Almost six months ago, in early March 2019, President Peter Mutharika ordered an investigation into the killing and maltreatment of people living with albinism in Malawi.
I will check the outcome of the work of the commission created AND the follow-up to its report. Subsequently, I will inform the readers of this site.
To be continued (webmaster FVDK).
Published: March 8, 2019 By: News Central (Nigeria)
Malawi has experienced a surge in violent attacks on people with albinism over the past four years.
Malawi’s president, Peter Mutharika, on Friday appointed a commission of inquiry to probe a spate of attacks, abductions and killings of people with albinism. The panel, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Robert Chinangwa, will submit its report to Mutharika by April 30, the president’s office said.
The announcement came after mounting criticism of Mutharika for his response to the attacks. The Association of People with Albinism has been staging a vigil in the capital Lilongwe and says it will contact foreign embassies in a bid to seek refuge. Around 200 albinos, joined by 500 sympathisers, marched to the presidential palace on Wednesday.
Malawi, has experienced a surge in violent attacks on people with albinism over the past four years. In many cases, those with albinism are targeted for their body parts to be used in witchcraft.
In a June 2018 report, rights group Amnesty International said that since November 2014 there had been 148 crimes reported against people with albinism, with at least 21 deaths. (italics added by the webmaster FVDK). Just 30 percent of those attacks have been properly investigated, according to official statistics, with only one murder and one attempted murder case successfully prosecuted.
Of the 600 cases of violence against albinos in 28 African countries, Malawi accounted for nearly a third.
Albinism, a genetic disorder, causes a partial or total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes. As a result, many albinos often experience eye problems and have a heightened risk of skin cancer.
In South Africa, Malawi, Swaziland, Tanzania, Mozambique, Burundi, in most countries in Southern Africa people with albinism are targeted, terrorized, attacked, mutilated, murdered, all for one purpose: muti. In recent years governments in some of these countries have taken measures to protect their albino-citizens. President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania pledged to crackdown on albino killings (2015), the Malawian government ordered police to shoot in a bid to protect albinos (2015). Prosecution of suspects have started in various countries. Yet it is not enough. The attacks and killings continue. More needs to be done: education – to teach people that superstition, the belief in the power of muti is misplaced and that one cannot get away with murder – and the rule of law are key to eradicate these heinous crimes against innocent people who are born with a disability and have to live with it: albinism. (webmaster FVDK).
Published: June 2, 2016 By: eNCA
JOHANNESBURG – with hate crimes against people with albinism still rife across the continent, the African Union and SADC have been urged to do more on their behalf.
In South Africa,a campaign has been launched to try and put an end to this human rights crisis.
“There is a lot of energy worldwide to protect the rhino, we expect the same if not more energy to protect people with albinism. If they are being hunted like the rhino, how much coverage do they get, one rhino killed in Malawi or in SA the while world will know about it. But people with albinism their story is not told aggressively enough as we hear stories about the rhino.”
*View the attached video for more on the plight of people living with albinism in Africa.
A teenage albino boy has reportedly been killed and dismembered in Burundi. An albino rights group said the 15-year-old’s body was found late on Saturday, according to the AFP news agency. “The young albino was killed atrociously … his murderers cut his right leg off at the knee, his right arm and his tongue,” said Kassim Kazungu, the head of Albinos Without Borders.
Previous albino killings in the African country have been linked to people practising witchcraft. More than 20 albino people have been killed in Burundi since 2008. (iitalics added by the webmaster FVDK)
In 2016 a five-year-old albino girl was kidnapped from her home by gunmen. The child’s dismembered body was discovered shortly afterwards. (Also see my October 4, 2018 posting).
Burundi’s government has banned witch doctors who claim to perform spells and charms using albino body parts to bring good luck and wealth. But in some areas a complete albino skeleton is worth as much as $75,000 (£62,000), according to the Red Cross.
Around 500 albino people live in Burundi.
Officials believe killings are carried out by local residents who work with witch doctors in neighbouring Tanzania, where 53 albino people have been killed since 2007 for their body parts. (italics added by the webmaster FVDK).
There are around 170,000 albino people living in Tanzania.
