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Malawi’s albinos face extinction

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As Malawi continues to make headlines across the world for the on-going killings of people with albinism, the United Nations has warned of a complete wipe out of the country’s albino population.

UN expert on albinos, Ikponwosa Ero, said Malawi’s small population of people with albinism numbering less than 10,000, could be completely wiped if the crisis continues.

“Persons with albinism, and parents of children with albinism, constantly live in fear of attack. Many do not sleep peacefully and have deliberately restricted their movement to the necessary minimum,” Ero is quoted as saying in a New York Daily News on-line report.

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She pointed a finger at Malawi’s justice system for failing to impose stiff punishment on perpetrators of such acts, noting that stealing a cow yields a harsher penalty that killing an albino person.

Ero, who has albinism, is calling for a reform in Malawi within the police, prosecutors and magistrates to better handle these criminal cases before the nation’s entire albino population is extinct.

“Addressing the root causes of attacks, in particular why they are happening, is indispensable to eradicating them. It is worrying to note that witchcraft beliefs and practices are widespread in Malawi, although often a taboo topic,” Ero said.

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Reputable media houses like CNN, Al Jazeera and BBC have recently been awash with reports of albino killings in the country with President Peter Mutharika openly speaking of his embarrassment with the unfortunate incidents occurring under his watch.

An on-line media outlet, Quartz, published an article yesterday entitled ‘Malawi’s struggling economy means more albinos are being killed for their body parts.’ Another on-line publisher, AFP, had an item whose headline read: “Malawi albinos face ‘unprecedented killings.’’

The matter has also featured in the country’s national assembly where Mulanje South parliamentarian Bon Kalindo has threatened to march naked in his bid to have the death penalty administered on albino killers.

Amnesty International has however, said sending albino killers to the gallows is not a solution. The organisation’s director for Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, is quoted as saying Amnesty International is opposed to capital punishment because it is cruel and degrading.

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