Catholic officials decry resurgence of death penalty in southern Africa

The focus of today’s posting is not on ritualistic murders or comparable and related crimes, such as kidnapping, torture a.s.o. However, the topic is related: in more than one African country, the public and also the authorities want the introduction and the carrying out of the death penalty for convicted perpetrators of ritual killings both as a deterrent to prevent future crimes and as a justified revenge of the community for the senseless loss of life of one of its members.

It is a controversial topic, as will be clear from the article below. Whereas many African countries have abolished the capital punishment, there seems to be a resurgence of the death penalty in various parts of Africa, notably in southern Africa (Botswana, Malawi, South Africa, Zimbabwe), but also in West Africa (Nigeria e.g.). Recently, Catholic officials across the continent have rejected the increasing calls for the introduction of the death penalty, saying “The death sentence cannot be a solution, especially considering how poor our justice system still is across most of Africa.”

The latter argument makes sense. There are more reasons to defend the abolishment of the death penalty. However, supporters hold the opposite view for reasons cited above.

Whatever the position is, in favor of or against the death penalty, the article reproduced below shows one more time the ugly practice of ritualistic murders in Southern Africa.  

More on the killing of people with albinism in Malawi in a few days time (webmaster FVDK).

Catholic officials decry resurgence of death penalty in southern Africa

Boniface Chibwana, coordinator for the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace of Malawi’s bishop’s conference (Provided photo)

Published: March 15, 2021
By: National Catholic Reporter – Tawande Karombo

HARARE, ZIMBABWE — Catholic officials and human rights campaigners across Africa are reiterating their opposition to capital punishment after Botswana carried out two executions for murder convictions in February.

Botswana, located north of South Africa, confirmed the executions of 33-year-old Wedu Mosalagae and 29-year-old Kutlo Setima on Feb. 8. Both had been found guilty in separate cases of killing a woman.

Oluwatosin Popoola, a legal advisor for Amnesty International on death penalty issues, told NCR that the organization is “very concerned” about the executions, especially as they are the fifth and sixth since President Mokgweetsi Masisi came into office in 2019.

This as “a high number for Botswana within a 16-month period and an indication that the country is not relenting in its adherence” to the use of the death penalty, said Popoola.

“The recent executions are regressive and they slow down Africa’s push against the death penalty,” said Popoola. “There is no unique imperative for any country to use the death penalty.”

Although many African nations have abolished use of the death penalty in the past decade — including Guinea, Benin, the Republic of the Congo and Madagascar — Botswana’s government claims it can be a good deterrent to prevent violent crimes.

In nearby Malawi, proponents say it prevents the murdering of people with albinism for ritual purposes. Amnesty international said earlier in February that more than 20 murders of people with albinism have been committed in Malawi since 2014.

In 2019, three Malawians were sentenced to death for the killing of a person with albinism. (See tomorrow’s posting – FVDK). But the country has not carried out any death sentence since 1994, joining other countries such as Zimbabwe that have been imposing death sentences but not carrying out executions.

Boniface Chibwana, coordinator for the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace of Malawi’s bishop’s conference, told NCR he thinks African Catholic officials can be doing more to drum up support for the dropping of the death penalty across the continent.

“To deter crimes such as murder, the church needs to progressively and actively socialize the young using the human rights approach, so that many of its followers should grow in Christ while respecting the human rights culture to build societies where such rights as the protection of life are a norm,” he said.

In 2019, there was a 53% jump in death sentence convictions across sub-Saharan Africa compared to 212 convictions a year earlier. These death sentences resulted from murder convictions in Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Popoola said Chad, which borders Libya, Niger and Sudan, was the latest country in Africa to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.

In South Africa, there have been calls for the restoration of the death penalty from some sections of society, especially as gender-based violence and killings of women increase. South Africa abolished capital punishment in 1995.

Fr. Dumisani Vilakati, director of the regional conference of Catholic bishops across southern Africa, told NCR that the church is often blamed for not being vocal enough against the death penalty. But he said the church “is part of the solution” for the promotion of the right to life, from conception to natural death.

“Here in Africa, we have to put the death penalty in the pro-life scheme that has been espoused by Pope Francis,” said Vilakati.

