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Shame on heartless anti-death penalty advocates

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At three years, Talandira Chirwa did not deserve to die.

But, then, when she was peacefully sleeping on the same bed with her grandmother, an unidentified man broke into the house and stabbed her on the neck, chopped off her arm and went away with it.

This is according to Kasungu Police Station spokesperson Joseph Kachikho, who has indicated that the incident happened in Mawawa Village, Traditional Authority Chulu, in Kasungu District.

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What crime did the innocent girl commit? Having the condition of albinism. May the good Lord have mercy on this nation.

This is a grisly murder and a painful reminder that we, in this Land of the Lake, still have beasts among us.

Who, in their normal senses, would think about harming another person, let alone a child of three years? Only a hard-heartened worthless individual— the stinky type.

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This is sad, notably because, when we attained independence from Britain in 1964, we thought July 6 [1964] signalled a frontier between pain and happiness.

What an empty dream.

Today, Malawi is haunted by infidelities too horrific to mention.

And death, that monster, is concocted in people’s minds. It no longer occurs naturally.

If it were a film, we would have said the actors have not moved painlessly forward.

And this is because, to some extent, there has been a, sometimes, seamless flow of the waters of harm.

I mean, what else can I say when heartless people who harm children with albinism seem to have no sense of shame, let alone conscience, to know that what they are doing is wrong?

Getting a cue from the Malawi Police Service’s account, it seems that the suspect premeditatedly harmed the young girl.

It is heartless to hurt someone who is peacefully sleeping at night, dreaming about another promising day.

Well, I blame this heartlessness on the anti-death penalty campaign that has been gathering steam in this country.

Just in October this year, people behind the campaign gathered in Zomba.

To be precise, this was 20 years and four days after the announcement, on October 10 2002, that the world should be commemorating the fight against the death penalty.

What was their mission in Zomba? Shouting on top of their voices, while foaming at the mouth, in the name of canvassing for support.

It is worrying that, according to World Population Review, such campaigners have registered relative success.

This is because, between December last year and January 2022, two countries, namely Kazakhstan and Papua New Guinea, outlawed the death penalty, otherwise known as capital punishment.

Laws outlawing the death penalty in Kazakhstan and Papua New Guinea came into effect on December 29 2021 and January 22 2022, respectively.

However, Malawians— I mean, the majority of them— are clever people who do not fall for anything simply because there is money attached to their support.

Other than organising such commemorations, the closer Malawi has come to identifying with efforts aimed at dealing away with the death penalty is being party to a United Nations resolution that indicated that some of the forms of punishment used in some member states are outright “degrading”.

In 2019, marking the first time in history, the United Nations Human Rights Committee suggested that certain methods of execution constitute torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.

And, since then, Malawi has been taking advantage of the day to highlight the link between the use of the death penalty, torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.

This year, when it was the turn of October 10 on the calendar, leaders of the anti-death penalty campaign gathered at Maula Prison to preach their message.

The unfortunate part was that the Association of Persons with Albinism was represented at the anti-death penalty meeting.

Speaking at the event, its representative said the association observed the need for real proactive solutions from government and all stakeholders, which will prevent people from killing other people, as opposed to reactive interventions.

“We want good housing, great security, sensitisation both to us as pertaining to our rights and responsibilities, but also to the public to eliminate the misconceptions that fuel our killings and hunting of our body parts,” the association’s member said.

He added that Apam believes that everyone has the right to life, thus an innocent person with albinism has a right to life, and also those that breach the law.

“We want you to save us from being killed, please and not kill on our behalf,” the individual said.

It is such sentiments, not just from that person but other people who have taken to the battleground to take on the death penalty, that have resulted in, as of today, 145 states becoming abolitionists in law or in practice.

This represents more than two thirds of the world’s countries.

Comparatively, 20 years ago, only 111 countries were abolitionists in law or in practice.

In Africa, 26 countries have abolished the death penalty in law.

Fourteen, including Malawi, are applying a long-term moratorium on executions while only 15 retain capital punishment.

In my view, these actions are creating monsters such as the Kasungu murderer who has heartlessly claimed Talandira Chirwa’s life, leaving those of us who care about life struggling to control the fountain of tears running down our faces.

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