Related article: Albino teen found dismembered in Burundi
Published: August 19, 2019 By: Agence France-Presse
NAIROBI, Kenya – A 15-year-old albino boy has been found dismembered in Burundi a week after going missing, the first such killing in the country in three years, a local albino group said Sunday.
Albinos, who have white skin and yellow hair as a result of a genetic disorder that causes the absence of pigmentation, are killed regularly in some African countries for their body parts, which are used in witchcraft rituals.
The teenager was found dead late Saturday in the northwest of the country along the Rusizi river separating Burundi from the DR Congo, not far from his home village.
“The young albino was killed atrociously… His murderers cut his right leg off at the knee, his right arm and his tongue,” said Kassim Kazungu, the head of the local association Albinos Without Borders.
More than 20 albinos have been killed in Burundi since 2008, with the last case in 2016 when a five-year-old girl was found dismembered after being taken from her home.
Kazungu said a four-year-old albino boy had been missing since October 2018 from the village of Cendajuri near the Tanzanian border, but that he had “no hope” of finding him alive.
Some experts believe the demand for albino body parts in Tanzania — where such attacks are the most prevalent — has fueled such killings in border areas.
Published: April 19, 2016 By: Paul Shalala – Africa blogging
Tired of discovering mutilated dead bodies, some Lusaka residents recently protested over what they term as lack of protection from the Zambia Police Service (ZPS) following the suspected ritual killings which have claimed six lives in the past four weeks.
Residents of Chunga township took to the streets chanting anti-Police slogans and calling for the killers to be arrested and jailed.
“We want these satanists to be arrested and killed. We have lost too many people and we cannot allow this to continue,” said one of the protesters who identified himself as Chimwemwe.
Today’s protest was triggered by the discovery of a mutilated body of 30 year old Anthony Mwaba of George township which was lying in a pool of blood. ZPS Deputy Spokesperson Rae Hamoonga confirmed that Mwaba’s private parts, heart and ears were removed by his killers and his body was dumped 500 meters away from his house.
“The body had no heart, both ears and private parts. We are making an earnest appeal to residents of George compound to remain calm and cooperate with the Police as we are working and trying with all legal means at our disposal to resolve this heinous crime as soon as possible,”said Hamoonga.
The wave of suspected ritual killings started on 17th March this year when four bodies of men where discovered in an area called Paradise within George township. The four had their private parts and ears removed and this annoyed the residents who protested and burnt down a Police Post in the area forcing Police officers to run for their lives.
A few days later, Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja visited the area and pleaded with the residents not to take the law into their own hands. Mr Kanganja later offered a K50,000 reward for anyone who would provide information leading to the capture of the criminals.
Since then, the Police has intensified patrols in the area but this has not deterred the killers. So far, Zingalume, Chunga, Lilanda and George townships are the areas where the killers are said to be terrorising residents.
The total number of people who have been brutally murdered and have their body parts removed are six: four had their ears, hearts and private parts missing while two had only hearts missing.
Five FM radio journalist Mike Sichula who has extensively covered the recent killings says two other bodies which were found in the area but had all body parts intact, are not in the Police tally for ritual murders.
“There are only six confirmed ritual killings including today’s. Those others were ruled out. There was the bar case where one was strangled and then the one who was found in his apartment,” said Sichula.
These killings have sent fear in the areas where bodies have been picked and residents are said to be getting indoors as early as 18:00hrs for safety. The speculation is that the killers are either business people involved in the trade of body parts or are serial killers who are taking pride in killing people for the sake of killing.
In July 2012, a 19 year old student at the National Institute for Public Administration in Lusaka, Ruth Mbandu, was brutally murdered and her naked body had its eyes and ears missing while her facial skin was peeled off.
Her lifeless body was dumped in Emmasdale, an area which is three kilometers from Zingalume, the area where the current ritual murders are taking place. Four years later, Ruth’s case is still before the courts of law and it has not yet been concluded.
TV2 reporter, Patricia Mapiki, who has extensively covered murders in the suburbs of Lusaka, says the latest cases of suspected ritual murders actually started in October last year.
“Paul, the killings in Zingalume started in October last year. Remember the 53 year old lady who was killed, then the albino, then another lady in February this year and then the four victims on 17th March,” said Patricia.
