There are three essential readings for the topic on Muti Murders
- Understanding the role played by persons with albinism in muti
- Understanding the rituals and motivations for muti
- Discussion piece concerning the difference between Western journalism and Tanzanian responses
1. Essential reading for understanding the role played by persons with albinism in muti:
NOTE: Due to key text being in PDF form I can’t upload it here – see link above.
Are muti murders increasing:
“The wave of albino killings started in 2007, fuelled by the sale of their highly-prized body parts to witch doctors across the region who use them to concoct wealth-enhancing charms.
The Tanzanian police estimates at $75 000 “the value to witchdoctors of a complete set of albino body parts, including all four limbs, genitals, ears, nose and tongue”.
2. Essential reading for understanding the ritual and the motives for muti:
- A modern scientific case report examining 3 recovered pots, 2 of which are constructed around human skulls.
- They contain – human teeth, hand and leg bones, pieces of cranium, animal vertebrae, coins, seeds and stones
- It highlights the progression of magic: Object A – made of plant material, Object B – dried skull, Object C – an actual killing to make a pot out of a fresh skull.
- In this case report the medicines prepared by this witch doctor (Sangoma) was most often used by hijackers for protection. It is speculative but the tongue “serves to protect the client from people betraying him” and “bullets will protect him from the bullets of the police”
- The report concludes the bones were from juveniles – the use of children linked to the pursuit of innocence, which it is believed, enhances the potency of the witchcraft ritual.
- Death by strangulation – the cry of the victim is supposed to summon the supernatural forces.
- Overall it illustrates how muti murders are carried out for structured rituals and how all associated objects have ritual significance.
- It is ultimately for the common good of the community therefore not seen as murder.
3. Essential reading for discussion:
The article is provocative and written with a clear bias. The comments below the article from readers are very interesting and show in some way how Tanzanians themselves perceive the problem.
Similarly, see: http://africasacountry.com/vice-com-and-albinos-in-tanzania/ for a formal response to the article.
“A Pew Forum report revealed that more than 60 percent of Tanzanians depend on and believe in traditional healers, who tell them people with albinism have supernatural powers. People believe our bones, our blood, and our hair bring good luck and that women with albinism can cure HIV and AIDS.” (Gamariel Mboya, Vice interview)
“Many believe that attacking people with albinism—who are supposed to have supernatural powers—is an easy way to get rich and amass political power. So you get a lot of wealthy Tanzanians and politicians linked to the muti killings.”
(Gamariel Mboya, Vice interview)
“(…) Yes, there are cases of albinos being killed for their body parts, but it’s not a cannibalism issue. It never has been. The following bit – lifted from your article – perfectly captures the issues at the centre of albino killings:
“These body parts are often found in witch doctors’ houses. Sometimes they are buried in the ground as part of ritual sacrifices, but mostly they are used in charms—they crush and grind the bones to keep them in charms.”
It’s about superstition. It’s about charms and amulets and little things that supposedly bring luck and fortune. That should have been your story.
(…) So thank you for distorting the facts. Thanks for doing an entire nation – all 46 million of us – a disservice. Thank you for cheapening the fight to end the superstitious beliefs that fuel these brutal killings.” (Victor Amani Mushi, commenter on Vice article)
“The fact that most of these crimes goes unpunished is not surprising considering the level of superstition in many regions of Africa. The police are afraid to investigate since they fear the repercussions of the muti” (Alison Richards, commenter on Vice article)
“Why don’t these witches understand that even they could have been born with albinism or their relatives” (Oormila Sahodree, commenter on Vice article)
Additional reading on muti killings: