When he appeared before the Zomba Senior Resident Magistrate’s Court sitting in Mangochi on Friday, November 24 2017, 49-year-old Samson Allison bared it all.
Allison did not abduct the four-year-old boy, Amadu Wasi, for nothing. He had a mission.
He told Criminal Investigations Department officials at the Mangochi Police Station that his friend, Jafali Ligomeka, persuaded him into the heinous business transaction.
He said they had agreed to sell the innocent boy at K6 million. And when he appeared before the magistrate, the abductor did not waste the court’s time.
Allison pleaded guilty to the charge as levelled against him while his accomplice Ligomeka pleaded not guilty.
However, what the convict kept to himself were the identities and location where prospective buyer of the boy or his body tissues runs his or her business.
The Association for Persons Albinism in Malawi (Apam) Secretary General, Maynard Zacharia, believes this is where the law enforcement agencies usually lose a plot in cases involving abduction, attacks, killings and exhumation of the remains of persons with albinism (PWAs).
Zacharia, during awareness raising rallies on the rights of PWAs in Dedza, Chikwawa, Mangochi, Mulanje, Ntcheu and Zomba between October and November 2017, said that tracing the alleged market for body tissues is crucial to end the vice.
The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) has been holding these awareness-raising campaigns with financial support from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID).
UN Women is implementing the second phase of the awareness raising on the rights of PWAs in the said districts.
“In many cases involving abduction, attacks, killings and exhumation of PWAs, perpetrators do emphasise that the market exists where body tissues are sold. Additionally, we have seen perpetrators being bailed out by wealthy people in society, which suggests that there is indeed a market and probably the buyers are these rich business tycoons,” said Zacharia.
He said the association believes some convicts would be eager to provide leads to the said market.
Zacharia’s assertion was echoed by the association’s President Overstone Kondowe, at a press briefing Apam jointly held with the National Technical Committee on Abuse of Persons with Albinism in Malawi and the police.
Kondowe said the association is convinced about the existence of the market and further warned that all efforts and measures put in place to end attacks against PWAs could be rendered irrelevant and ineffective if the police do not ‘unearth the market’.
“Perpetrators of violence and attacks against PWAs have been talking about the market where they sell body tissues. But what surprises us is failure by the police to press these attackers to lead them to where this market is,” he said.
Kondowe wondered why the police could take over three years without locating the market attackers of PWAs claim about.
“We are challenging MPS [Malawi Police Service] to establish the market for tissues of persons with albinism. It is until that time when the market will be unearthed that we will be satisfied,” added Kondowe.
And in a statement released earlier before the briefing, Kondowe condemned government for failing to find a lasting solution to the problem.
He said Malawi had embraced the shame of highest degree and manifested traits of a failed state by failing to decisively deal with the vice.
“In only a space of three weeks, two lives are missing, this is indeed a crisis and we advise the State President [Peter Mutharika] to act promptly; he must publicly condemn this behaviour, he must direct the Inspector General to deploy police officers to thoroughly investigate this case as soon as possible,” reads the statement in part.
The statement further says Apam believes that the current approach of arresting parents of PWAs is not a lasting solution.
“This should not become a fashion whenever a PWA is abducted, this is not morally on. The nation is, in fact, indirectly planting deep-rooted discrimination seeds against persons with albinism; persons with albinism will not have parents, friends, marriages, peers and, at last, they will become islands of their own. The government must make heavy investment in tracking the markets, which is the only solution,” says the statement.
But Deputy National Police publicist, Thomeck Nyaude, told journalists that the existence of the market for body tissues whether within or outside Malawi is a mere myth.
Nyaude added that civic education is what is missing to demystify the causes of albinism while advancing and promoting the rights of PWAs.
But National Technical Committee on Abuse of Persons with Albinism in Malawi Chairperson, Hetherwick Ntaba, dismissed Nyaude outright arguing it was wrong for the police to rule out the existence of such a market.
UN Women human rights specialist, Habiba Osman, stressed during the awareness rallies that traditional leaders and law enforcement agencies needed to triple their efforts in curbing attacks targeting PWAs in Malawi.
Osman observed that chiefs’ voices are critical in demystifying myths and superstitions surrounding albinism.
“UN Women appreciates the role the Malawi Police Service and chiefs are playing in curbing attacks targeting persons with albinism in this country. But the battle is not yet over. As such, we need to triple our efforts in raising awareness on and protecting the rights of persons with albinism,” said Osman.
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