She points out that the pattern of these killings suggests that there is coordination. “What is worth noting is also that the bodies are dumped in the same area, raising suspicion that the slaughter is just in one area,” she added.
Police have so far not arrested anyone in connection with the killings and they have also not recovered the missing body parts.
Related: Four male bodies with missing private parts picked up in Lusaka
Published: March 17, 2016 By: News Desk – Zambian Eye
Police in Lusaka this morning picked up four male bodies with missing private parts and ears in George compound near a place called The Paradise.
Police Spokesperson Charity Munganga-Chanda disclosed this in a statement made available to Zambian Eye Thursday morning. She said the two out of the four have been identified as Alex Zulu and Alias Phiri aged 21 and 18 years respectively. They were both last seen on 16th March 2016 around 18:00 hours.
The bodies were discovered by members of the public and had multiple head injuries. Preliminary investigations indicate that the deceased were dumped in the area after being murdered from elsewhere. The incident is suspected to have happened between 23:00 hours on 16th March and 06:00 hours 17th March 2016.
The bodies are lying at UTH mortuary.
“We are appealing to members of the public with information leading to the apprehension of the perpetrators to report to the nearest police station,” said Munganga-Chanda.
Published: April 13, 2019 By: Baya Samuel and Siago Cece
Hidden deep in the thicket, just a kilometre from Mrima wa Ndege township is Kaya Godhoma Centre, a sanctuary that has hosted tens of elders since 2008.
As we made our way in, we were stopped on our tracks, and told we had to undergo a cleansing ritual, as we were entering a cultural place.
“Let’s all stand up and form a ‘lungo’ (a traditional circle formed by a number of people gathered before prayers),” Emmanuel Katana, 45, the current chairman of the centre asked, and we all obliged.
For the next few minutes, together with the group of about 15 elders, we joined in their prayers, in Giriama dialect, thanking their gods for us, the visitors.
The prayers then ended with a handshake, signifying peace among the members. A brief introduction followed and later we were ushered inside the kaya minus our shoes, which we left at the bushy entrance.
Looking famished, with despairing faces, several elderly persons trickled into the kaya meeting point, under a tree shade.
Some were dressed in faded shirts and torn clothes holding their three-legged stools, while supporting their thin frames with wooden walking sticks. The women, on the other hand, donning torn lesos, carried woven mats which they spread down for the rest to sit on.
Kahindi Ngoka cuts a figure of a man weighed down by worry. At 76, Mr Ngoka is bitter at how his family turned against him, as they eyed his prime land in Kilifi.
Mzee Ngoka was branded by his own wife and children a witch, before they attempted to harm him. All along, their prime target was his one-and-half-acre prime land.
“The problem started in 2011, when my children accused me of being a witch. I defended myself, even suggesting that we go to a local witch buster called Mwasamani in Kwale County. Even when the ‘witch buster’ exonerated me, they didn’t stop,” Mr Ngoka said.
As he tried to ignore their accusations, the family upped the stakes by tricking him into a meeting at his eldest son’s house. “As soon as I entered, the doors were locked from outside and I knew that was the end. I had to act, sneaking through the thatched roof, and I escaped,” Mr Ngoka said.
What Mr Ngoka didn’t know was that a plan had already been hatched to push him out so that his land could be sold.
“Barely weeks after I escaped and came to Kaya Godhoma, I received news that part of my land had been sold and that one of my family members had gone to court to stop the sale,” Mzee Ngoka said. “I later realised that all the troubles were the plan of my wife and some of my children. They branded me a witch so that they could sell part of my land. I leave it to God,” he said.
Karisa Ndhudhi’s gait depicts a man burdened by worries about his life. The 63-year-old native of Konjora village in Kilifi, struggles to control his emotions, as he narrates his near death ordeal.
“I arrived here in August of 2017, having escaped death after a section of my family turned against me, branding me a witch. My problems started immediately after the death of my wife on December 24, 2013,” said Mr Ndundhi.
Immediately after her death, after a long illness, word went round that he was responsible for it, as he had bewitched her.
“Since I wanted to prove to them that I was not a witch, we went to a witchdoctor in Kwale, who exonerated me, after performing a ritual,” he said.
Thinking that he was off the hook, Mzee Ndundhi returned home, unaware that the worst was yet to come.
