Malawi: killing of people with albinism continues

Published: March 4, 2019
By: Penelope Paliani-Kamanga – Southern Times

Blantyre –  Continued killings of people with albinism in Malawi has made the country unsure of to what to do with the population blaming each other and concerned persons calling on government and the police to seriously do something about it.

The confusion, which has left the country living in fear and on bended knees, comes at a time when 10 people with albinism were recently reported missing amid reports that they may have been abducted.  They have been reports of the abduction of a child in Karonga and recently of a teenager in Dedza.

Since November 2014, the number of reported crimes against people with albinism in Malawi has risen to 152 cases, including 25 murders and more than 10 people missing, according to Association of People with Albinism in Malawi. (Italics added by the webmaster FVDK).

Discrimination against people with albinism has been a problem in the past in Malawi and experts had expressed concerned earlier this year that the violence could get worse with the coming May 21 election. Experts called on the government to redouble its efforts and implement all necessary measures to protect people with albinism.

The expected spike around election time is due to the false belief that ritual use of the body parts of people with albinism can bring good luck and political power. This might lead to torture, murder, discrimination and exclusion, including banishment from communities.

Main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, in a recent demand for action, has challenged President Peter Mutharika to put an end to killings and abductions of persons with albinism in the country.

He was speaking at a press conference last week in Lilongwe, following the abduction of a boy with albinism, Goodson Makanjira, 14, of Mphanyama village, traditional authority Chilikumwendo in Dedza.

Chakwera said Mutharika has executive powers to end this barbaric practice but was “sleeping on the job and being a coward”.

“I only have three words for the President; do your job! Stop being a coward and do your job. If you do not end these murders and abductions, you will leave a legacy that will haunt you for the rest of your life.”

Chakwera promised that once voted into power, he will end the abductions and killings within a month.

Chakwera said it was sad that the killings were continuing despite government launching the National Action Plan (NAP) last year to protect those living with albinism.

“I will keep fighting for the rights of our friends. My advice to the President is to act now, use his powers and don’t be afraid of the ‘buyers’, because I know they are there,” he said.

But State House press secretary Mgeme Kalilani, in an interview, described Chakwera’s remarks as a threat to the rule of law and warned him against using the plight of people with albinism for political mileage.

In another demand  for action, president of Umodzi Party  (UP)  one of the parties in the race for the elections, Professor John Chisi, expressed dissatisfaction with the way police were handling albino abductions and killings.

Chisi, who said the situation was pathetic, demanded the resignation of the country’s Inspector General of Police Rodney Jose on the grounds that he had failed to protect people with albinism.

“This issue of albino killings is unacceptable. These are avoidable deaths. The police have failed us, as they have the National Intelligence Bureau but are doing nothing. The Inspector General of Police must conduct a press conference to let us know why they are failing to end the malpractice, if not, he and his people must resign,” said Chisi.

National Coordinator of the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM), Boniface Massah, said in a statement that the refusal to push forward with prosecuting suspects accused of attacking and killing people with albinism has left a persecuted minority on the edge.

Massah said in an interview the government’s failure to conclude cases demonstrated that “security has not improved”, leaving the estimated 10,000-strong community vulnerable and anxious. 

“We face a high risk of attack and we have seen government commitment in words, but not in action,” he said.

 In a desperate move to tackle this issue, two groups and some concerned citizens have petitioned Malawi’s Ombudsman, Martha Chizuma, to thoroughly investigate the country’s failure to protect persons with albinism.

Specifically APAM,  in its petition, wants the Ombudsman to direct President Mutharika to appoint a commission of inquiry and conduct a comprehensive research to trace and identify the alleged source of demand and supply for body parts of PWAs.

Further,  APAM also wants Mutharika to seek, as a matter of urgency, international support to conduct investigations, including specialist support for forensic testing and combating human trafficking, to bring perpetrators of these gross human rights abuses to justice.

The petition, signed by APAM  president Overstone Kondowe, shows that there are currently 165 cases against PWAs, including 36 concluded cases, 39 cases pending in courts, 79 under investigation and 12 cases closed due to lack of proper evidence.

On the other hand, Federation of Disability Organisations in Malawi (Fedoma) executive director Action Amos said his organisation was concerned that there was no breakthrough in tracing the root cause of the atrocities or markets.

Reads the Fedoma petition: “We are demanding that your office assists with pushing for an establishment of a commission of inquiry. The current technical committee is toothless and won’t bring us any results. We have development partners willing to support the commission of inquiry.

The European Union (EU) has also been one of the organistions that has asked government to do something about the abductions. EU Ambassador Sandra Paesen this week called for serious criminal investigations and coordination among countries to fight abductions and killings of people with albinism.

Paesen said finger pointing will not solve the vice which has left a dent on Malawi.

Albinism is a genetically inherited condition. It often results in the lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes.

The attacks stem from a belief that body parts belonging to people with albinism contain magical powers.

Mutharika, who has of late been talking tough on atrocities against PWAs, has been blamed for simply making podium rants, with little being done on the ground to stop the vice.

The Malawi government launched a four-year National Action Plan on Persons with Albinism aimed at ending atrocities against persons with albinism, and improving their social welfare. Since 2014, at least 23 PWAs have been killed.