“We are a church that preaches conversion of human beings, and we believe that people can change for the better,” said the priest. “The death sentence cannot be a solution, especially considering how poor our justice system still is across most of Africa.”

Vilakati explained that there have been numerous wrongful convictions across the continent, and inmates are increasingly having to wait longer and longer for their trials to be conducted.

“What we need to do as a society is to educate people, and the church should play its role in espousing the sanctity of life [rather] than having society eliminating people through death penalty,” said Vilakati. “We should be pro-life and give people a second chance.”

Source: Catholic officials decry resurgence of death penalty in southern Africa

Map of Southern Africa

Malawi: toddler killed after mother refuses to offer him for ritual

A strange story from Malawi. A fisherman wanted to sacrifice his stepson in a ritual that would enable him to catch more fish, but the boy’s mother refused to cooperate. Later, he killed the boy anyhow and was subsequently arrested by the police and charged with murder.
(webmaster FVDK)

Toddler killed after mother refuses to offer him for ritual

Published: December 2, 2020
By: IOL, South Africa – Molaole Montsho

RUSTENBURG – A 3-year-old boy was killed, allegedly by his stepfather, in central Malawi after his mother refused to offer him to be used in a ritual, local media reported on Wednesday.

News website Malawi24, citing police, reported that the boy was killed on Monday at Mtambalala village, near Kasungu in central Malawi.

His stepfather, 29, who is a fisherman, had allegedly asked his wife to offer him the boy so that he might use him in a ritual that would enable him to catch more fish.

The boy’s mother refused and sent her son to his grandparents.

A few days later the man apologised to his wife and asked her to bring the child back to the house. The wife forgave him and the boy returned home.

On Sunday, the man allegedly raised the matter of the ritual again and she confronted him. The man allegedly assaulted her and intentionally stepped on the boy, who was asleep, until he lost consciousness.

The mother rushed him to hospital, but he was declared dead on arrival. A post-mortem revealed that the death was due to head injuries.

The man was arrested and charged with murder.

Source: Toddler killed after mother refuses to offer him for ritual

Ruth Zulu, Zambia: ‘Make laws to protect people with albinism’

People with albinism (PWA) in several countries in Southern Africa live in fear, notably in Zambia and Malawi, as the article presented below underlines. This is outrageous. People with albinism have basic human rights, just like everyone in their society. Governments should protect their citizens from these heinous attacks which are based on superstition. Murderers should not get away with their crimes. Laws are important to protect people, but law enforcement is equally important! (webmaster FVDK).    

‘Make laws to protect people with albinism’

Published: September 12, 2020
By: The Southern Times, The Newspaper for Southern Africa – Jeff Kapembwa

Lusaka – People with albinism (PWA) in Zambia have demanded strong legislation to protect them from misguided individuals who think culling their body parts can help them make magic potions.

The ritual killing of PWAs continues and stigmatisation of the pigment-related condition remains a challenge in many societies.

National Albinism Initiative Network of Zambia deputy executive director Ruth Zulu this week lamented the continued stigmatisation and murder of PWAs, saying the government needed a legal framework to specifically target these issues.

Such a framework, Zulu said, would also help mainstream albinism issues in national development.

In an interview with The Southern Times at a Zambia Albinism Awareness Programme workshop in Lusaka on Thursday, Zulu – an Environmental Engineering student at Copperbelt University – cited various incidences in which PWAs had been ritually killed or otherwise exploited.

“It is the obligation of our government under the leadership of President (Edgar)!Lungu to take up such a responsibility, answerably and enforceability. “Discrimination, marginalisation and social exclusion of PWAs have been reported as a global phenomenon and that is why we need apolicy to recognise these.

“The cycle of attacks, discrimination and poverty must be broken. There is value in having domestic laws and other measures which are unambiguous and effective protection of PWAs,” she said.

Albinism is a genetic condition that affects one in 20,000 people globally.

It is rare in people with lighter pigmentation and more common in Africa.

A Malawi court last year sentenced three people to death for killing a person with albinism.

The three chopped of the limbs of a person living with albinism with the intention of trafficking the body parts for ritual purposes.

Source: ‘Make laws to protect people with albinism

Malawi persons with albinism launch anti-killings campaign

Following a court order, presidential elections are going to be held on July 2. The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has stipulated that the official campaign period will run from May 2 to June 30. 

The Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (APAM) fears that this will increase the already fragile position of people living with albinism in Malawi. History teaches us that attacks on people with albinism increase during election campaigns. The Malawian government fails to react properly. Since 2014, 171 attacks against people with albinism were carried out of which 25 persons were killed and 13 were reported missing. Hence, the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi has launched an anti-killings campaign. 
(webmaster FVDK).

Malawi persons with albinism launch anti-killings campaign

Published: March 24, 2020
By: xinhuanet.com         

The Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (APAM) has launched a campaign to condemn killings of people with albinism for rituals ahead of the fresh presidential polls in the country.

APAM President Ian Simbota, told local media Sunday after the launch that members of the Association fear for their lives as some study showed that persons with albinism are targeted for rituals during elections. Simbota told Xinhua Monday that as of March 23rd, 2020, APAM had recorded 171 cases of attacks against people with albinism of which 25 persons were killed and 13 were reported missing since 2014. (italics added by the webmaster FVDK)

“We received the February 3 judgement with mixed reactions because on one hand we were happy that we will be given back our ballot power but on the other hand looked at the threatening times that we always go through because of the same election exercise,” said Simbota.He said during the campaign the APAM members want to sensitize mostly political leaders to desist from beliefs that killing a person with albinism and getting their body parts for rituals can make them win an election. 

“Those things don’t exist, it’s just some evil way of thinking. We are the voters and politicians should use us as such and not as rituals; it does not work,” said Simbota.”We are a population of 134,636 people and those are the votes that we are worth,” he added. In 2015 UN Human Rights Expert on Albinism Ikponwosa Ero, linked the killings of persons with albinism in Africa to elections, saying many political hopefuls believe that body parts of persons with albinism can be used as charms for one to win an election. (bold added by the webmaster FVDK)

Source: Malawi persons with albinism launch anti-killings campaign

Africa’s shameful acts of racism: the plight of persons with albinism (PLWA) in Africa

It is not known with certainty how many people in Africa are affected by OCA, which stands for  ‘Oculocutaneous albinism’ (see below). It maybe a quarter of a million, it may be more. What we do know is the plight of persons with albinism. The lack of melanin which brings this condition with it, results in unhealthy effects of ultraviolet radiation exposure. Moreover, widespread superstition causes many wicked people to believe that albino body parts bring wealth and/or power. As a result, persons with albinism are chased, kidnapped, murdered.

The article below contains many examples of these gruesome practices which occur in many African countries. The author, Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor of the Liberian newspaper, The Daily Observer , is to be commend for drawing attention to these outdated and cruel practices which constitute a serious violation of the human rights of people with albinism and have no place in a modern society. 

Warning: the following article contains graphic details of cruel ritualistic activities (webmaster FVDK).

Some of the protestors with various placards that called on the Liberian Government among other things, increase their budgetary support (Courtesy of Daily Observer, Liberia).

Africa’s Shameful Acts of Racism: The Plight of Persons with Albinism (PLWA) in Africa

Published: December 2, 2019
By: Edmund Zar-Zar Bargblor, The Daily Observer (Liberia),  Webmaster Admin 

Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior to another, and that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics.   On the African Continent, we have seen the impact of colonialism and its attributes of racism and discrimination.

The former Apartheid system in South Africa and its institutionalized racial segregation was an extreme expression of European treatments of Africans. The miserable treatment of people living with Albinism by fellow Africans is not only unfortunate, it is shameful.

The condition known as ‘Oculocutaneous albinism’ (OCA) is a genetically inherited autosomal recessive condition and OCA2, tyrosine-positive albinism, is the most prevalent type found throughout Africa. Due to the lack of melanin, people with albinism are more susceptible to the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation exposure.

The National Institutes of Health reported that about 200,000 Americans are affected; and around the world, it is between one in 17,000 and one in 20,000 people are people living with albinism. However, it is prevalence in parts of Africa, but it is far higher than the global average. People living with Albinism makeup about one in 4,000 people in South Africa and perhaps one in 5,000 in Nigeria. According to a 2006 review published in the journal BMC Public Health, the prevalence in Tanzania is one in 1,400, but this estimate is based on incomplete data. Since Tanzania’s total population is more than 40 million that would suggest an albinism community of about 30,000. A census is underway, however, and the Albinism Association of Tanzania believes the total figure could be more than 150,000.