“Four years later, in July 2017, my third born son contracted cholera, but unfortunately despite the quick medical intervention, he passed on. Hours after my son’s death, I was again accused of bewitching him and the villagers and part of my family members descended on me with stones,” he said.
As the youths stoned him, an assistant chief called officers from the nearby Ngerenya police post, who rescued the hapless old man.
“I was then taken to Chumani village where our larger family resides,” he said. “At Chumani, a decision was arrived that he must be taken to Kaya Godhoma.
“I still love my home but I fear that once I return, they will kill me. Now my land is at stake and I have heard that there is someone seeking to purchase it, with the help of my other children,” he said.
Katana Thuva, 60, died a dejected bitter man. On paper, he was worth millions but in reality, he died a pauper, surrounded by elders who were also in the same predicament, offering nothing more than companionship and sad tales.
At the time of his death in October last year, Mzee Thuva owned a half-acre plot in Watamu, second row to the beach, which the current market value stands at Sh20 million.
He was also accused of practising witchcraft, even as he said his family was out to kill him, as they sought to sell his prized possession.
Mzee Ngoka and Ndhudhi’s predicament paint the sad picture facing hundreds of other elders in Kilifi and Kwale counties, which are being dispossessed off their prime land, some touching on the beaches, by money thirsty children, who want to make a quick killing from the black gold.
The elders have all sought refuge at the Kaya Godoma in Kilifi, a centre that offers them safe refuge; whiling time away, nursed by the haunted memories of their past, and the very resource they say connects them to their forefathers – land.
Within the Coastal counties, land ownership is still an emotive issue with the resource notably the cause of the killing of most elders.
In 2018, killings in Kilifi remained high with the security agencies stating that there are about 108 cases that were reported in the entire county.
Most of those we interviewed at Kaya Godhoma Rescue Centre in Vitengeni, Kilifi County connected their ordeal to land ownership.
Even with much spirited campaign from the government to end the trend, scores were killed especially in Kilifi and Kwale counties.
A report done jointly by Haki Africa and Institute for Land, Governance and Human Rights has shown that land ownership tussles were behind the killings. In an interview with Saturday Nation, Haki Africa executive director Khalid Hussein said that the report focused on the three years to 2018.
The report shows that in 2016, 41 elderly people were killed, while in 2017, 37 lost their lives. Last year, there were around 25 old men and women who were killed. “The main thing we found from the residents is that witchcraft was being used as a trigger of forceful land inheritance, with the children becoming impatient,” Mr Hussein said.
“We are currently undertaking a programme which we are implementing with local leadership in Kilifi and Kwale counties to address this menace.”
Poverty is also said to be a contributing factor, which has driven a lot of the young people to have an insatiable appetite to sell their ancestral lands.
The report further said that most of the victims were innocent of the witchcraft accusation, but still lost their lives because of land tussles.
“When over 100 people are killed in a span of one year, then you know that there is a problem. The only thing we are doing at the moment is to raise awareness so that locals can desist from killing the elderly,” Kenya National Commission for Human Rights (KNCHR) Coast regional coordinator Brenda Dosio said.
Ganze legislator Teddy Mwambire said he will be pushing for an amendment in Parliament to review the Witchcraft Act to cushion the elderly people from being murdered on suspicion of being sorcerers.
“The Act in its current form falls short of providing security to the aged. Ignorance is to blame for the rampant killings of the elderly in our society. People associate advanced age with witchcraft, a trend that has seen hundreds murdered. I will be seeking amendments of the Act or table another Bill altogether in parliament that will seek to cushion the elderly from such retrogressive acts,” he said.
Mr Julius Wanyama, a Peace Programme Coordinator at Haki Yetu organisation, said “From our assessment, the witchcraft accusations against the elderly are an excuse, but a very fatal one. It’s a trigger to deeper problems within the society -that is the thirst for land and money.”
“As an organisation, we have had to seek a meeting with the county security team to address the problem. We discovered there was no ready forum to address or resolve misunderstanding and initiated a programme called ‘Wapatanishi’ (local interveners), who have helped especially when they of the targets. So far they have managed to save 20 in Kilifi County and 10 in Kwale who are currently living in their homes without fear of being killed.”
