Al­bino and proud: DRC fes­ti­val pro­motes per­se­cuted mi­nor­ity

The China Post - - LIFE - BY HABIBOU BANGRI

Al­bi­nos gath­ered Fri­day in the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo’s cap­i­tal Kin­shasa for a first-of-it­skind fes­ti­val to celebrate a mi­nor­ity that suf­fers ram­pant per­se­cu­tion in Africa.

“We want to re­in­force the vis­i­bil­ity of al­bi­nos in the up­per spheres of so­ci­ety and cre­ate role mod­els that al­low par­ents of al­bino chil­dren to not feel ashamed,” said Yan Mambo, an or­ga­nizer of the “Proudly Al­bino” event.

Al­binism is a hered­i­tary ge­netic con­di­tion which causes a to­tal ab­sence of pig­men­ta­tion in the skin, hair and eyes.

In ad­di­tion to fac­ing dis­crim­ina- tion at school and work, al­bi­nos in coun­tries like Bu­rundi and Tan­za­nia are some­times killed for their body parts for use in witch­craft.

At least 76 al­bi­nos in Tan­za­nia have been mur­dered since 2000, with their dis­mem­bered body parts go­ing for around US$600 and en­tire bod­ies fetch­ing US$75,000, ac­cord­ing to United Na­tions ex­perts.

At a work­shop on Fri­day, al­bino women got point­ers on start­ing their own busi­nesses. Dolees, a 23-year-old hair stylist and aes­theti­cian in train­ing, told AFP she was proud of be­ing al­bino and planned to open her own sa­lon.

“I am el­e­gant. I am beau­ti­ful. I have a nice size,” she said. “God cre­ated me like this, why should I be hung up?”

As well as dis­crim­i­na­tion, risks as­so­ci­ated with al­binism in­clude skin can­cer — ex­pen­sive sun creams are of­ten dif­fi­cult to ob­tain — as well as eye­sight prob­lems.

In­stead of fo­cus­ing on the neg­a­tives, the fes­ti­val in Kin­shasa aims to em­power the group.

“We want to high­light ex­cel­lence, be­cause in Con­golese so­ci­ety, there are nearly no elite ndundu,” said Mambo, us­ing a lo­cal word from the lin­gala lan­guage for al­bi­nos.

Prom­i­nent African al­bi­nos in­clude Malian mu­sic leg­end Salif Keita who called this week for peo­ple with the con­di­tion to be pro­tected, with fears ris­ing over at­tacks in Tan­za­nia

“It is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able for hu­mans to sac­ri­fice other hu­man be­ings, it comes from ig­no­rance,” the mu­si­cian told AFP in an in­ter­view dur­ing a visit to East Africa.

Rights groups have warned of the risk of a rise in at­tacks against al­bi­nos in Tan­za­nia, which has just be­gun cam­paign­ing for gen­eral and pres­i­den­tial elec­tions on Oct. 25.

Some politi­cians have been ac­cused of buy­ing al­bino body parts for witch­craft and lucky charms.

The Kin­shasa fes­ti­val, which in­cludes lec­tures, aware­ness cam­paigns and a fash­ion show, wraps up Satur­day with con­certs and a march through the city.

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