After their protest was banned earlier this week, President Jakaya Kikwete kept his word and met with members of the albino community on Thursday.
“The President understands our concerns,” says Tanzania Albinism Society (TAS) programs coordinator Severin Edward, who says Kikwete has already agreed to change the 1928 law regarding traditional medicine and witchcraft.
Many parts of the act need changing, says Edward, “because they are confusing. The aim is to have a clear distinction of those issues.”
“We asked the government to take serious action with committed public resources,” says Edward, noting that key recommendations were made to the President.
- Fast-tracking of cases related to albinism
- Participatory protection at all levels of society
- Mass education program for the general public
- Victims, including children, need assistance and training to be independent
- Counseling for families of victims
- Review laws on alternative and traditional health
- Special task force to track down perpetrators & buyers
- Create a database of albinos
Kikwete is also expected to form an oversight committee to monitor the implementation of the recommendations.
This committee is to be comprised of government officials, members of the albino community and traditional healers.
“The key message was to end the killings attacks and abductions,” says Edward, noting that the scheduled one hour meeting lasted for nearly three.
The Minister for Home Affairs, the Attorney General, Minister for Law and Constitutional Affairs and a representative from the Commission for Social Welfare were also present.
Prior to the meeting a dispute between members of the albino community nearly derailed the entire meeting, says Edward.
Some members were upset that they had not been included in the meeting (which allowed for 21 participants) and began accosting TAS Chairperson Ernest Kimaya, saying he had not taken enough action to end the killings and demanding his resignation.
“Conflict is inevitable,” says Edward, “but if [handled] wisely, it will strengthen the community of persons with albinism.”
Meanwhile, four people have been given the death sentence in the case of a 22-year-old albino woman who was murdered in Geita.
The woman’s husband is among those convicted, however Tanzania has had a moratorium on executions for over 20 years, so it is unclear if the death penalties will ever be carried out.