Albinos in Malawi ‘hunted like animals’ for body parts

 A lucrative black market exists for the body parts of albinos, who are believed by some to possess magical powers that can bring good luck. But as police in Tanzania crack down on the grisly trade, activists in neighbouring Malawi say attacks have spiked.

Victims of a growing trade in albino body parts.

Victims of a growing trade in albino body parts.

Albinos are living in fear of being killed in Malawi, where their body parts are increasingly being sold for use in traditional rituals that promise to deliver wealth and power.

Three albinos – people born without pigmentation – have been killed and mutilated in the southern African country in the first two months of the year, the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM) reported.

There were two albino killings in all of 2014 and one in 2013.

One woman was found in January with her head, arms and legs cut off, the government said. Police are also searching for several individuals reported missing.

Magical powers

“We are hunted like animals,” said APAM president Boniface Massah, who campaigns for the rights of Malawi’s 10 000 albinos.

The body parts are often believed to be sold in neighbouring Tanzania, where more than 70 albinos have been killed since 2000.

Tanzanian authorities announced in January that they would crack down on the gruesome trade. They banned the activities of witch doctors who promise to bring clients good luck and fortune to prevent them from making ritual use of albino body parts.

While the practice is condemned by the overwhelming majority of traditional healers, a lucrative black market exists for the body parts said to possess magical powers.

A set of albino body parts – including hands and feet, genitals, ears, tongue and nose – sold for $75 000 in Dar es Salaam recently, according to Tanzanian police.

Spike in the number of killings

But after Tanzania began its efforts to curb the practice, activists say the criminals moved to Malawi.

“Those who are in the business of selling body parts of albinos … have established a market in Malawi, because it has become tougher to do business in Tanzania,” Massah said.

Police have not commented on the matter. Several people have been arrested in connection with the recent killings of albinos but they do not include any foreigners.

The spike in the number of slayings has scared many parents of albino children to such an extent that they have taken them out of school, the activist said.

“You are no longer sure you can trust even friends or relatives,” Massah added.

Albinos face threat in many African countries, ranging from Kenya and Burundi to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal.

The rights group Under The Same Sun (UTSS) lists 140 killings, as well as 219 mutilations and other attacks, against albinos in 25 African countries between 1998 and 2015.

The belief in the magical powers of albinos is based on the idea that the birth of a white child to black parents is a supernatural event.

Worse experiences

Such a birth can be seen as a curse from the ancestors, and some east African ethnic groups – such as the Sukuma or the Maasai – traditionally killed albino children at birth, according to UTSS.

Among other African ethnic groups, however, albinos enjoy respect.

The Yoruba of Nigeria and Benin believe albinos are under the protection of the god Obatala, who is believed to have created them and to like the colour white.

Belief in magic is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. Malawian newspapers, for instance, frequently run articles on villagers being accused of witchcraft. It is not uncommon to hear stories of politicians or businessmen having accumulated wealth and power through magical means.

Being an albino was difficult in Malawi even before the killings increased. “Being white in a society where the majority is black is not easy,” said Massah, 32, who recalls being called names at school.

Many children have worse experiences, with their fathers abandoning the family because they suspect their wives of cheating on them with a white man, he said.

There have been no known convictions in Malawi for murders or other attacks against albinos in the past four years, according to Massah. In Tanzania, only about 10 people were convicted since 2000, local media reported.

“I am a teacher. I am contributing to the development of Malawi like any other person,” said Emmanuel Mkwapatira, a 43-year-old albino who lives in the southern town of Balaka.

“Is this not enough evidence that people with albinism are also human?”–(Additional reporting by Sinikka Tarvainen, Sapa)

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19 thoughts on “Albinos in Malawi ‘hunted like animals’ for body parts”

  1. zebron henry banda says:

    You failed at school so miserably and think,devilishly,that someone’s skin colur will deduce you multi millions?pple committing such heinous crime should be sentenced to death by firing squad.I would happily be the first to apply for such a job.kill those bastards before they become a nuisance and daint the image of MALAWI.