People living with Albinism suffered in the hands of fellow Africans

The human rights organization Amnesty International quoted the Malawian police’s description of the gruesome murder of Mr. Machinjiri: “About four men trafficked him to Mozambique and killed him. The men chopped off both his arms and legs and removed his bones. Then they buried the rest of his body in a shallow grave.”

There are superstitions in some parts of Africa that albino body parts bring wealth, power or sexual conquest, and that having sex with a person living with the condition of albinism cures HIV and AIDS. Attackers sell albino body parts to witch doctors for thousands of dollars, according to Amnesty International. In Tanzania, some 75 people living with albinism were reported killed between 2000 and 2016.

Also, there have been reports of people living with albinism killings in South Africa; although such crimes are less common there than in Malawi, Tanzania and Burundi. Last February, a South African court sentenced a traditional healer to life in prison for murdering a 20-year-old woman living with albinism.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN agency that deals with human rights issues reported in 2016 that hunters of people living with albinism sell an entire human corpse for up to $75,000, while an arm or a leg could fetch about $2,000”.

In many African countries, it is sad and shameful the atrocious manner in which people living with albinism are treated; their lives are compounded by “exclusion, stigmatization, and denial of basic rights such as the right to education and health,” according to Amnesty International.  People living with Albinism continue to experience social isolation and stigma which includes name-calling, mockery, and exclusion from certain community activities.

It is reported in Zambia that at least ten people living with albinism are murdered in ritual killings every year.  Some believe their body parts bring wealth or luck. Those born with the genetic condition are calling for an end to this madness. There are more than 25,000 people living with the condition in Zambia.

Madame Janet Kakusa Wonani of Zambia, Founder/President of Light of The World Foundation. She works closely with children with Albinism in Zambia, irrespective of limited financial support.

According to the Albinism Foundation of Zambia (AFZ), Executive Director John Chiti, more than 25,000 persons with albinism in Zambia are currently in need of sunscreen lotion.

In an interview with Africa Renewal, Ms. Ero, said that the albinism situation in Africa, “is a tragedy.” She referred to the 7,000 to 10,000 people living with albinism in Malawi and thousands of others in Tanzania, Mozambique and other countries as “an endangered people”, facing a “risk of extinction if nothing is done.” Tanzanians call people living with albinism zeru, zeru, meaning “ghosts.”

Prevailing Superstitious Mindsets

Superstitious mindsets in some African countries continue to seek murdered for body parts, including infants and babies. Most of the attacks have taken place in Tanzania. Murders and attempted attacks, though in smaller numbers, have also been documented in Burundi, Kenya, Swaziland, Guinea, Nigeria, South Africa, Congo, Zambia, Namibia, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso.

The Converson.com conducted research and looked at media reports published between 2008 and 2011 on albinism and murders in Tanzania. It published a data set of 563 media reports in both English and Swahili from Tanzanian national newspapers.

The data showed that the Tanzanian press portrayed and explained violent attacks against persons with albinism in four ways. They were:

  • criminal activity,
  • cultural practices,
  • a socio-economic phenomenon,
  • a human rights issue.

Ms. Kway-Geer, the first Member of Parliament in Tanzania with albinism described her individual testimonials, first-hand accounts of difficulties as:

“When I was at primary school, people used to laugh at me, tease me – some didn’t even like to touch me, saying that if they touched me they would get this color. People used to abuse me on the road when I took the buses to school. They would run after me – crowds of kids following me – shouting ‘zeru, zeru’. (zeru, zeru, is a derogatory term).

Recommendations

The Conversation.com has identified the following recommendations.

  1. There is an urgent need to address the violence faced by this vulnerable group. Public health awareness is an important first step.
  2. Adequate health services for skin and vision disabilities should be prioritized.
  3. Putting out messages that counter the stigma against people living with Albinism is also important, as is access to education.
  4. Interventions must consider Albinism’ human rights. For example, putting children with albinism in camps may protect their right to life and security,but it restricts their rights to freedom of movement, and family life.

