Police in Tanzania said Friday they have arrested 32 witch doctors during the past week as part of a campaign to prevent the ritual killings of the nation's albino citizens. Some Tanzanian witch doctors believe that certain body parts of albinistic people can transmit magical powers, and regularly use those body parts as ingredients in potions, concoctions and rituals to harness prosperity in life, business and love.
Human rights activists say that attackers have murdered at least 75 albinos in the east African country during the past 15 years. Last week, President Jakaya Kikwete promised he’d eliminate the practices, saying the deaths of albino citizens brought shame to the country.
"The witch doctors were arrested in possession of different items, including potions and oil from an unknown source," Joseph Konyo, the police chief of Geita, told reporters. He did not confirm whether the witch doctors under arrest had been charged or caught with anything related to albinos.
There are currently 17 people on death row who are convicted of murdering albinos, and four were sentenced to death Thursday. However, Tanzania, a country within the African Great Lakes region, hasn’t carried out an execution for 20 years.
"We want all those convicted of killing persons with albinism to be hanged without delay in order to send a strong message that these attacks will no longer be tolerated," the chairman of the Tanzania Albinism Society Ernest Kimaya, told Reuters Friday.
Kimaya added that attacks were on the rise, as some politicians used witch doctors to increase their chances of winning.