This report is a follow-up to the 2016 report “We are not animals to be hunted or sold’”: Violence and discrimination against people with albinism” and is based on visits conducted in 2017 as well as follow-up interviews and desktop research.
Published: 2018 By: Amnesty International
End violence against people with albinism in Malawi – Towards effective criminal justice for people with albinism in Malawi
Violence against people with albinism in Malawi decreased soon after Amnesty International published its 2016 report “We are not animals to be hunted or sold’”: Violence and discrimination against people with albinism.
However, since the report was published in 2016, there was a resurgence in attacks, with four more people with albinism being killed in Malawi since January 2017. That report recorded 69 cases involving crimes related to people with albinism, comprising 18 cases of people killed, five abducted and missing, between November 2014 and May 2016. In February 2018, a joint report by the Malawi Police Service and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs revealed that the number of reported crimes had increased to 148, including 14 cases of murder and seven attempted murders since November 2014 (note 1).
In May and June 2017, an Amnesty International delegation visited Malawi and met with civil society, victims and government officials from the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the national prosecuting authority, the Chief Justice and other members of the judiciary and the police.
This briefing is a follow-up to the 2016 report and is based on visits conducted in 2017 as well as follow-up interviews and desktop research. The briefing focuses on the current resurgence in attacks against people with albinism, stemming from an atmosphere of prejudice and a lack of understanding of the condition. The problem is exacerbated by inadequate resources to deal with crime, leading to a culture of impunity. The briefing analyses the causes of recurring attacks and the government’s response, and identifies gaps in the criminal justice system.
It also assesses the progress made in Malawi towards the protection of the right to life and security of people with albinism.
The UN noted that from 2000 to 2013 it had received 200 reports of ritual attacks on people with albinism across 15 African countries (note 2). Since November 2014, however, an unprecedented wave of killings and other human rights abuses including abductions and robberies against people with albinism has swept through Malawi. Similar attacks have occurred in neighboring Mozambique. People are targeted for their body parts in the belief that they contain magical powers. The current population of people with albinism in Malawi is estimated at between 7,000 and 10,000, representing a ratio of 1 in every 1800 persons (note 3).
Between June and December 2016, Malawi experienced a seven-month respite from attacks and killings, believed to be because of awareness brought by the launch of the Amnesty report, the public condemnation of the attacks by President Mutharika and other senior government officials. This was broken in January 2017 when Madalitso Pensulo, a teenage boy with albinism, was killed in Mlonda village under the Nsabwe Traditional Authority in Thyolo District. In February 2017, Mercy Zainabu Banda, a 31-year-old woman with albinism was found murdered in Lilongwe with her wrist, right breast and hair removed. Two brothers were stabbed in Nsanje in March 2017, amid several attempted abductions or killings. Cases of verbal insults, threats and robbery of graves containing the remains of persons with albinism have also been recorded. Women and children with albinism are particularly vulnerable to abductions and killings by criminal gangs because they are seen as easy targets. According to the UN, suspected perpetrators operating as gangs or individuals can gain up to US$75,000 for the sale of a full set of body parts (note 4).
Note 1: Joint Docket Tracing Exercise Report for Cases of Persons with Albinism in Malawi. This is a Joint report by the Malawi Police Service, Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. It was funded by the UNDP with technical assistance from UNICEF.
Note 2: www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/…/A_HRC _24_57_ENG.doc Report on Albinism, UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights, 2013
Note 3: Amnesty International, ‘We are not animals to be hunted or sold’: Violence and discrimination against people with albinism (Index: AFR 34/4126/2016)
Amnesty International has been particularly active in exposing the atrocities taking place in Malawi whereby people with albinism are attacked, mutilated and/or killed by ruthless criminals. Much has already been said about the reasons for these attacks – see previous publications – so I won’t repeat this. Moreover, you can read about it in this 2016 publication of Amnesty International reproduced below.
Amnesty International’s cry for justice and to stop the killings of albinos in Malawi was accompanied by a number of examples. Warning: details of these revelations may be experienced as shocking. (Webmaster FVDK)
Published: June 2016 By: Amnesty International
Amnesty International report:
THE BLOODIEST MONTH WAS APRIL 2016 WHEN FOUR PEOPLE WITH ALBINISM, INCLUDING A 2-YEAR-OLD BABY, WERE MURDERED.
