Malawi sentences man to death for murder of albino teenager

Published: May 3, 2019
By: Reuters – reporting by Frank Phiri; editing by Alison Williams

BLANTYRE (Reuters) – A man was sentenced to death in Malawi on Friday for killing an albino teenager in a case has become a campaign issue ahead of a national election this month, with the opposition accusing the government of inaction. 

Belief in witchcraft is widespread in rural Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, fuelling ritual killings particularly targeting people with albinism because of the belief that their body parts can increase wealth. 

In the first such punishment for the abduction and killing of people with albinism, Justice Mclean Kamwambe said he wanted to send a stern warning to would-be offenders. 

“The death sentence is appropriate as it reflects a sense of justice in the circumstances,” he said at Malawi’s High Court. 

The judge said the killings and abductions of albinos since 2014 had tainted the international image of Malawi, and had reduced the country to “a state of terror”. 

The focus on albino murders has sparked finger-pointing amongst politicians ahead of the election on May, 21 with the main opposition party, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), accusing government of doing little to stop the killings. 

The government, which formed a judicial inquiry into the killings and abductions, has denied this saying it cannot interfere in work of the police and courts. 

The government has also offered cash rewards for information about the abductions and killings, which have reached at least 150 since 2014 according to the United Nations. 

According to the court’s ruling, the convicted 28-year-old confessed to the murder and said he wanted to use the 19-year-old victims’ body parts to become rich on instructions from a witch-doctor in neighboring Mozambique. 

The superstitions, stigmas and maiming and killing of people with albinism is visible across a number of southern and East African countries with cases reported in Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa with a lucrative market for the trade in albino body parts, in the region and internationally. 

Source: Malawi sentences man to death for murder of albino teenager

People with albinism in Malawi face ‘total extinction’ – UN (2016 article)

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’ 

UN expert on albinism Ikponwosa Ero says people with the condition are seen as a form of income

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.

Source: People with albinism in Malawi face ‘total extinction’ – UN

Six people with albinism will stand for election to fight stigma in Malawi

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
The Guardian

Cassim Jaffalie, three, with his friends at his family home in Machinga, southern Malawi. His father has given up work to protect his son. Photograph: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

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