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Albino attacks may turn political

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With George Kasakula:

DPP can go to the mountain top and dismiss the challenge Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader Lazarus Chakwera made that, if voted into power, he would solve the problem of albino attacks within a month.

The truth is that the challenge that Chakwera threw into the public domain has made the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) establishment to spring into action on the matter.

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That is why we have, in the past week, seen ministers such as those for Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi and for Information Henry Mussa holding press conferences.

President Peter Mutharika was also in action this week commenting on the matter in Liwonde, Machinga, on Monday when he opened the new Kamuzu Barrage.

Simply put, Chakwera’s challenge gave the matter the public boost it needed to get the attention it requires so that Malawians who were born with albinism can once again feel safe in this country which they also call home.

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The reality is DPP will not succeed in trying to stop the attacks on people with albinism becoming an electoral issue because the elections, at the stage we are, will be dictated by matters that are worrying the populace and, at the moment, the attacks on people with albinism are disgusting to many Malawians.

DPP can fall or rise on it depending on how the President and the whole government machinery handle the matter.

Malawians who wish their country well and have the well-being of every citizen at heart have been appalled during the past 10 days with the new wave of attacks on people with albinism by perverts who have the unfounded belief that their body parts can be used for juju to bring luck.

Some recent cases of the attacks include the botched-up abduction of a 16-year-old boy in Machinga and a threat on a family in Lilongwe.

Then in Dedza we had another 16-year-old boy who was abducted at dawn vindicating the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) stance that the authorities are not doing enough to end such attacks, telling the government that, probably, it should declare the country unsafe people with albinism and that they should be allowed to look for asylum somewhere.

All this was capped with Chakwera speaking strongly against the attacks vowing to deal with the problem in a month if elected into power.

He also blamed authorities for not doing enough by not busting the markets and not funding the National Action Plan on the attacks with people with albinism.

Chakwera then dropped the bombshell. He called on Mutharika to do his job, to which the State House has responded, asking the former leader of opposition to stop politicising the issue of the attacks, adding that the issues of funding are not the personal responsibility of the President.

To me, whether the matter is politicised is not the issue. Rather, what is an issue are the attacks on people with albinism which must stop forthwith and it is the duty of the government that is in power to do just that.

If the President says the matter is not his personal responsibility, then whose is it?

The key criticism that suspects who have been arrested in connection with this matter should have revealed to the police the identities of those who send them to get the body parts of those born with albinism, which is not happening, is a fair one and one the government must respond to.

This will ensure that Malawians have faith that something is happening on the matter. It is the government’s call to ensure that.

Let us not forget that, so far, 23 people who were born with the condition, without any fault of their own, have perished and the government owes their relatives an explanation and action to end it.

Simply put, the DPP government should not treat this issue with the casualness we have seen so far because being quick to condemn those who speak about it as being politically motivated will not stop the killings. On the contrary, only action will.

If DPP is not careful, they will pencil the issue of the attacks of people with albinism as a matter on which they lost the election.

It is not just politicians, who DPP is accusing of politicising the issue, who are disgusted by the attacks.

The truth is it is disgusting to all decent Malawians that a certain section of the population should be hunted down like wild animals merely because of the condition of their skin.

This is how the attacks on people with albinism will influence the political discourse as we count down to May 21.

The DPP should not cheat itself that their political adversaries and Malawians at large will stand aside and not capitalise on the attacks on albinos to score political points as we inch towards the May 21 deadline.

It is incumbent upon DPP to deal with it decisively because, if they do not, it would not be surprising that the issue may find its way into political parties’ manifestos and that is what Chakwera is essentially saying by promising that an MCP government would deal with the matter within a month.

Other leaders such as UTM’s Saulos Chilima have interacted with people with albinism to try to deal with the problem in various ways.

Let us remember that Mutharika partly campaigned on security of all Malawians in 2014 as one of the centre-pieces of the DPP manifesto.

Sadly, for the President, the attacks on people with albinism greatly compromise that promise.

DPP cannot afford to underestimate the issue of the attacks on people with albinism as it can fundamentally influence this election in ways they may not like as any issue of the day should do.

DPP must be on top of its game for the next three months in handling issues of concern for Malawians as their political life may just depend on it.

As they deal with issues of interest rates, blackouts and water scarcity, among other current matters, issues such as attacks on people with albinism should also get priority.

And the DPP establishment recognises that issues of the day can either win or lose them elections.

That is why, in recent times, blackouts have been greatly reduced in domestic consumption of electricity unlike during the past four years when Malawians had to grapple with this problem.

I have it on good authority that parastatals involved have been ordered to up their game to avoid upsetting voters with blackouts.

I am sure that parastatals providing other essential services have been ordered to do likewise.

Yet the elephant in the room now is the attacks on Malawians born with albinism who are threatening to march to the State House on March 3 to present a petition to the President to stop these attacks.

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