DURATION: 56 min.
A crazy manhunt has broken out in peaceful Tanzania. Bounty hunters murder and mutilate Albinos so that they can take their limbs. According to the paranoid superstition streak that has been initiated by 161.000 Tanzanian witch doctors, the limbs of the bodies of those who were born without melanin in their skin bring good fortune and wealth. A horror trade of human limbs has been set up and is spreading like fire in the neighboring countries. The Albinos are being slaughtered like animals. They are the Zeru Zeru, the Nobodies, the Ghosts.
Written & Directed by Yorgos Avgeropoulos / Produced by Nina Maria Pashalidou /Director of Photography: Yiannis Avgeropoulos / Production Manager: Anastasia Skoubri /Research Coordinator: Aggelos Athanasopoulos / Original Music by Yiannis Paxevanis / Editing by Yiannis Biliris & Anna Prokou / Website Coordinator: Apostolis Kaparoudakis / Graphics: Sakis Palpanas / A Small Planet Production for Greek Public Television ERT © 2008 - 2009
Original shooting format: HD 720p25 / Languages: Swahili, Greek, English / Subtitles: Greek, English / Available Versions: Greek, English, International
‘Bring me the limbs of an albino and you will become rich' the witch-doctor commands his patient-clients and they believe him. They will break into albino houses at night and, using a machete, a common farmer's tool, they will cut off the arms, legs, tongue, or even their head while they are still alive. ‘They broke in holding a lit up torch. Vomilia asked them "who are you". "Soon you will know us" they answered. When I tried to shut the door, one of them crushed me on the wall with it. The other one cut Vomilia's neck with a machete. She fell down and then he started cutting her right leg.'
Jeme, from a poor family of farmers, saw her 17 old daughter being slaughtered right before her eyes.
One out of four thousand people in Tanzania is an albino. There is no official record. Albinos are also known as Zeru Zeru, the Ghosts, the Nobodies. A banned word. People with no melanin, a genetic deviation that passes on from generation to generation. Totally white with white hair and red eyes, Albinos in Africa stand out. With limited vision and threatened by skin cancer, they are aware of their difference from an early age. Their class mates touch them to check if their color...fades. Cursed from birth, since by tradition they are considered to be children of adultery.
Since May 2007 a crazy manhunt has shaken the otherwise peaceful Tanzanian land. It began in the land of Sukuma, in the Lake Victoria district where some of the cunning witch-doctors that are active in Tanzania have capitalized on the fears and superstitions of the people, inventing a macabre way of making more money. By ‘modernizing'the prejudice that had people fearing albinos because of their difference, they started to spread the rumor that they bring good luck. Dead. ‘People are looking for albinos, they go to the witch -doctors, they tell them that they are going to become rich if they have the limbs from the body of an albino. I hate them, they are the source of evil', albino M.P. Al Shaimma Kwengir points out.
Today albino flesh and bones are sold in the black markets of Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, the People's Republic of Kongo and Burundi. An albino hand costs 1.500 euros.
The perpetrators, fishermen who have witnessed the disappearance of perches, gold miners from the country's mountains who have seen the gold run out, plain villagers who are consulting the village's witch-doctor on their health and their marriage, but also nouveau-riches that crave to see their business flourish. ‘The unique element in these crimes of prejudice lies in the fact that they are closely related to the current craze for wealth without labour, the miracle of easy money', says Philosophy Professor Locki Laitama.
Gangs also make a bundle by taking up the task of slaughtering the albino on behalf of others. Within a year it has been estimated that over a hundred albinos have been murdered in Tanzania in front of their relatives' eyes. Quite often, their own relatives, neighbors and acquaintances are accomplices to the crime.
Despite government efforts, the authorities are having trouble limiting the phenomenon and preventing this irrational crime that has stigmatized the Tanzanian society. As a result, the albinos are caged in their homes, defenseless, waiting for the hour of their slaughter to come. ‘They entered and cut his throat. They poured the blood in a vessel and drank it. They cut his legs and left', Al Shaimma Kwengir narrates.