How does a three year-old child, with no passport, visa or other documentation cross two international borders? A child with albinism has been stolen -- or sold – and no one has any information.
Dr. Pius Kamau, a surgeon from Colorado was traveling in his native Kenya when he witnessed a bizarre incident. Three men were arguing with a Kenyan Airways attendant in the Nairobi airport. They were trying to board a plane to Burkina Faso, clutching a sleepy boy with albinism. The men were belligerent because the attendant was questioning their right to travel from Tanzania with a child for whom they had no documentation. In a world of TSA body scans, barefoot security lines and multiple checkpoints, it seems impossible that one could travel with an undocumented child.
However, the rules are different for children with albinism. The men bullied their way onto the flight to Burkina Faso, effectively sidestepping regulations in Tanzania and Kenya. How could this happen?
It could happen because, as Dr. Kamau noted, children with albinism in East Africa are the children of a lesser god. Many in East Africa view albinism as a curse, and the body parts of people with albinism are sold on a gruesome black market. Witch doctors claim to be able to make potions from the body parts to confer wealth or luck. According to Under the Same Sun, there have been 78 murders of people with albinism in Tanzania alone, and an additional 21 non-fatal attacks.
Where were the child’s parents? Why hasn’t anyone reported the abduction? Why would Tanzanian officials even let them out of the country? Dr. Kamau and others have made calls to the airlines, government officials and the Tanzanian Embassy – all to no avail. No one seems to be willing to talk about a three year-old child, perhaps stolen away to a terrible fate.
As a parent, it is incomprehensible to me that a child can just vanish, and that no family is stepping up to ask questions. I am also the mother of two children with albinism, which makes this personally haunting. It may be that there is an acceptable explanation as to what happened. If that is true, why is the airline refusing to answer questions?
I fear that this child has been lost to a culture of cruelty and ignorance, where albinism renders one less than human. Two years ago, I founded an organization dedicated to helping people with albinism in East Africa called Asante Mariamu. I will be traveling to Tanzania in three weeks with several friends to work at a school that is home to over 70 children with albinism. I will look for answers in the faces of the people I meet, and continue to work to change the perception about albinism all over the world. All children with albinism – mine included – deserve this very basic human dignity.
Please join us in our effort to find out what happened to this child, and help us make it impossible for it to happen again.
Stop the trafficking of children with albinism.
Asante Mariamu is calling on the government of Tanzania, Kenya Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and human rights groups to mount an investigation into the suspected trafficking of a child with albinism on April 18th, 2012.
Three men were witnessed arguing with a Kenya Airways attendant in the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (Nairobi) as they tried to board a flight with a child for whom they had no documentation. The travelers originated in Tanzania, and were attempting to go to Burkina Faso. The child is estimated to be approximately three years old, and has albinism.
Albinism is a genetic condition that results in the lack of pigment in a person’s hair, skin and eyes. In certain areas, most notably Tanzania, witch doctors promote the belief that people with albinism are less than human, and that their body parts can be made into potions to bring wealth or luck. A deadly black market has emerged in the region, and more than 78 adults and children with albinism have been murdered by mercenaries who sell their body parts to witch doctors.
Dr. Pius Kamau witnessed the altercation, and believes that the child may have been drugged. Albinism advocacy groups, including Asante Mariamu and Under the Same Sun, fear that the child was sold onto the black market, and have made repeated efforts to get information out of government and airlines authorities. No information has been forthcoming, despite immigration records, airport cameras and ticketing requirements.
We are calling on the Tanzanian government, Kenya Airways and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to release the information about these passengers, as well as any videotape that will help identify the child. We are also calling on human rights groups to advocate on behalf of children with albinism, who deserve a better fate than to be a stolen child.