Kizito Makoye DAR ES SALAAM (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Tanzanian police have arrested a 44-year-old man accused of trying to sell his albino niece to undercover security officials posing at witch doctors as part of a nationwide crackdown on the illegal trade in albino body parts used in black magic. A police spokesman from Tanzania's western Tabora region said Margareth Khamis, 6, was abducted a couple of nights ago from Kona Nne Village in Nzega district where she lives with her albino mother, Joyce Mwandu, and three siblings. Mwandu, a widow, said a gang with their faces covered broke into her house overnight, snatched her daughter, and ran off into the bush, triggering a manhunt by fellow villagers. Juma Bwire, the Acting Tabora Regional Police Commander, said a sting operation was set up after a tip-off to police about a man looking for a buyer willing to purchase the girl at an undisclosed price. Witch doctors will pay as much as $75,000 for a full set of albino body parts, according to a Red Cross report. "After we had received the information our officers immediately put our trap and were able to arrest the man red-handed," Bwire told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. He said the girl was rescued unharmed and has now been reunited with her family. The investigations are continuing and the suspect will appear in court on completion of the investigations, Bwire said. Tanzania imposed a ban on witchcraft earlier this year to try to stop the trade in albino body parts used in spells and charms that claim to bring luck, wealth and love. The United Nations has warned of a marked increase in attacks in Tanzania and other countries in east Africa including Malawi and Burundi. Tanzania's government warned last month that politicians could be behind the rising wave of attacks on albinos as they jostle to widen their chances of winning in Oct. 25 elections. At least 75 albinos, who lack pigment in their skin, hair and eyes, including children, have been killed in Tanzania since 2000, according to U.N. figures, many hacked to death. Albinism is a congenital disorder which affects about one in 20,000 people worldwide, according to medical authorities. It is, however, more common in sub-Saharan Africa, affecting an estimated one Tanzanian in 1,400.