Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tanzania's government promises to quickly move cases of albino murders into the courts

From The Citizen newspaper in Tanzania:

The Government is taking new initiatives to expedite the hearing of cases concerning albino killings, the minister for Constitutional Affairs and Justice, Mr Mathias Chikawe, said yesterday.

To start with, he said, ten such cases would be heard by the High Court from next month.

Speaking at a luncheon organised by the Egyptian embassy in Tanzania for the albino community in Dar es Salaam yesterday, Mr Chikawe said the cases would be fast tracked. "We are going to apply speed in the cases of albino killings. But I assure you that the courts will be very careful to ensure that justice is done."

"We are not going to compromise justice even as we want these cases concluded quickly," declared the minister.

He said the Government has already directed legal institutions, including the Judiciary, to ensure that the cases were given priority and fast tracked. However, the minister said normally murder cases take up to three years from the time of hearing to completion.

But because of the state of albino killings in the country the speed with which the cases are processed would be accelerated purposely, he said.

Mr Chikawe further said that in its next session, Parliament would pass the optional protocol on protection of people with disabilities. A law to reflect the protocol would be enacted later, he said, noting that among people to be involved in the protocol would be albinos.

He explained that the law would establish a special registry for all disabled people. The registration would be made at all levels in the municipalities to enable the exact number of disabled people to be known.

"We will task the municipal councils to ensure that the registration is carried out accurately so that we obtain exact data and information on disabled people in the country," he explained.

He said presently albino killings were being given priority by the Government. Though efforts have been made to address the problem, the Government was not satisfied with the achievements so far, he noted.

He said this means that the Government would not relent in the war against
people who target albinos until the issue has been addressed.

The wife of the Egyptian ambassador to Tanzania, Ms Ghada Nars, said ignorance, lack of education and awareness among a few wananchi were among reasons that contribute to the ongoing albino killings in Tanzania.

She called on all people to engage in nationwide sensitization campaigns on the consequences of albino killings. She insisted that no one was allowed to take someone's life because every person has a right to live.

Speaking during the luncheon, Al-Shymaa John Kwegyir, a nominated MP, said apart from threats to their lives, albinos in the country were facing various challenges. She said there was no clear statistics on the population of albinos in the country because most have decided to hide because of stigmatisation. This is in addition to health hazards that face the skin impaired people, she said.

She noted that there could be changes if all people decided to act collectively to promote albinos.

The Egyptian ambassador, Mr Wael Nasr, opposed the notion that albino body parts were capable of making someone rich.

"The only reliable way for one to become rich is education and hard work, and it takes quite a long time for one to succeed through education," he said.

Emphasising on religious understanding, he noted that a proper spiritual knowledge would wipe out wrong philosophies circulating in the society. He said the two main religions, Christianity and Islam, do not encourage murder.

The Government resolve comes at a time when a referendum to identify people engaged in albino killings has just ended in the country.