The killing of albinos is overshadowing Malawi’s election

Politicians believe their body parts boost their chances of winning

Published: May 11, 2019
By: The Economist – Lilongwe

His fists clenched on the tabletop, Bon Kalindo, an opposition mp, leans forward conspiratorially to list the magical properties of albino body parts. Place the fibula of one under a bottle of Coke and it will fizz manically, until the top pops off. Pass it in front of a torch and the light will go out. Most handily of all, a bone correctly inserted into a machine made by a reputable witch doctor will cause large amounts of cash to fly out; it’s the magnetic liquid albinos have in their bones, you understand. Sensing scepticism, Mr Kalindo brushes it aside. You are not from here, he says.

For some in Malawi, a belief in the numinous runs deep. Medicine men post flyers boasting of potions and charms to neuter rivals, punish the unfaithful or rekindle lost ardour. Such superstition is not uncommon in much of the world. But in Malawi, it can carry dark undertones. The most potent spells require ritual human sacrifice, according to a local journalist who has approached witch doctors under cover. Murders are not uncommon. Women and children are killed for their breasts and genitals. Albinos, who number no more than 10,000 in Malawi, are said to carry the most powerful magic and are thus most at risk.

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Source: The killing of albinos is overshadowing Malawi’s election

Amnesty International: “End violence against people with albinism in Malawi” (2018)

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

Introduction

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. 

Background

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).

Notes:

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)

Note 4:
http:/news.un.org/en/story/2016/03/525042-witchcraft-beliefs- trigger-attacks-against-people-albinism-un-expert-warns 

Continue reading the 24 pages report: see source (below) 

Source: End violence against people with albinism – Towards effective criminal justice for people with albinism in Malawi



UN sending experts in Malawi to investigate killings of people with albinism – Pres Mutharika says

Published: March 19, 2019
By: MENAFN – Nam News Network

Malawi: UN Sending Experts in Malawi to Investigate Killings of People With Albinism – Pres Mutharika

(MENAFN – Nam News Network) LILONGWE, March 18 (NNN-ALLAFRICA) — President Peter Mutharika has disclosed that the United Nations (UN) will be sending two experts to investigate the attacks of persons with albinism (PWAs), tracing the root cause of the atrocities or markets. 

Mutharika made the disclosure at Joho Primary School, Nsanama in Machinga where he visited families who were affected by the continuous rains that fell between March 5 and 8 this year. 

The Malawi leader departed from his prepared consolation speech to the disaster affected communities to inform the nation that government would soon get to the bottom of the albino killings. 

“Let me make this announcement here that the United Nations is sending two experts to investigate the killings of people with albinism and to establish where the market — if any — is located,” said Mutharika. 

He condemned the attacks and killings of people with albinism describing it as: senseless acts fueled by ignorance and stupidity. 

“About 25 people have been killed so far since all this madness started; now, tell me: who has become rich because of the killings of persons with albinism for their body parts?” queried Mutharika. (Italics added by the webmaster FVDK).

Commenting on the disaster, Mutharika assured (….)

United Nations to send experts to investigate albino killings in Malawi.
Photo courtesy Ritual Killing In Africa

Source: Malawi: UN Sending Experts in Malawi to Investigate Killings of People With Albinism – Pres Mutharika

Malawi: ‘End the ongoing atrocities against people with albinism’, say UN rights experts

Published: February 8, 2019
By: UN News

UNICEF/Julio Dengucho
Ritual killings and egregious human rights violations of the worst kind are instigated specifically against persons with albinism ­– UN experts

After a recent “savage” killing and the abduction of a one-year-old baby in Malawi, United Nations experts have urged the Government to take immediate action to protect people with albinism and “end the ongoing atrocities”.

“We urge the authorities to step up their investigations into these incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice,” the experts said in a statement on Friday.

People with albinism are born with lighter than normal skin, hair and eye colour, making them sensitive to the sun and bright light.  In some communities they are attacked or even killed for their body parts which are erroneously believed to possess magical powers.

Since 2014, 150 cases of killings, attacks and other human rights violations against persons with albinism have been reported in the southeast African nation. (Italics added by the webmaster, FVDK).

Despite various moves to support people with albinism, “the recent attacks demonstrate that the Government needs to redouble its efforts to end the ongoing atrocities,” according to the experts.

“We call on the Government to urgently address the root causes of these attacks and to strengthen nationwide campaigns to raise awareness, conduct robust investigations and prosecutions in all cases, increase protection for victims, and finance and implement all necessary measures,” stressed the experts.

UN experts fear that presidential and legislative elections due to take place in late May, could further aggravate the situation for persons with albinism. Killings and attacks often spike during election periods “because of false beliefs that their body parts can bring good luck and political power when used in witchcraft-related rituals,” the UN human rights experts said.

Some witchcraft practices result in “serious human rights violations”, such as torture, murder, discrimination and exclusion, including banishment from communities, they added.

