Amnesty International has faulted Malawi government of failing to protect people with albinism and has called for authorities to do more to punish those responsible deeply disturbing pattern of disappearances and killings of the vulnerable group.
It is widely believed that albino body parts are sold for use in witchcraft.
In the past 19 months authorities in Malawi have recorded the murders of 18 albinos and abduction of five others although Amnesty fears the real number is likely to be higher as many attacks in secretive rituals in rural areas are never reported.
In a report released on Tuesday titled “We Are Not Animals to be Hunted or Sold: Violence and Discrimination Against People with Albinism in Malawi”, the global human rights group expressed its concern that “the unprecedented wave of brutal attacks against people with albinism has created a climate of terror for this vulnerable group and their families” in the southern African nation.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for southern Africa, said in a statement: “The time has come for the Government of Malawi to stop burying its head in the sand and pretending that this problem will just go away.”
There is no systematic documentation of crimes against people with albinism in Malawi, where people with albinism number around 10,000 out of a population of around 16.5 million.
People with albinism face discrimination and threats, both at school and in their communities. Myths about albinism abound, including the belief that having sex with an albino is a cure for HIV.
“The images that you see, where they hack off their hands, their feet, it’s so difficult to understand what goes on in such a mind to commit such a heinous crime against an innocent human being, merely because they look different,” Simeon Mawanza, lead researcher of the Amnesty report, said.
He added that children have been sold by their parents, and some of the attackers were close family members.
Malawi government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati said the Peter Mutharika led administration is vigorously fighting crimes against people living with albinism, describing the AI report as an unfair assessment.
Kaliati, who is Minister of Information, Communications Technology and Civic Education, pointed out that President Mutharika has publicly condemned the attacks and announced several measures, including the appointment of a legal counsel to assist with investigations, and a national response plan.
However, Amnesty said in its report that these measures by Malawi government “have failed to stop the violence.”
The report said: “Some perpetrators have been arrested, charged and convicted, but the majority of crimes remain unresolved. Charges and penalties often have not been commensurate with the gravity of the crimes, creating a sense of impunity.”
The report quotes Boniface Massah, president of Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (Apam), who says Malawians need to reflect on a fresh understanding of the hardships experienced by this vulnerable group and ensure that people with albinism are accepted.
Director of Public Prosecutions Mary Kachale s also quoted in the report admitting that some police prosecutors faced challenges to understand relevant laws to deal with crimes against people with albinism.
The Amnesty report came ahead of international albinism awareness day on June 13.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :