Calling a spade by its name: APM can do better on albino killings in Malawi

As if the economic pain and biting poverty are not enough, Malawians are beginning to come into sharp global focus again for all the wrong reasons. The latest is the rising spate of albino killings, which have caught the global eye.Loose cannon

The debate is still raging and the verdict is apparently already out there about the real culprit fueling the rising spate of albino killings: The Malawi government! Of course, the blame game is particularly taking speed with finger-pointing from different quarters.

We have just witnessed a grouping of witchdoctors fighting off a blanket ban on their practice by Mzuzu High Court Judge, Dingiswayo Madise, apparently based on the belief that these ‘doctors’ are the ones fueling this sadistic practice through their ritualistic counsel to their clients.

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Amnesty International (AI) Secretary General, Salil Shetty, cited several reasons why this country does not seem to be making any headway in as far as coming up with a solution to stop this practice is concerned. Among them, he mentioned poverty and lack of political will.

It is now a documented fact that this country is still flitting–around in the doldrums in the global development indexes. Poverty is still raging like bushfire and the majority of Malawians still live below the poverty line, without hope for a new day.

People are living desperate lives and can turn to anything, including unbelievable mythology, as long as it promises to bring them food on the table.

Despite the fact that the killings started way back, there has not been any coherent policy now from Capital Hill aimed at comprehensively stopping this social vice ‘once and for all’ to bring order to the scared albino communities. Government continues to flip-flop on major policy issues and generally lacks direction including on the issue of albino killings.

What we have seen are just reactive and disjointed measures (often coming late and after a person with albinism has been killed) by respective police stations that are also few and far between.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, for AI to point out that the lack of political will is one of the major reasons that albino killings seem to continue unabated in this country.

According to the organization, Tanzania faced a rising wave of albino killings not a long while ago but that country’s government was able to deal with the challenge owing to political will spearheaded by former President Jakaya Kikwete.

It is perplexing that the Malawi government does not seem to learn from its northern neighbor, especially when their predecessors attempted, successfully, to do it!

Does it have to come from an international organization for Malawi to wake up from its mediocrity and stop the wave of albino killings? It does not have to come from AI for government to realize that something drastic ought to be done about this obviously horrible situation.

President Peter Mutharika must go beyond just receiving petitions on albino killings on the balcony of State House. The country needs an urgent and workable policy; it needs laws that go down to the root of the problems, and he is the person to lead and articulate that policy solution to Malawians. Watching from afar, at State House, will not begin to cut it.

Over the past year and a half, a disturbing and violent trend has been growing in Malawi, a country often known by its nickname “the Warm Heart of Africa.” At least 18 people with albinism, a congenital condition resulting in a lack of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes, have been murdered, and many others have been raped or harassed. Four of the murders happened in April alone, and five more albinos have been abducted and are still missing.

A new report from Amnesty International accuses Malawian police of failing to protect the albino population, and the Malawian government of failing to educate its citizens about albinism’s natural causes.

Albinism is more common in sub-Saharan Africa than elsewhere in the world. Superstitions about the condition are rife, especially in Malawi and neighboring Tanzania and Mozambique.

Some people believe that having sex with an albino woman can cure HIV, which puts albino women at particular risk of being raped. Other evil-minded mortals believe that the bones of albino people contain gold, or have medicinal or even magical properties. That demand, stemming from a ritual medicine revival in Malawi, is fueling the spate of murders by gangs that, allegedly, can make as much as US$75,000 selling a “full set” of albino body parts, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross.

“Their bones are believed to be sold to practitioners of traditional medicine in Malawi and Mozambique for use in charms and magical potions in the belief that they bring wealth and good luck,” AI said, adding that the macabre trade is also fueled “by a belief that bones of people with albinism contain gold.”

Separately from AI, the United Nations recorded at least 65 cases of violence against albinos, including but not limited to killings and dismemberment, since the end of 2014.

Ikponwosa Ero, an independent expert who works with the United Nations on issues around albinism, told Al Jazeera that she thinks albinos in parts of southern Africa face extinction.

“I said that this will happen over time if nothing is done,” she said. “The situation is a potent mix of poverty, witchcraft beliefs and market forces which push people to do things for profit.”

In a vacuum of public knowledge about the causes of albinism, many albinos are shunned by their families, and parents are often baffled by giving birth to albino children. The abductions and killings, some of which have been particularly gruesome, have instilled a culture of fear in the albino population.