There has been a surge in killings of people with albinism in Malawi.
In the southern African country, it is estimated that between 7000-10000 people live with albinism, a rare genetic condition present from birth that results in a lack of pigmentation in the skin, eyes and hair.
Attacks increased sharply last year. At least 18 people have been killed for albinism in Malawi since November 2014; five others have disappeared without a trace in that time.
45 incidents were reported last year alone – of murders and attempted murders, abductions and attempted abductions – although the real figure could be much higher, due to the fact that secretive rituals in rural areas are rarely reported. There is also no systematic documentation of crimes against people with albinism in Malawi.
People with albinism are living in fear
The safe spaces so many of us take for granted – homes and schools – are no sanctuaries. Family members are often involved in the murders and abductions. With the number of attacks on the increase, children are kept away from schools because the journeys there and back are treacherous.
Even after death, their bodies are subjected to grave robberies. Their bones are stolen and sold for use in witchcraft.
There are other challenges faced by people with albinism in Malawi. People with albinism in rural communities (and their families/carers) are seldom given adequate information on the condition, and how to prevent dangerous sun damage. Because of a lack of melanin, people with albinism are sensitive to sunlight, but they are not given access to sunscreens that would make it easier for people with albinism to live normal lives.
David Fletcher, a teenager with albinism, had gone to watch a football match at Tete football ground in Nambirikira village on 24 April when he went missing. On 2 May, police confirmed that David’s body had been found in Mozambique with his hands and feet chopped off.
David was last seen in the company of a colleague who disappeared along with him, who is still missing.
David was reportedly sold to a traditional healer in Mozambique. Two men were arrested in connection with his murder.
WE ARE NOT ANIMALS TO BE HUNTED OR SOLD Read the report (published on this site on April 8, 2019)
Since November 2014, Malawi has seen a sharp increase in human rights abuses against people with albinism, including abductions, killings and grave robberies by individuals and criminal gangs. People with albinism are being targeted for their body parts by those who believe that they contain magical powers and bring good luck. This report focuses on the lived experiences of people with albinism in Malawi in the context of superstition-driven attacks against them and the corresponding government failure to protect the right to life for this vulnerable group and to guarantee their right to security of person.
Amnesty International believes that the actual number of people with albinism killed is likely to be much higher due to the fact that many secretive rituals in rural areas are never reported. There is also no systematic documentation of crimes against people with albinism in Malawi.
Baby Whitney taken from her home
Two-year-old Whitney Chilumpha disappeared on the night of 3 April from her home in Chiziya village, Kasungu District. Whitney’s mum alerted the neighbours and they set about searching for the toddler, but Whitney was nowhere to be seen. The mother reported her missing daughter to the police.
On 15 April, baby Whitney’s skull, teeth and the clothes she had been wearing were discovered in a nearby village.
Police are keeping Whitney’s father and another man in custody over her disappearance and murder.
Interview with a mother of a child with albinism, 2016
“When I visited my husband’s village with my child for the first time people called my daughter names. They said she looked like a doll. At work when some colleagues heard that I had a child with albinism they said I now have ‘money’.”
Nine-year old Harry snatched from his home
Harry Mokoshini was abducted on the night of 26 February when a gang of men broke into the family home in Moto Village, Machinga district. They took Harry from his mother, threatening and injuring her as they kidnapped her son before her eyes.
Police found Harry’s severed head in a neighbouring village on 3 March.
Harry’s uncle has since been arrested in connection with the boy’s abduction and murder, along with another man who has an existing conviction for possessing the bones of someone with albinism. He had been fined the equivalent of $30 USD for the crime in 2015.
In 2016 Amnesty International published a devastating report on violence and discrimination against people with albinism in Malawi entitled “We are not animals to be hunted or sold’. The title speaks for itself. The reports starts with chapters on Methodology; Background & Context; Legal Framework, and contains informative – and at times shocking – chapters on Discriminatory attitudes in Malawian Society; Attacks, Abductions and Killings of People with Albinism; Other Human Rights Violations and Abuses Experienced by People with Albinism; Violation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and Responses to Violations against People with Albinism. The last two chapters are on Conclusions and Recommendations.