In addition, African Governments should seriously advocate against harmful practices against people living with albinism.  State parties should take all appropriate measures and offer support and assistance to victims of harmful practices, including legal sanctions, education, and advocacy campaign to eliminate harmful practices perpetrated on persons with albinism, such as witchcrafts, abandonment concealment, ritual killings, etc.

Conclusion

One thing for sure, the people living with Albinism did not create themselves; they were created in the same way you and I were created by the God who doesn’t make a MISTAKE. Their birth process is the same as you and me! Their mothers’ carried them for nine (9) months in their wombs before giving birth to them.

Who are we – be it an individual or government to decide that they should not live because they are different? Did God ask he needs our HELP to make His decision? The Almighty God does not need the assistance of mortal humans to run his affairs. The actions of those individuals perpetuating violence against persons suffering from albinism are no different than King Leopold II of Belgium, Adolph Hitler of Germany, Napoleon Bonaparte of France, and White racists today.

In Genesis 1:31(NIV): “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…” God himself said it was Good, NOT bad. God doesn’t create anything UGLY! So, why individuals, including governments, are killing these innocent people? In addition, 1 Thessalonians 5:22 instructs us to “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Accordingly, the GENOCIDE against these poor innocent people must be STOPPED!

Now, take a closer look at the beautiful tapestry of the people living with Albinism provided here. The question that readily comes to mind is any of you better looking than the people living with Albinism provided in these photos? I DOUBT IT! Therefore, let the persecution and killing of people living with Albinism STOP before the wrath of God descends upon us.

As Africans, it is embarrassing to read or hear that other Africans are discriminated against due to their race. Racism is contrary to God’s plan for humanity. The divisions we face today in contemporary Western nations are due to Race, the color of one’s skin or ethnic background.  And obviously, this perception is not part of God’s plan.

The Albinism Society of Kenya held a Mr. and Miss Albinism beauty pageant in Nairobi to support those with the hereditary condition. (https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-46439699).

In the words of Maya Angelou: “We, the black people, the most displaced, the poorest, the most maligned and scourged, we had the glorious task of reclaiming the soul and saving the honor of the country. We, the most hated, must take hate into our hands and by the miracle of love, turn loathing into love. We, the most feared and apprehensive must take the fear and by love, change it into hope. We, who die daily in large and small ways, must take the demon death and turn it into life.”

Indeed, Children living with albinism in Africa are our brothers, sisters, daughters, and sons, let us protect them always, they are all God’s children as well.

Source: Africa’s Shameful Acts of Racism: The Plight of Persons with Albinism (PLWA) in Africa

Africa Map

Malawi government allocates 400 million Malawi Kwacha to people with albinism

Good news.

This site is meant to expose the atrocities committed by persons who believe in superstition, who violate the law, and to draw attention to the – often – lack of action by national governments. Lack of action, to protect their citizens, and lack of action to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of ritualistic murders and related crimes.
This time I have good news: the Malawian government has allocated 400 million Malawi Kwacha (about US$ 536,000) of its 2019/2010 national budget to the welfare and protection of its citizens who live with albinism. The budgetary allocation is to be seen in light of Malawi’s Four Year National Action Plan on Persons With Albinism which the government announced last year (June), following a spate of atrocities against people with albinism.
Of course, the good news does not mean that we can lean back and be less alert on possible lack of action of the Malawian government when it comes to protecting its albino citizens. But the budgetary allocation and the National Four Year Plan are steps in the right direction for which the Malawi government of President Mutharika is to be commended.
(webmaster FVDK).

Published: September 15, 2019
By: Ghana News

Malawi government has allocated 400 million Malawi Kwacha (about 536,000 U.S. dollars) of its 2019/2020 national budget to the welfare and protection of country’s persons with albinism.

Country’s Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Joseph Mwanamvekha disclosed on Monday at the New Parliament Building in the capital Lilongwe where he presented the 2019/2020 national budget.

In the recent past, the Southern African country has been faced with barbaric acts of violence on persons with albinism, including killing, dismembering and exhuming their bodies for ritual beliefs.

Following the atrocities against the persons with albinism, the Malawi government June last year developed a four year National Action Plan on Persons With Albinism which was designed to guide efforts of dealing with the challenges.

Mwanamvekha said the allocation was meant to help in the successful implementation of the Action Plan.

