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APM should inspire Apam

With George Kasakula:

The Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) is an angry lot, as all peaceful, honest, hard-working Malawians should be about attacks on people with albinism.

That is why Apam cannot take it anymore, insisting this week to have a vigil at the State House in Lilongwe and vowing to extend it as they wait for President Peter Mutharika to come back home from Mzuzu to personally hear them out.

Whether Mutharika manages to tread where angels fear by being the first president to personally attend to a petition is not an issue to me.

Rather, the issue is that the President should inspire Apam by showing that he is in control of the matter and that he has a creative plan to stop the attacks once and for all.

The Apam march on Wednesday marked eventful weeks after a new wave of attacks.

The national conversation on the matter during the past two weeks took a different turn, with Mutharika and his government trying to fight back and regain control of the narrative to prove to the nation that they are in control and can be trusted to deal with the vile attacks.

First into the fray of the matter that has cost the lives of 25 Malawians with albinism was Nicholas Dausi, Minister of Homeland Security, who apologised for the initial remarks he made three weeks ago during a press conference to the effect that he did not think the attacks had reached a crisis level to warrant a march and vigil at the State House.

It must be recalled that Apam rejected this apology saying it was made in bad faith and probably Dausi was pressured to make it, insisting that they want him to resign.

The Office of the President and Cabinet then released a press statement saying the President would meet Apam to strategise on issues surrounding people with albinism but the body insisted that they would not go to the State House.

Later, a meeting at the State House took place. with a new organisation called Poor and Concerned People with Albinism meeting the President and asking him to deal with the issue.

The centerpiece of the meeting is that the President put up a K5 million bounty as reward to anybody who provides information leading to the arrest of people behind the attacks on people with albinism.

Despite all this, Apam still marched to the State House on Wednesday and gave the President 48 hours to come back from Mzuzu to address them on the matter.

It is clear that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the President have been cornered on an issue they have window-dressed for many years and, in the course, the country has lost 25 people with albinism while countless others have been injured and maimed.

Today, the issue has come to haunt them at a time they would not want as it is only two and half months before elections, when they would want us all to be discussing the supposed achievements of the Mutharika administration and not a matter which is their soft underbelly.

DPP knows that Malawians still remember the key promise the party made in its 2014 manifesto, which was to restore security for all Malawians – something that it has clearly failed to do, with the number of deaths of people with albinism rising on its watch and the attacks getting worse as we draw near the polling day.

What is clear is that whatever DPP is doing will not have impact and it is all meant to be window-dressing because, on the ground, people with albinism are in as much danger as they were five years ago.

The police are ill equipped to do thorough investigations even when they have arrested people in connection with the matter, with some suspects dying in police in dubious circumstances, forcing the public to suspect that it is an attempt to silence them forever so that they should not reveal people who may be politically connected behind the murders.

The justice system is so slow and ill funded that cases are taking too long, with evidence lacking in some of them, leading to acquittals.

So far, there has never been any earth-shaking ruling that would act as tough deterrent to those who may wish to engage in the disgusting practice of attacking people with albinism merely because of their skin colour, believing that their body parts can bring luck.

Now the government is panicking and committing schoolboy errors on the matter because it is campaign time and they are afraid that this is becoming an electoral issue on which they are very weak, with their soft underbelly hopelessly exposed.

The government did not want Apam members to demonstrate and hold a vigil at the State House because it knew that would be a political disaster and invitation of bad publicity to the President and the whole State machinery.

The opposition is obviously taking advantage, as they should be, projecting themselves as people who can deal with the issue decisively.

Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera promised Malawians that he would deal with the problem within a month if elected on May 21.

UTM’s Saulos Chilima too has been busy meeting Apam leader Overstone Kondowe to give him the moral support with promise too that a UTM government would be capable of dealing with the matter.

All this has put so much pressure on the DPP establishment, prompting it to commit, out of desperation, obvious errors such as engaging in divide and rule, sidelining a body that has always spoken for people with albinism, Apam, by facilitating the formation of a different grouping which the President met last week at the State House.

It was obvious and everybody expected that the government would take this route because this is the way the establishment behaves when confronted with the challenge of citizens trying to exercise on the streets their right to assemble and demonstrate against anything.

The DPP’s signature modus operandi is simply to divide those piling the pressure with a view to rule.

But Apam has made its point to the President and his government.

They have spoken loud and clear that what is needed to solve the problem is not press releases or discussions or meetings at the State House but real fundamental action at all levels of the justice system, coupled with a robust strategy for prevention.

What is lacking is creativity and boldness in the government and at the State House to do or say something fundamental that can change the whole narrative and send real fear into the hearts of those that are behind the killing of people with albinism.

For crying out, this is a crime and you do not smile at criminals and expect them to stop what they are doing because they see benefits in the crimes they are committing.

Imagine what could happen if.

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