Over the past six years, more than 3,000 people were lynched in Tanzania by frightened neighbors who thought they were witches,
according to a new report from the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC).
Between 2005 and 2011, Tanzanians lynched an average of 500 people per year on suspicion of witchcraft, with most killings occurring in rural areas in the north of the country, according to the report obtained by Agence France-Presse
"In Shinyanga province for example 242 people were killed because of local beliefs in witchcraft between January 2010 and January 2011 alone," the Legal and Human Rights Centre said in the report.
The LHRC explained that many victims were older women who had developed red eyes, which has long been considered a sign of
witchcraft. Poor women in particular often develop red eyes as a result of burning cow dung for fuel as a substitute for firewood,
researchers have found.
"Use of low quality biomass fuels like cow dung cause indoor pollution which is a hazar reflected in eyes turning red," gender consultant Rose Mgema told the InterPress Third World News Agency.
Ignas Mtana, a spokesman for police in northwest Tanzania, told IntrePress that women are often killed within a short period of time
following the death of a relative. He said many families visit soothsayers to determine the cause of death and are often told
that witchcraft is responsible.