The report’s Executive Summary is being presented below. Amnesty International must be congratulated for this thorough analysis of the situation of people with albinism in Malawi. At least, one can no longer say: ‘We didn’t know this happened’. What we need now is ‘action‘. We will judge the government of Malawi on its deeds, not its words. To be followed. (Webmaster FVFK)
“WE ARE NOT ANIMALS TO BE HUNTED OR SOLD” 2016 Amnesty International Report on Violence and Discrimination against people with albinism in Malawi
Since November 2014, Malawi has seen a sharp increase in human rights abuses against people with albinism, including abductions, killings and grave robberies by individuals and criminal gangs. At least 18 (note 1) people have been killed and at least five have been abducted and remain missing. According to the Malawi Police Service, at least 69 cases involving crimes related to people with albinism have been reported since November 2014 (note 2).
People with albinism are being targeted for their body parts by those who believe that they contain magical powers and bring good luck. As a result, Malawi’s 7,000 to 10,000 people with albinism live in fear of losing their lives to criminal gangs who, in some instances, include close family members.
This report focuses on the lived experiences of people with albinism in Malawi in the context of superstition-driven attacks against them and the corresponding government failure to protect the right to life for this vulnerable group and to guarantee their right to security of person. Although the attacks are being committed by criminal gangs and by individuals, the Government of Malawi has an obligation under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to ensure safety for all people in Malawi, including vulnerable groups such as people with albinism.
Women and children with albinism are particularly vulnerable to abductions and killings by criminal gangs, who see them as easier targets. Women also face the danger of rape and sexual abuse as a result of beliefs that having sex with a person with albinism will cure HIV/AIDS.
Senior government officials, including the President, have publicly condemned the attacks against people with albinism and announced a number of measures, including the appointment of a special legal counsel to assist with investigations and the adoption of a National Response Plan. However, these measures have failed to stop the violence. 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.
Amnesty International believes that some of the crimes against people with albinism, especially grave robberies, might have been opportunistic and driven by greed, fuelled by rumours that vast sums can be made by selling the bones of a person with albinism. Activists told Amnesty International that poverty and low literacy levels can drive some people to rob graves. These are the people who largely get arrested after being reported by the people they approached believing that they are buyers. There is a widely-held belief that business people are successful because they use magic.
The Malawi Police Service lacks the capacity to carry out thorough investigations, leading to frustration in communities which creates a risk for mob violence. Poor police investigations may also have allowed perpetrators of murders to avoid facing serious charges, particularly in cases where suspects were arrested in possession of human bones. Amnesty International believes that some suspects charged in 2015 with “possession of human bones” – because police assumed that they had been obtained through grave robberies – may have been involved in the actual killings. Amnesty International urges the government to seek, 2015 with “possession of human bones” – because police assumed that they had been obtained through grave robberies – may have been involved in the actual killings. Amnesty International urges the government to seek, as a matter of urgency, international support to conduct investigations, including specialist support for forensic testing and combating human trafficking, in order to bring perpetrators of these gross human rights abuses to justice; in accordance with its regional and international human rights obligations. The police must revisit all cases of suspected grave robberies with a view to establishing the exact source of the human bones.
The identity and motivation of the perpetrators of violence against people with albinism needs to be better understood by Malawi law enforcement agents in order to develop appropriate strategies to counter these crimes. Combatting the widespread mythology surrounding albinism and exposing the public to the fate of people who have committed murder in the hope of selling body parts, must be part of any strategy to stop opportunistic crimes within the community. However, identifying and stopping criminal gangs will require a different approach, including tracing and identifying the source of demand for the body parts of people with albinism and cooperation with neighbouring countries where there is reason to believe people or body parts are being trafficked across borders.
Societal attitudes about albinism are not changing and people with albinism continue to be at risk of attacks. Some victims are abducted and sold by close family members. Violence against people with albinism, including abductions and killings, appeared to be intensifying during the time Amnesty International was compiling the report in 2016.
Beyond the current violence, Amnesty International established that people with albinism experience intersectional human rights violations and abuses based on gender, disability and colour. Their economic, social and cultural rights are equally compromised in debilitating ways. Most specifically, societal ignorance about albinism has contributed to exclusion, stigmatization and denial of basic rights such as the right to education and health. The killings and abductions have exposed centuries-old problems of discrimination against people with albinism.
