By Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala
DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Albino campaigners in Tanzania called on Friday for the execution of prisoners convicted of murdering people with their condition to deter the witchcraft-related killings.
Activists say attackers have killed at least 75 albinos in the east African country since 2000 to use their limbs in rituals meant to guarantee success in love, life and business.
Seventeen people convicted of the murders are currently on death row, including four sentenced to death on Thursday -- but Tanzania has not carried out an execution for two decades.
"We want all those convicted of killing persons with albinism to be hanged without delay in order to send a strong message that these attacks will no longer be tolerated," the chairman of the Tanzania Albinism Society (TAS), Ernest Kimaya, told Reuters.
"We made this appeal directly to the president during our meeting with him this week and he expressed his commitment to us that the government will expedite the process of carrying out executions of death row inmates convicted of such killings."
Kimaya said the members feared the attacks, recently on the rise, would become even more frequent in the build-up to October elections, as some politicians turned to witch doctors to try to increase their chance of winning.
"It is true that there is a link between elections and a rise in attacks on persons with albinism. It is something that we are aware of," Kimaya said.
Similar beliefs exist in other African societies about albinos, most of them easily recognizable as they lack pigment in their skin, eyes and hair. But activists say attacks are particularly prevalent in Tanzania.
President Jakaya Kikwete met members of TAS on Thursday, days after promising a crack down on the attacks and saying they brought shame onto the nation.
Home Affairs Minister Mathias Chikawe told Reuters the president had to give a written consent for an execution to be carried out.
Murders of albinos have been concentrated in gold-rich regions and fishing communities surrounding the country’s Lake Victoria area where superstitious beliefs are rife.
(Reporting by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala; Editing by George Obulutsa and Andrew Heavens)