Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete has vowed to end the killings of albinos, which he said had brought shame on the East African nation.
“I’m shocked and saddened at the sudden upsurge in these macabre killings,” he is quoted as saying in a TV address.
Albino people, who lack pigment in their skin, have faced attacks for their body parts, which witchdoctors believe bring good luck and wealth.
The president said such beliefs were false and fuelled the “ongoing evil”
‘I believe with the close co-operation between the government and society, we will succeed in ending these killings of with albinism and rid our nation of this shame”
The Tanzania Albinism Society (Tas) had planned to march to State House in Dar es Salaam on Monday to deliver a message to President Kikwete, but the police banned the demonstration, citing security reasons.
The president said he was ready to meet albino leaders and campaigners at a later date to discuss possible solutions to the killings.
Last month, an albino toddler was found dead with all his limbs hacked off and a young girl with albinism has been missing since December.
The UN warned last year that attacks on albinos were on the rise ahead of elections later this year, with politicians turning to witchdoctors to improve their luck.
“It is a false belief that if someone has the body part of a person with albinism, this will bring success in business, fishing and mining activities. This is what has been fuelling this ongoing evil,” Reuters news agency quoted President Kikwete as saying in his monthly national television address.
He said the government would continue its attempts to end the attacks as albinos should not live in fear.
“I believe with the close co-operation between the government and society, we will succeed in ending these killings of persons with albinism and rid our nation of this shame.”
Mr Kikwete said the clampdown by the authorities had led to a lull in attacks since 2011 and he was perplexed by recent cases, Tanzania’s Citizen newspaper reports.
The government banned witchdoctors in January as part of its efforts to prevent further attacks and kidnappings.
According to the Red Cross, witchdoctors are prepared to pay $75,000 (£50,000) for a complete set of albino body parts.
At least 75 people living with albinism in Tanzania have been killed in targeted attacks since 2000.
President Kikwete said that over the last nine years, 139 suspects had been apprehended on links to albino attacks, 73 of whom had been acquitted and 15 found guilty, the Citizen says.
Albinism is particularly prevalent in Tanzania with one in 1,400 affected, according to a 2006 BMC Public Health report. This compares with one in 20,000 in Western countries.
Some researchers believe the higher rate is due to inbreeding