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Albino killings is a national crisis

National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust has added its voice on the increasing wave of abducting and killing people with albinism describing the attacks as a national crisis that requires collective action to prevent this barbaric human rights violation.

According to media reports, the Association of People Living with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) has reported over 50 cases of attacks against people with albinism in which such people have been abducted, maimed, killed and have had their bones removed for ritualistic purposes.

The attacks, which seem to be on the rise, have also seen the invasion of graveyards where bones of people with albinism have been exhumed purposely for sale.

Speaking in an interview after attending a meeting organised to discuss the recent attacks against albinos in Kasungu, Nice Civic Education Officer for the North Vincent Kalawa said the abductions and the consequent killings are now a national crisis.

“We are looking at the attacks from a human rights perspective. These are gross human rights violations. Our laws as stipulated in the constitution are very clear on the need to respect other people’s rights irrespective of disability, skin colour, sex and other traits. This is why as Nice, we will [intensify] campaigns sensitising the communities on issues of human rights but zeroing in on the killing of people with albinism.

“In most of the reported cases, there has been an involvement of a relative of the killed or abducted person. That is worrying. Even in instances where bodies have been exhumed, it is not difficult to see that the relatives of the deceased are involved because a person from a faraway place cannot know graves where a person with albinism was buried. This gives us a clue that we need to work very closely with traditional leaders. We need to engage the chiefs,” said Kalawa.

According to Kalawa, duty bearers such as judicial and police officers also need to be engaged to share insights on the available legal remedies which he said may not be up to date.

“We have heard about sentences being given in courts and the charges the police place on the suspected albino attackers. The question could be: ‘are those sentences helping in deterring would-be offenders? Are the available legal remedies enough or effective?’ These issues need to be looked at with a sober mind,” said Kalawa.

So far, waves of attacks against albinos have been reported in Machinga, Phalombe, Mchinji, Karonga, Kasungu, Mzimba and Dowa. In the Dowa case, two men have been sentenced to 17 years imprisonment with hard labour – a landmark sentence in terms of severity as compared to other sentences handed out in relation to albino abductions and killings in recent months.

Bones of people living with albinism are reportedly used in making charms that help people get to get rich. Apart from Malawi, Tanzania is also battling the same problem.

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