“These two incidents are part of a larger disturbing pattern in Malawi where ritual killings and egregious human rights violations of the worst kind are instigated specifically against persons with albinism,” they underscored. “The attacks and violations are astonishing in their brutality.”

“We call on the authorities to ensure the deployment of adequate police and law enforcement personnel to protect persons with albinism where they live,” the experts concluded.

The pattern of attacks prompted the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, to reiterate the need to follow the concrete recommendations she made, following her 2016 visit to the country.

The experts also expressed concern at the reported backlog of cases of human rights violations and crimes against persons with albinism, noting that to date, there have been very few prosecutions, giving the impression of impunity.

The statement was issued by Ms. Ero; Catalina DevandasSpecial Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Agnes CallamardSpecial Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executionsand  Nils MelzerSpecial Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Source: ‘End the ongoing atrocities’ against people with albinism in Malawi, say UN rights experts

Related article: UN condemns killing of person with albinism, Yasin Phiri
Published: January 4, 2019
By: UN Country Team in Malawi

Lilongwe, January 4, 2019: 

The United Nations in Malawi is concerned by the continued gruesome attacks on persons with albinism and strongly condemns the savage killing of Yasin Phiri, aged 54, at Kande in Nkhata Bay on the eve of the new year. The UN is also concerned that there has not been progress to trace 12-year old Joseph Kachingwe who went missing on 6th July 2018.

This latest attack and other violations perpetrated against persons with albinism are a setback to the concerted efforts in the protection of people with albinism.

The UN once again calls upon the Government and all relevant stakeholders to redouble their efforts to effect immediate measures to protect persons with albinism as we go towards elections and implement the National Action Plan on Persons with Albinism. The plan addresses the root causes of attacks on persons with albinism, including a nationwide awareness raising campaign, strengthened investigations and prosecutions, together with strengthened protection and victim assistance measures. If these measures are not accelerated, we will continue registering human rights violations against persons with albinism.

We urge the authorities to ensure a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the killing of Yasin Phiri, and bring the alleged perpetrators to justice. We further call upon the authorities to fast-track the investigation and prosecution of outstanding cases on violation of rights of persons with albinism to avoid cultivating a culture of impunity in Malawi.

The UN remains committed to supporting the Government and people of Malawi to proactively promote and protect the rights of persons with albinism and ensure their full participation in the protection measures and socio-economic development of the country in an environment free of stigma, discrimination and physical attacks.

Mr. Benoit Thiry
United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i. in Malawi

Also read:
Ms. Ikponwosa Ero, UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism

Ms. Ikponwosa Ero (Nigeria) was designated in June 2015 as the first UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism. The vision of Ms. Ero’s mandate is driven by the cross-cutting principle of the UN Sustainable development goals:  “leaving no one behind…starting with the furthest behind first.” Ms. Ero has over a decade of experience in the research, policy development, and practice of human rights concerning persons with albinism. She has advised organizations and governments around the world on human rights concerning persons with albinism. As the International Advocacy and Legal Officer for Under the Same Sun — an international organization with a focus on albinism — she developed strategic initiatives involving regional and international human rights mechanisms, prepared guiding documents, and oversaw the implementation of recommendations made by the UN and other human rights organizations.  Ms Ero is also the author of numerous papers and articles, particularly with regards to applicable legal frameworks as well as the development and implementation of special measures to facilitate the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism.

Malawi VP Chilima: ‘Stop ritual murders of albinos’

As mentioned yesterday (Jan. 21, 2019), technical difficulties prevent me from duplicating here the original article in the Nyasa Times (the webmaster FVDK).

VP Saulos Cilima’s remarks come after unknown assailants (probably on December 31, 2018) killed 54-year old Yassin Kwenda Phiri, a person with albinism who was working as a hospital assistant at Kande Health Center in Nkhata Bay. Chilima’s UTM party has also issued a strongly worded statement condemning the murder.  Not surprisingly, Malawi will have elections in the near future, on May 23 of this year. 
Please also read the related article posted on January 21 on this site: ‘MP Kalindo threatens to reveal syndicate on albino ritual murders’.

VP Chilima: ‘Stop ritual murders of albinos’

Published: January 3, 2019
By: Nyasa Times

Source:
Security lapse worries Malawi VP Cilima: ‘Stop ritual murders of albinos’

Malawi: MP Kalindo threatens to reveal syndicate on albino ritual murders

Political opponents who throw stones to each other making allegations that have not been proven should be listened to – but they are not necessarily to be believed immediately. One such politician is Mulanje South Member of Parliament Bon Kalindo in Malawi. He was recently arrested in Lilongwe and was charged with two counts of allegedly misconduct and of insulting the president.  MP Kalindo alleges his arrest was ‘politically motivated’. A few days after his release from prison – on bail – he was assaulted and severely beaten up.

Kalindo said his arrest has taught him a lot of things including getting to know the syndicate of albino killings.  He claims that the albino killings is a syndicate and it involves senior officials with big names hence the need to stop pushing the blame on witch doctors or rituals. “I will come back to reveal everything through this program once my case is settled in court.”, he said. “I have so many revelations to make”, he added. Kalindo made history in Malawi when he led a demonstration in favour of concrete action against perpetrators of attacks on people with albinism, in what was called ‘naked’ march.      