Societal misunderstanding of albinism in Malawi has endangered the lives of this population group; it has created insecurity and widespread discrimination. In everyday life people with albinism are frequently treated as less than human. They face stigmatization and other insurmountable barriers to the full enjoyment of their economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights. They also face significant barriers to their participation as equal members of society.
In order to address the root cause of the problem, Amnesty International is urging the Government of Malawi to raise awareness throughout society, including at the family level, regarding persons with albinism, and to foster respect for their rights and dignity.
Amnesty International is also urging the Malawian government to increase awareness of public health interventions for albinism in order to better address the medical, psychological and social needs of this vulnerable group. The government must provide affordable (or free) sunscreen to people with albinism at all government health facilities and distribute them through community health centres.
The government must also create a conducive learning environment for people with albinism and other disabilities, including by providing learning devices like magnifying glasses, bigger font size in textbooks and other reading materials; sensitize teachers and school administrations about the needs for learners with albinism and adopt measures to end bullying in schools.
Note 1: Amnesty International’s figures are based on cases that the organization was able to verify. The number of the actual killings is probably higher. The major challenge to getting the exact figure of victims is the absence of systematic documentation of attacks.
Note 2: Data made available to Amnesty International by the Malawi Police Service on 11 April 2016.
On more than one occasion I have drawn attention to ritual murders and other human rights violations in Malawi, notably the attacks on people with albinism by unscrupulous individuals who mutilate or even kill their fellow-Malawians for private gain, wealth, power and/or prestige. In Malawi, persons with albinism are facing these dangers today, but the problem has a long history in the country (in fact, not only in Malawi but also in other countries in Southern Africa, even beyond the region, but this is not the proper place to dwell on this topic). There have been numerous cases of attacks on albinos in the recent past as wel as in the more distant past. In 2016 a United Nations expert on albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, herself an albino, warned that the situation in Malawi constitutes an emergency. Unfortunately, the situation has not improved since her warning, as recent attacks and murder cases amply demonstrate. Read below what Ikponwosa Ero said in 2016. (Webmaster FVDK)
UN: People with albinism in Malawi face ‘total extinction’
Published: April 29, 2016 By: BBC
Malawi’s estimated 10,000 albinos face “extinction” if they continue to be murdered for their body parts for use in witchcraft, a UN expert has warned.
Ikponwosa Ero said that the situation “constitutes an emergency, a crisis disturbing in its proportions”.
Her call came after two men received a 17-year jail term for murdering a 21-year-old woman with albinism.
Ms Ero said Malawi police have recorded 65 attacks, abductions and murders of albinos since the end of 2014.
Albinos were targeted because of beliefs that their body parts “can increase wealth, make businesses prosper or facilitate employment”, said Ms Ero, the UN human rights council’s expert on albinism.
“Even in death, they do not rest in peace as their remains are robbed from graveyards,” she added.
Ms Ero, herself an albino, said there are economic motivations.
“Malawi is one of the world’s poorest countries and the sale of body parts of persons with albinism is believed to be very lucrative.”
People with albinism, who lack pigment in their skin and appear pale, are regularly killed in several African countries including Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania.
In Malawi, attacking, mutilating and killing persons with albinism is rampant. Body parts of albinos are mistakenly believed to bring power and wealth. Not a year passes without one or more reports of these heinous crimes. The following example merely illustrates this and definitely is no exception.
In November 2015 three men attacked a 17-year old boy with albinism, Alfred Chikalo, and nearly killed him with the intention to sell his body parts. It was not the only case of attacks on people with albinism in 2015. Police in Phalombe district arrested the three culprits who confessed hacking Alfred Chikalo. A few weeks later, Police in Phalombe district arrested a 29-year old man, Lawo Sambani, who was accused of being the mastermind behind the plot to attack the 17-year old boy. The victim sustained deep stab wounds in the head, both arms and on the upper part of his left leg. He was rushed to the hospital and discharged a couple of weeks later.
It was announced that the four men in police custody will be brought to court. Unfortunately, since their detention, nothing is known about their trial. To be continued. (FVDK)
More details in the following articles (warning: the original articles contain a graphic picture showing the victim):