The main weapon to fight against the persecution of albino citizens is information, declared Rev. Jamisse Taimo, a former chairperson of the National Elections Commission (CNE), who is perhaps the most prominent Mozambican albino. Speaking at a meeting in Lurio University, in the northern city of Nampula, Taimo called for the “deconstruction” of the myths and prejudices against albinos prevalent in society.
Only with access to correct information could people free themselves from these myths, and understand that albinos are equal to other citizens, and simply have a lack of pigmentation. In particular, the potentially lethal claim that “albinos are a source of wealth” must be unmasked as untrue, said Taimo. Albinos are at risk of being kidnapped and murdered, because the superstition has been spread that albino body parts, used in magical rituals, can bring wealth or power.
Over the years, a negative image had been constructed of albinos which added to their vulnerability. “Some people have got it into their heads that albinos should be isolated, expelled from the family, because they are not the same as everyone else”, said Taimo. “This is completely wrong”.
Miguel Goncalves, the chairperson of the Association of Traditional Healers in Mozambique, denied that members of his association are involved in any way with the kidnapping and murder of albinos – although there is no doubt that the people who use albino body parts in rituals call themselves “traditional doctors”.
Provincial government official Armindo Chauque said “We are aware that many Mozambicans are involved in the trafficking in and murder of albinos. This question involves international networks, and so our border services are increasingly vigilant”.
Albinism is a genetically inherited condition which is very rare and, worldwide, affects approximately one in twenty thousand people. Although rare in the western world, albinism is quite common in sub-Saharan Africa, likely as a result of consanguinity. Both parents who may or may not be albinos themselves must carry the gene if it is to be passed on to the child and is common both in male and female and is not specific to any race or ethnic group. Statistics prove that fifty percent of albinistic people have a known albinistic relative, although very few understand or are educated about the medical and genetic causes of this condition.