In addition to this allocation, 600 million Malawi Kwacha under the Decent and Affordable Housing Project has been earmarked for the construction of houses for persons with albinism.

The National Action Plan on Persons With Albinism focuses on all aspects of life including education, health, economic activity, protection from abuse and human rights. 

Source: Malawi government allocates over US$500k to albinism patients

Malawi appoints commission to probe albino killings

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).

United Nations’ Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism Ikponwosa Ero addresses a press conference at the end of her official visit to Malawi on April 29, 2016. – Malawi’s estimated 10000 albinos “are an endangered group facing a risk of systematic extinction over time if nothing is done to stem the tide of atrocities,” a UN expert warned on today. Ikponwosa Ero, a UN independent expert told journalists at the end of her 12-day assessment of rights of albinos in Malawi that the situation “constitutes an emergency, a crisis disturbing in its proportions.” She said according to police, 65 cases of attacks, abductions and murders of albinos have been recorded since end of 2014. (Photo by Amos Gumulira / AFP)

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.

Source: Malawi appoints commission to probe albino killings

Malawi election: Albino killings, the president’s fake death and five more things

I’ve highlighted the fear of people with albinism in Malawi – in general but notably during elections campaigns – on more than one occasion. See my previous postings (click ‘Malawi’ in the dropdown menu under ‘African countries’ and scroll through the articles). On May 21 general elections were held to elect the President, National Assembly and local government councillors. Incumbent President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) successfully ran for a second term in office though the election results were contested by the opposition and led to much protests, supporters of the opposition accusing President Butharika and Jane Ansah – the chair of the Malawi Electoral Commission – of election rigging. Be that as it may, once more it became clear that the position of Malawians living with albinism is difficult and not without dangers, notably during election periods, as the author of the article states. I have left out the political paragraphs of this article which are not relevant for the purpose of this website, but readers interested in the political background of the fight for the presidency are recommended to consult the original article (see Source, below). 
(webmaster FVDK)

President Peter Mutharika (right) is facing a stiff challenge from Lazarus Chakwera (left) and Saulos Chilima (centre)

Published: May 20, 2019
By Chakuchanya Harawa (BBC Africa)

Nearly seven million Malawians will have the chance to vote for a new president on 21 May in one of the most unpredictable elections in the country’s history.

(….)

7. Murder of people with albinism

Another issue that has dominated the campaigns is a spate of attacks on people with albinism ahead of the vote. 

There is anxiety in presidential circles that the issue could damage the DPP’s chances. 

A UN report suggested that attacks and killings of people with albinism increase during election periods “because of false beliefs that their body parts can bring good luck and political power when used in witchcraft related rituals”. 

Recently, a key suspect in the abduction of a person with albinism died while in police custody. 

An independent forensic autopsy revealed he had been electrocuted, raising fears among some Malawians that powerful people could be behind the attacks. 

Opposition parties accuse the Mutharika administration of not doing enough to stop the attacks. 

The president disputes this and appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate the killings.

(….)

Source: Malawi election: Albino killings, the president’s fake death and five more things

IBAHRI denounces death sentence delivered against three in Malawi

Reference is made to a recent court decision to sentence three individuals to death for killing and dismembering a person with albinism in August 2015. See my August 20, 2019 posting for more details (‘Malawi judge sentences three to death for albinism murder.‘) According to research carried out by the Cornell Law School, Malawi operates a moratorium on the death penalty and last carried out an execution in 1992 (webmaster FVDK).

A man was sentenced to death in Malawi for killing an albino teenager

Published: August 23, 2019
By: Our reporter (The Maravi Post)

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) is deeply concerned about the recent decision in Malawi to sentence three individuals to death for killing and dismembering a person with albinism in August 2015. The IBAHRI fully supports the enjoyment of all rights by persons with albinism and recognises the challenges Malawi is facing in curbing the heinous attacks against persons with albinism. Despite this, the IBAHRI maintains that the death penalty is not the solution to preventing such odious crimes and goes against the international trend towards its abolition.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, commented: ‘To stop the commission of crimes against human rights, penalties that violate the same fundamental rights cannot be imposed. Attacks against persons with albinism must end, but the punishment that the perpetrators should face must respect international human rights law. We exhort the Malawi government to revise this judgement.’