  2. Ida says:

    Kodi chuma chokhetsera mwazi wa anthu chimakoma bwanji? Ambuye chonde tichotsereni mitima yoipayi.

  3. MELINDA says:

    A SAD NEWS

  4. saidi says:

    Kill the killers then they will be afraid to comit murder. Re introduce the death penalty.

  5. I personally grew up with albinish friend who used to be my best friend a neighbor and a classmate,we used to go swimming together,sleeping together and sometimes fighting.nothing is superior or a miss between albino and any other human kind.witchcraft is a disease for poor uneducated people.let us altogether protect our albinish friends.u can’t be rich coz u hv killed somebody,pigmentation is nothing,we are human beings created by One same God.

  6. VERY BAD THINKING, THEY ARE ALSO PEOPLE LIKE US AND WE SHARE COMMOMN GOALS IN THE COMMUNITY.

  7. freespch says:

    Please aMalawi sing’anga ndiwabodza zizimba sizigwira ntchito ayi Albino ndi anthu ngati inu nomwe. MULUNGU AKULANGANI KOOPSYA NDI ZIMENEZI

  8. Truth says:

    Stop the stupid adverts in papers where stupid people claim they can bring riches within days. ban all stupid Nanga operating in towns.

  9. ayu says:

    Jehovah, the true God, promises that time will come when all these atrocities will be gone (Revelation 21:1-5) There will be no more pain, suffering, tear nor dying. To our beloved albino brothers and sisters, be assured that Jehovah the God of the heavens knows what you are going through in this old system of things. Be assured that if you believe in Him, you will be among those people who will see the fulfillment of Revelation 21:1-5. Be assured also that God loves you and that He will fight on your behalf just so soon. We are indeed living in “critical times hard to with” as recorded on 2 Timothy 3:1-5, when many people are lovers of themselves and money. You may wish to visit jw.org for more details on what Jehovah has in store for everyone, including our fellow humans, the albinos. Jehovah is not partial and loves anybody who chooses to do His will and please Him

  10. nat turner says:

    Mwalakwitsa kuika mtengo wa 75 000 dollars, many thugs reading this may be tempted to hunt for albinos. If people kill for just few thousands of kwacha what more millions of kwachas?

  11. NANSANI says:

    Koma kumene mumakatenga mankhwala olemeretsako, wokupatsaniyo amawoneka bwani? Think!!!???

  12. Jimmy juga says:

    Lets all gang up against this.we are all human being .why are we installing fear to our fellow human being. The secret behind wealth is to work hard not to take ones life. We should conderm it and the perpetuator should be brought and face the law. Lets all guard against the ill minded pple.everyone should live peacefully

  13. mboba says:

    This is unacceptable

  14. wakupha zake aphedwe ndikulakwa chifukwa alingati mene tilili ifeso

  15. kd says:

    meaning ku Malawi kuno tikkhoza kupeza US$750,000,000 multiply by .MK450.00 ndiye kuti ndi deal….. musova

  16. Khwirimtoto says:

    This is a sad development,is this humanity?I urge my fellow Malawians to be alert! Any suspicious people doing suspicious business should be reported to police.i know these foreign traders link their business with malawians,please lets join our hands to abolish the system dont hide them! Dont hide the neighbour.

  17. John Kapito Chibanzi Pakamwa says:

    Ine ndilinaye mzanga Albino; amene ali serious I can ‘arrange him’ for him; sibola za m’manjazo!

    1. Jose Gusto says:

      You are either just plain stupid or very sick in your ugly mind!

  18. Mbanga says:

    We need to gang up against all criminal acts. This is worse as it involves murder. We must also guard against rest houses keeping foreigners who have unquestionable business. I understand there are a lot of Mozambicans sleeping in Lunzu and they solely come to buy stolen phones.

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