Whatever the arguments are about the intentions of the perpetrators of the brutal murders of albinos, I would want to agree with Amnesty international on three points: There seems to be no tangible action from the Malawi Government to deal with the same. It is called ‘the lack of political’.

But another dimension to this vice would be that there may be growing anxiety and hopelessness on the part of Malawians, which may turn some evil-minded citizens to take up evil as a form of economic redemption. Authorities have to decisively deal with the growing poverty as a matter of urgency. How they do it is to realize how they got themselves the echelons of power.

Finally, the police ought to find out who the ‘market’ is. It’s called “getting to the bottom of the matter”. Others say “getting to the root of the problem”. Malawians are watching!

“The right to life is a moral principle based on the belief that a human being has the right to live and, in particular, should not be killed by another human being.”

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2 thoughts on “Calling a spade by its name: APM can do better on albino killings in Malawi”

  1. The Analyst says:

    O………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….O
    “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” – Leonard Reagan
    . . . Luckily, we all know who the government is.

    Being professor of law . . .
    . . . one would expect the government to know that what is legal is not always what is just and sometimes (particularly now); what is just is more desirable than what’s legal.
    . . . And thus, that the only just punishment for anybody who intentionally and brutally kills persons with albinism, is death by hanging or boiling or however. Luckily, this punishment is also legal in Malawi.
    . . . The Prof. could have known that the presence of a law which is not used; is no different from a law which does not exist or is absent.
    . . . The old Prof could have been professorial enough and read between the lines that what all these international organisations are telling him (yes him); is to use the death penalty on these disgusting devilish foolish fools.

    Alas, the professor is just behaving like any “pedestrian;” pede weniweni.
    . . . A very strange professor of law.
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    Yes the Prof. and other equally misguided creatures like Mtambo; argue that the albino killers have right to life; and if you ask them where they learnt this from, “from civilised countries,” they will say.
    . . . yet if you look at what Obama does to terrorists, you will realise that not all rights, for all people; should be defended, all the time!
    . . . Let me enlighten this Prof. that the people who attack albinos are no different from the terrorists in America. They both cause terror, and untold fear among people. And should be treated (in punishment) as such.
    . . . Or else, the Prof. and Mtambo and other credulous aliens, will claim that Malawi is more civilised than the USA on human rights? Why do people always find comfort in lying themselves?
    . . . Lets not refuse to think, good people!

    Your casual attitude on this crisis is very strange and irritating! and the blame squarely lies on you!
    O……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….O

  2. Petre Mathanyula says:

    Another School of thought is like this:COPIED WITHOUT PERMISSION:
    “Masiku Banda EXPOSED
    PRESIDENT MUTHARIKA IMPLICATED IN ALBINO KILLINGS AS MULI STRUGGLES TO SETTLE LOAN OWED AT MSB
    1.Mulli behind albino killings after ivory business
    had hit a snag.
    2.Registration of albinos put in place to easily locate them, says source.
    In a dramatic twist of news, it has emerged that
    Malawi president Peter Mutharika is aware of who continues to mercilessly kill albinos in the country, Malawi Press has uncovered.
    It all started when police in Ntcheu netted 11 albino killers and were later located to an unknown
    destination after one of them revealed that they were being sent by Mr Mulli. He advised fellow citizens to question why there are no leads to source of the crime and not even the potential buys despite many people convicted over same issue.
    Our investigations have found out that Mulli wanted to start ivory business to settle loan of over a billion kwacha he owed Malawi Savings Bank but the business hit a snag. Mulli had earlier threatened Mutharika that he would let the cat out of the bag when it transpired that Mutharika’s elder brother Bingu was also involved in the loan.
    A source at Malawi Police Service who pleaded
    anonymity said albino business is being run by big man.
    “Let me just inform you that Mulli is the one who is sending people to hunt for albinos. Most police
    officer of high rank know about this. It is alleged
    that Mulli informed Mutharika about the business so that he can make quick money to settle the loan”,
    said the source.
    “Abwana, the new idea of registering albinos is just a trick to easily locate them when the hunters need them. Malawians are fooled. Do you think a police officer will be sent to guard the albinos at their houses? Its very easy for us police to protect them but there is laxity somewhere”, he continued.
    Mutharika plans to send delegation to Tanzania to find out how the dealt with the malpractice but
    people allege that the president wants to buy time. Many albinos have been killed in the country as witch doctors claim that albino bones are used to bring riches.”

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