Candidates hope to combat sharp rise in killings of people with albinism, whose body parts are used in ritual practices
Published on June 26, 2018
By Charles Pensulo
Being born with albinism can be a death sentence in Malawi. With 22 recorded murders in the past four years, dozens more people have been reported missing – suspected abducted and killed.
Now an association of people with albinism in Malawi has announced it will put forward six candidates for next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections, in an unprecedented move to combat stigma.
Malawi is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for people living with albinism – a lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes – who are targeted so that their body parts can be used in magic potions and other ritual practices.
The unprecedented rise in ritual and witchcraft-related killing for body parts that has also been documented in Tanzania and Burundi has led to the UN creating a special mandate to protect people with the genetic disorder.
Overstone Kondowe, director of the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi, said fielding political candidates would go a long way in changing how people with albinism were viewed in Malawi.
“We want to show the public that we are more than our skin,” he said.
Elizabeth Machinjiri is one of those planning to stand as a member of parliament in Blantyre. The director of a local charity, Disability Rights Movement, Machinjiri said her experience was key.
“What I have seen is that disability issues are ignored in the country,” she said. “In our parliament there are only one or two people that have a disability. I understand one will not even [stand in] the next election. We need to be represented. Other people may not understand the pain and hard things that we go through every day.”
Machinjiri said she would lobby for schools and hospitals to be disability-friendly.
“Mostly people choose [an MP] because they are rich. I am saying no, because that money is personal and cannot be used for developmental projects. Once elected, I will make sure that I present the voices and wishes of people living in my area and not only my views.”
Machinjiri said that stopping abductions of people living with albinism in the country will take huge political will. She may not find it easy to convince people, and still has to raise money to fund the campaign process.
“We need political commitment in fighting this,” she said, emphasising that attacks are becoming more commonplace. “People should know that I am standing for a reason. I won’t hide evil since I am a courageous person.”
Source: The Guardian, June 26, 2018