We will continue to follow this case (webmaster FVDK).

For technical reasons the original article in the Nyasa Times could not be duplicated. The summary above is based on the Nyasa Times article of January 20 (2019), staying as close as possible to the original text. (Webmaster FVDK)

Published: January 20, 2019
By: Nyasa Times

Source: Kalindo threatens to reveal syndicate on albino ritual murders: Brands DPP as a ‘party of savages’

Malawi: man found with human bones of albino ‘killed last year’

It’s being estimated that between November 2014 and March 2017 at least 18 albinos have been murdered in Malawi. Since then, these atrocious ritualistic killings and attacks on people living with albinism have continued unabated – as has been demonstrated by the numerous cases reported and reproduced on this site. These ugly practices must stop, not only in Malawi but also in other sub-Saharan countries! (webmaster FVDK)

Malawian man found with human bones of albino ‘killed last year’ 

Published: March 18, 2017
By: News24Wire

Police in Malawi say investigations have revealed that human bones found with a man arrested in Lilongwe last week were those of a person with albinism, who died in Mchinji last year, a report says.

At least 18 albinos  have been killed across Malawi since November 2014.

According to Malawi 24, police spokesperson Kaitano Lubrino said that preliminary findings indicated that the recovered bones were those of an albino person Spiriano Felix who was buried on April 20 last year, but his grave was tampered and exhumed by unknown criminals on May 6.

Lubrino said that Felix’s lower legs and lower arms were found to had been chopped off from his corpse, thus, prompting the police to launch a manhunt.

The police spokesperson said that after the suspects were arrested last week, a forensic histopatholographic examined the bones to confirm the identity of the bones which had been found.

Amnesty International said last year that albinos in Malawi were being targeted in an “unprecedented wave of brutal attacks”. The rights group blamed police for failing to tackle a scourge fuelled by ritual practices.

At least 18 albinos – who have white skin because of a hereditary condition that causes an absence of pigmentation – have been killed across Malawi since November 2014, the group said at the time.

Source: Malawian man found with human bones of albino ‘killed last year’. Police

Campaign Amnesty International: “Malawi: Stop ritual murders of people with albinism”

The right to live without fear is a human right

Originally published: 2017; exact date unknown.
By Amnesty International

Mid-2017, Amnesty International launched a campaign ‘Stop ritual murders of people with albinism in Malawi’. Read below why.

Amnesty International:

A new wave of killings and attacks targeting people with albinism over the past six months is being fueled by systemic failures in Malawi’s criminal justice system which leave members of this vulnerable group at the mercy of criminal gangs.

Since January 2017, at least two people with albinism have been killed while seven more have reported crimes such as attempted murder or abduction.

Albinism is a rare,non-contagious, genetic condition present at birth that results in absence of pigmentation in the eyes, skin and hair. It is estimated that between 7,000-10,000 people live with albinism in Malawi.

Erroneous beliefs and superstitions have put the safety and lives of people with albinism at risk, including from killings, abductions, and mutilations. Societal attitudes about albinism are not changing, and people with albinism continue to be at risk of attacks with some children being abducted and sold by family members.

Despite stronger legislation since 2016, including reforms to the Penal Code and the Anatomy Act, to tackle attacks against people with albinism, we are seeing an alarming resurgence of killings and attacks against this vulnerable group in 2017.

A new wave of killings and attacks against people with albinism emerged in January 2017, after a six month reprieve between June and December 2016.

On 28 February 2017, Mercy Zainabu Banda, a 31-year-old woman with albinism was found murdered in Lilongwe with her hand, right breast and hair removed.

On 10 January 2017, 19-year-old Madalitso Pensulo was killed after he was invited for afternoon tea at his friend’s house in Mlonda village in Thyolo District. A passer-by heard him scream, but he died before the police arrived at the scene.

The latest abduction took place on 28 May, when a nine-year-old boy, Mayeso Isaac, was taken by a gang of 10 men.

People with albinism are paying for political and social inaction with their lives. This is a matter of life and death.

We’re calling on the president of Malawi to protect people with albinism from attacks and bring the perpetrators of albinism-related crimes to justice.

Dear President Peter Mutharika,

Thousands of people with albinism live in constant fear of being abducted or killed in Malawi, where their body parts are being sold for use in ritual purposes. Ritual killings of people with albinism are influenced by superstitions and myths that their bones or body parts can bring riches.

We, the undersigned, call on you to:

  • Bring to justice the perpetrators of albinism-related crimes
  • Offer effective protections for people with albinism. Protect their right to life and right to personal security, in accordance with Malawi’s international human rights obligations and commitments.
  • Resource the police to adequately and thoroughly investigate crimes related to albinism
  • Tackle the harmful superstitious beliefs perpetuating the targeting of people with albinism.

Source: Amnesty International, 2017

Related link: Video – Hunted for their body parts