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Arlington, VA January 26, 2010 – Today, Asante Mariamu, an organization dedicated to ending the slaughter of people with albinism in East Africa, was launched. In the past two years, more than 50 people with albinism in East Africa have been hunted and killed for their body parts. Witch doctors there promote the belief that body parts of people with albinism can be made into potions to bring wealth or luck.

Named after a survivor of such an attack, Asante Mariamu is a grassroots campaign whose purpose is to increase awareness of the immediate and long-term mortal threats to people living with albinism in East Africa. In addition to the murder and mutilation of this population, many also die prematurely and painfully from skin cancer.

Mariamu Staford is a woman with albinism from a small village in the Lake District of Tanzania. In 2008, while sleeping with her 2-year-old son, Mariamu was attacked by two men, who cut off her arms. Her son was unhurt, and she survived the loss of her arms after spending weeks in a hospital.

“As the mother of two children with albinism, I was deeply shaken when I first heard about the killings in Tanzania,” said Susan DuBois, founder and executive director of Asante Mariamu.  “I met Mariamu when she traveled to the U.S. recently for medical treatment, and I knew then I could not turn away from this issue. I feel a deep commitment to raise awareness about the threats facing albinos in East Africa, both from the mercenaries who would kill them and from skin cancer from the harsh African sun.”

Mariamu identified her attackers, who were arrested but never convicted of the crimes they committed. She now lives in a safe house in a different region of Tanzania and hopes someday to return to her job as a seamstress.

During her stay in the United States, Mariamu and members of the albinism community in Northern Virginia met with U.S. Representative Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA).  Following the meeting, he pledged to introduce a House Resolution condemning the treatment of people with albinism in East Africa and to work with government officials in the United States and in Tanzania to stop the killings. 

In a speech to members of Congress on January 19, 2010, Representative Connolly said, “My meeting with Mariamu and local families concerned about her plight and albinism in general has moved me to take action.” He added, “I am contacting President Obama and the State Department to urge them to place diplomatic pressure on other members of Tanzania’s federal and local governments to end these crimes against humanity and to provide education to dispel the myth that the body parts of those with albinism have supernatural properties.”

Asante Mariamu is currently working with other partner organizations, including the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH), Under The Same Sun, and Positive Exposure, to raise awareness of the issue and gain support for the House Resolution. 

Asante Mariamu is dedicated to ending the slaughter of people with albinism in East Africa; to bringing about the swift prosecution and conviction of their killers; and to providing albinos with life-saving education and supplies for the prevention of skin cancer. 

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