Last week a Fipa fisherman tried to sell his albino wife for 3.6 million shillings (about US $3,000) to traders from the DR Congo in the Kalungu, Tanzania, marketplace. An informer tipped off the police that the sale was about to take place, so they set up a trap for the men. The authorities failed to capture the two buyers, but they arrested the seller, who confessed to the crime.
According to Rukwa Regional Police Commander Isunto Mantage, John Josef, a 35 year old, was planning to sell his wife, Janet Mlele, 24 years old, to the Congolese men, but the buyers fled before the police could apprehend them. Janet told the police that she was unaware that her husband was planning to sell her. He had only told her he wanted her to meet some friends from the DRC, which she was willing to do.
John admitted to the police that the Congolese men had approached him with an offer to buy his wife. He accepted the offer since he had never earned so much money at one time. The police believe that the men, who entered Tanzania supposedly to buy fish, had fled back across the border into the DR Congo, and they have asked help from Interpol in tracking them down.
Commander Mantage told reporters that Janet’s parents, who live in Namanyere township, Nkasi district, have decided to take their daughter back into their home—they are very angry with their son-in-law.
Other news reports elaborate on the story by focusing on the reasons for the high prices paid for albino people. According to an AFP article about the incident, albinos are kidnapped and killed in Tanzania to provide body parts for witchdoctors, who make them into lucky charms. A 10-year old albino girl was murdered and mutilated for those purposes just last month, and 27 albinos have been killed in various parts of Tanzania in the past year.
Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete spoke out forcefully against the practice at a rally organized by the Tanzania Albino Society (TAS). “It is utterly stupid for some people to believe that albinos have magic powers and their parts can make them rich,” the President said. He advocates education in order to get ahead, not the sale of people for their body parts. The TAS estimates that there are around 150,000 albinos in the country, a higher percentage than in other African states.
A BBC report on the incident also discussed the reasons for attacks on albinos in Tanzania. That article indicates that witchdoctors like to have the blood, hair, legs, and hands of albinos since they can make a person rich. Attacks on albinos are increasing this year all over Tanzania and to some extent in other parts of Africa due to witchcraft beliefs, according to the New York Times. It’s not just a problem with the Fipa people.