On Tuesday 14 August 2019, at the High Court in the Mchinji district, Central Malawi, Judge Esmey Chombo passed death sentences on three individuals: Douglas Mwale, Sophie Jere and Fontino Folosani – who were found guilty of murdering and mutilating Priscott Pepuzani, who had albinism, in August 2015. In her ruling, Judge Chombo said the death sentences would send a strong message to other would-be offenders and put an end to such malpractices.

Since 1992, Malawi has had a moratorium on the death penalty, and the mandatory death penalty for murder was eliminated in 2007. African regional standards established by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, including General Comment No.3 on the right to life, Resolutions 42 and 136, as well as the Cotonou Declaration on the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Africa , call on State Parties to move towards the abolition of the death penalty. Nevertheless, this is not the first time in recent years that the death penalty has been imposed for this kind of crime. In May 2019, Willard Mikaele was sentenced to death for the murder of Mphatso Pensulo, another person with albinism.

In the denunciation of this recent judgement, the IBAHRI reiterates its recognition of the difficult situation for people with albinism, which is particularly worrying in Malawi and other countries of the region due to frequent ritual killings and trading of body parts. In its 2018 report ‘Waiting to disappear’ International and Regional Standards for the Protection of the Human Rights of Persons with Albinism , the IBAHRI suggests that the legal protection of the rights of persons with albinism needs to be dramatically improved.

The IBAHRI condemns all attacks against persons with albinism and the violation of their rights, but believes that the imposition of the death penalty infringes the universally guaranteed right to life and amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, contrary to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, Anne Ramberg Dr jur hc, stated: ‘The death penalty is amongst the worst of human rights violations, where the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment are completely ignored. The decision to resort to the death penalty is incompatible with a country that supports the rule of law and good governance.’

In 2008, the IBAHRI Council passed a resolution stating: ‘the Human Rights Institute shall in the future actively promote the abolition of the death penalty’.

Source: IBAHRI denounces death sentence delivered against three in Malawi

Malawi cops detain suspect who tried to strangle albino boy (2015 article)

This image courtesy of the Milliyet Daily shows women carrying their albino children on May 5, 2014, in Dar es Salaam. The Tanzanian government has taken some steps in the wake of the killing spree, opening shelters for albino children in some parts of the country and commissioning task forces to investigate albino killings. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete appointed the country’s first albino member of parliament in 2008. Gauging the size of Tanzania’s albino population is difficult, and estimates vary wildly. The government has undertaken a national survey of albinos but has not released its findings. Albino advocacy groups put the number somewhere above 100,000, out of a total population of roughly 48 million people. AFP PHOTO/MILLIYET DAILY HANDOUT/BUNYAMIN AYGUN

Published: March 12, 2015
By: MalayMail

BLANTYRE (Malawi), March 12 — Police in Malawi said today they had arrested a man for trying to strangle to death a 16-year-old albino boy, with a rights group reporting six murders in the last three months.

The suspect had been on the run after he was caught trying to kill the 16-year-old at his home in February.

In the southern tea-growing district of Mulanje, police spokesman James Kadadzera said the man would soon appear in court on a charge of attempted murder.

As in other parts of Africa, albinos in Malawi are killed for their body parts, which are sold for witchcraft.

Six albinos have been killed in the impoverished southern African country since December, according to the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi.

Malawian albinos are “living in fear of being attacked or killed” because of the recent spate of murders, association director Boniface Massah said.

Belief in witchcraft runs deep in Malawi and albino body parts are often used in rituals. Even the bodies of dead albinos are sometimes exhumed and sold.

Earlier this week, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein denounced attacks against albinos as “stunningly vicious, with children in particular being targeted”.

Albinism is a hereditary genetic condition that causes a total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes.

Countries in east and west Africa are worst affected, and Tanzania near Malawi has one of the highest attack rates.

In Tanzania, body parts sell for around US$600 (RM2,100) and an entire corpse fetches US$75,000, according to the UN.

Today, Tanzanian police said over 200 people have been arrested as part of a nationwide crackdown on witchdoctors linked to a wave of albino attacks and murders.

Albinism in Tanzania affects one in 1,400 births, often as a result of inbreeding, experts say. — AFP

Source: Malawi cops detain suspect who tried to strangle albino boy