TZ gov’t vows to prioritize Albino issue

President Jakaya Kikwete gracing International Albino Awareness Day cebrations in Arusha

President Jakaya Kikwete gracing International Albino Awareness Day cebrations in Arusha

The Tanzanian government has reiterated its determination to cater for the Albino population and help them address poverty issues and their stigma and persecution.

The government will form the National Committee on Albinism next week, a committee that will help coordinate government efforts on Albino issues.

During the World Albino Day celebrations in Arusha, Tanzania Saturday, Dr Abdallah Posi, an official who spoke on behalf People living With Albinism (PWA) said Albinos live in fear at all times, he appealed to the government and other players to work on practical measures that would make albinos live in peace as other people do.

Home Affairs Minister Mathias Chikawe said at the climax of the International Albinism wareness day, the committee will comprise 15 members, five from the government, Tanzania Albino Society—TAS, and five others from the Association of Traditional Healers.

Kikwete with First Lady Mama Salma posing in a group photo with Albino kids

Kikwete with First Lady Mama Salma posing in a group photo with Albino kids

Speaking at the event, President Jakaya Kikwete said the commit will help the government combat the issue of Albino killings, an issue that has stained Tanzania’s reputation.

Kikwete outlined that for past eight years Tanzania has achieved a lot in curbing albino killings, saying in 2008 killings of people with albinism were high, but between 2011 and 2013 the killings were almost zero.

“But, last year and early this year, six albinos were killed by unknown people in witchcraft beliefs…these killings have made the Albino people live in fear across the country…this is absolutely unacceptable.” he said.

Figures released by the president’s office indicate that between 2006 and 2010 about 139 people were arrested for allegedly perpetrating Albino-related crimes.

Out of those, 35 people were produced to the courts of law, 13 people have been convicted and sentenced to death, and 79 people have been acquitted of the crimes.

The president also revealed about 164 traditional healers have been arrested since 2006, and arraigned, 37 were released, while others were banned from engaging in such business. “All this shows how we are serious in addressing the vicious killings of people with albinism.” Kikwete noted.

The president said the “legal process was in progress to ascertain the verdict for the implementation of the death sentence to the convicts.”

The 2012 census indicated Tanzania was home to over 2.6 million disabled persons, equivalent to 5.8 per cent of the population. Of these people, the country had 16,475 Albinos, equivalent to 0.04 per cent of the population.

Recent figures however show that there are about 150,000 Albinos in the country, according to Tanzania Albino Society (TAS).

Even though, President Kikwete said his government will soon start issuing free cancer treatment to the population. He said already the ministry of Health and Social Welfare had been apportioned a big sum of money in its 2015/16 budget to address the matter.

However, Sikika, an agency that monitors the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, says the government approved Tsh36.2billion budget for the FY2015/16. Yet to effectively attend to all its business the ministry requires at least Tsh600 billion annually, thus this fiscal year, the ministry is Tsh577 billion short.

UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP representative in Tanzania Alvaro Rodrigue in his remarks said, “we will continue working with government and members of the community to strengthen the capacity of the national human protection system including civil society, commission for human rights and good governance.”