Source: Killing of people with albinism continues in Malawi

Malawi albino ritual murders: ‘Mafia syndicate defeating justice’

Published: February 24, 2019
By: Wongani Chiuta – Nyasa Times

HRDC (Human Rights Defenders Coalition) headperson Timothy Mtambo says the State has become a suspect in the abduction of people with albinism and killing them for ritual.

Mtambo: ‘Mafia syndicate in the corridors of power’

Mtambo’s comments in the press follows preliminary findings of an autopsy for the late Buleya Luke, a key suspect in the abduction of a 14-year old albino boy Goodson Makanjira in Dedza, that has revealed he was electrocuted, then hit with metal bars. 

Another suspect in the abduction of a 18-year old baby with albinism Eunice Nkhonjera, Donald Msafiri, 61, allegedly committed suicide a day after being interrogated by police in Karonga. 

Mtambo claimed the killing of people with albinism is a result of a leadership crisis facing the country.

“This madness is happening because of leadership failure from the Commander-in-Chief, Inspector General of Police and the Minister responsible for Homeland Security. This government is a big failure and we will hold them accountable, no matter what.”, Mtambo explained in comments reported by Nation on Sunday newspaper. 

The late suspect was alleged to have offered K800 000 to buy Goodson, who is still missing in Dedza. 

Lule has become the third suspect to die while on trial related to abduction of persons with albinism since 2015. All the three cases have the police involved. In 2015, another suspect charged in connection with abduction of a two-year old girl with albinism in Machinga died in the hands of the police after he allegedly jumped from a cruising police vehicle. (Italics added by the webmaster FVDK).

A HRDC statement made available to Nyasa Times signed by Mtambo, said these deaths [of key suspects] smack of foul-play, adding, it is too tempting to conclude that there are powerful forces orchestrating them. 

“Firstly, we strongly believe that these deaths are mafia-like planned and executed just to frustrate investigations that would lead us to alleged markets and lords behind these heinous crimes. 

“Secondly, we at HRDC and indeed all well-meaning Malawians are tempted to think that those that we have entrusted with the responsibility of bringing the perpetrators of these inhumane acts are deliberately failing to do their job,” reads the statement. 

The government is under fire for not doing enough to protect people with albinism as cases of attacks and killings continue to rise since 2014. 

Amnesty International (AI) has since taken swipe at Homeland Security Minister Nicholas Dausi for insinuating that attacks on persons with albinism (PWA) were not yet at crisis level.

AI, a global movement of more than seven million people in over 150 countries and territories who campaign to end abuses of human rights, said in a statement Thursday that the ‘shameful denial comments’ are fuelling attacks against persons with albinism. 

During a news conference in Lilongwe on Tuesday, Dausi is on record to have said that the attacks on persons with albinism were yet to get to levels where they should hold vigils at State House or seek asylum in other countries. 

In the Thursday statement, AI deputy director for Southern Africa Muleya Mwananyanda said remarks by Dausi will only embolden those perpetrating the assaults and are a disturbing reminder of the government’s inaction on the issue. 

She said: “The latest comments from Minister Nicholas Dausi are yet another indication that persons with albinism in Malawi are on their own when it comes to their safety and security.”

Mwananyanda has since urged the government to promptly, thoroughly and effectively investigate the recent attacks against persons with albinism and ensure that suspected perpetrators are brought to justice. 

Source: HRDC says State a suspect in Malawi albino ritual murders. ‘Mafia syndicate defeating justice.’

BBC crew mistaken for ritual killers in Malawi – narrowly escapes death

BBC crew mistaken for ritual killers in northern Malawi, narrowly escapes death (Click link at bottom of this page to watch film)

Investigation by: Anas Aremeyaw Anas, Henry Mhango and Darius Bazargan
Published: August 13, 2018

“BBC journalists investigating a series of mysterious murders in Malawi have narrowly escaped death.
The team were working undercover to expose men who claim to suck the blood of children to make get-rich amulets when they were attacked by a crowd of furious villagers.” – BBC Africa Eye

Anas Aremeyaw Anas, a well-known Ghanaian undercover journalist, and a BBC team composed of Henry Mango and Darius Bazargan, were investigating a series of mysterious murders in northern Malawi. The victims had been beheaded, certain body parts had been removed.
Mr and Mrs Moyo, the parents of one of the victims, are interviewed in the film (shown below). Investigative journalist Anas disguised as a rich businessman looking for witch doctors who allegedly use body parts as charms for wealthy clients. When filming secretly a witch doctor called Kamanga in Karonga, in norther Malawi, the villagers mistook the BBC crew for ritual killers and nearly killed them in an act of mob justice. Fortunately, the crew was saved by community police and a local chief.

Warning: the film contains disturbing images.

Source: BBC crew mistaken for ritual killers 
(click link to watch film)

Ghanaian undercover investigative reporter, Anas Aremeyaw Anas nearly died with his colleagues during his latest undercover piece “Malawi’s Human Harvest.”

Related articles:

How Anas nearly died in fresh Malawi exposé
GhanaWeb
August 13, 2018

Anas and colleagues escape lynching in Malawi in latest undercover job
GhanaWeb
August 2018

Anas Nearly Lynched in Malawi Whilst Investigating Ritual Murders
Ghafla!
August 14, 2018