Xenophobic Attacks Looming in Malawi

By: Wonderful Mkhutche

 

Psychologists can have an authoritative explanation. But experience has told us that when people feel there is an absence of power and authority from the government, people easily take matters into their own hands.

Xenophobic attacks in South Africa (getty image)
Xenophobic attacks in South Africa (getty image)

The relationship between man and the government is what political theorists like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau call the social contract. The citizen agrees to give up things like the use of violence and other freedoms and allows the government to run that side of his realistic existence for him. He is obedient to it and in turn, the government is supposed to take care of him by, among other things, providing protection.

Not that man is incapable of doing these duties he gives to the government. But for the sake of social harmony and the benefit of the larger community, it happens like that. Just like in any other contract, when one side is not playing by the agreed rules, the other side is inspired into acting contrary to what was agreed on. The contract is no longer binding and what results is chaos.

This is what Malawi is experiencing right now in terms of security, especially with our brothers and sisters born with albinism. For two years now, this community in Malawi and also other countries around has been suffering from ritual killings. Some people believe that body parts from them can be used as charms for gaining wealth. There have been several abductions and killings due to this belief.

The belief can take time to be controlled and uprooted. But the protection of the people with albinism cannot. Malawi already has the police and other security structures that have been used for this function. In an instant, with empathy and a sense of duty, this issue can be controlled and forced out.

There are several authorities responsible for this to happen. They all rest under the government because for everything legal to happen it has to be done under the rules of the Malawi government. Therefore, the government is the overseer of everything regarding this matter. Whether in success or failure, all eyes must be on the government. In addition, it is only the government that retains the monopoly of violence in the whole of Malawi, and security falls directly under that.

But for the two years, the abductions and the killings have been happening, there has been less improvement and they continue on happening. There will always be evil among us. Worse, there will always be people who will be ready to make a deal with it to reach whatever end they have. Much as we may be called to believe in a world where humanity can be trusted and be given the time and the space to change, we must never forget to look at the world and our existence in general in a realistic way.

Foreign nationals gesture after clashes broke out in Durban's
Foreign nationals gesture after clashes broke out in Durban’s

Force has to be used sometimes to bring out good. Perhaps that is what is lacking in this situation. The government has been giving word assurance that there is security for the people with albinism. But amidst that assurance, their suffering and insecurity continue. The assurances, made by the head of the government, President Peter Mutharika, on several occasions, have been in a form of press releases and addresses, the kind of communication that one can hardly notice commitment and wish from him to see that the situation is arrested.

There is a need for action. As the head of the government, he has the authority to make some swift changes to the machinery he is heading, specifically for this issue alone. The general public is not satisfied with the sentences given to the culprits, for example. He can call on the judiciary to have a look at that, and if their hands are tied, ask the parliament to amend the sentences so that they are tough. It does not make sense for someone who was part of this evil just to be given a four-year sentence. Our judiciary must not strictly be acting on what was written down. They must move with time. Despite that the laws have not been updated, it can always apply them using the time we are in and the gravity of the crime.

There are several things that government must do in regard to the situation that it is not doing. The insecurity of the people with albinism is haunting and shaming our conscious as citizens of Malawi. No one would like to have their country associated with the kind of backward and evil happening. We cannot bear this discomfort for a long time. And that is where the danger is.

For the past days, Zambia has been experiencing xenophobic attacks due to the suspected ritual killings. Shops of foreigners have been torched down and routed out because they are believed to be behind the ritual killings of the seven bodies found with no body parts in the capital city Lusaka. What government must know is that the social and the political terrain of Zambia is the same with that of Malawi. Who ever thought such a thing could happen in Zambia? But it has. And with time, it will be coming to Malawi.

It is not that the foreigners are behind the abductions and the deaths in Malawi. But mob action happens from the little evidence that can be around. Three weeks ago, after a sixteen-year-old was found murdered and with no some body parts, the killer was caught. Before he was burnt to death he reveled that it was a Burundi national in the area who had requested him of the parts. The foreigner fled before he was caught. But people who heard that story still have it in the back of their minds that it was a foreigner who was behind that ritual Dowa death.

Again, most of the abductions of people with albinism are happening in our border districts. There has been a case in Nsanje, where the seven found with human bones were torched to death. Recently in Kasungu, a one-year-old child born with albinism was ritually abducted and killed. Mangochi and Machinga have been the centers of this evil in Malawi. It tells a story. The abductions are being led by Malawians who have connections to people outside the country or are being done by foreigners who are in Malawi. That is a safe conclusion one can make after looking at the trend.

Effectively, the hate for the foreigners will start building up with those from East Africa at the center of it all. Before coming down to Malawi and Zambia, these ritual killings started from the East Africa. It can easily be said that the ones doing it here can be from these countries, looking at what has been explained above. For a person like me, who respects the authority of the government, and who has never been directly affected by this, it will be easy to wait on the assurance of the authorities. But how about the village folks and those who have been affected?

The evil will be too much on them and they will be ready to kill for it. The absence of security and action from the government will inspire them into breaking the said contract and take matters into their own hands. If it has happened in Zambia, it is possible in Malawi. And looking at where we are going, the possibility is even becoming stronger. In the essence of sounding clear: The xenophobic attacks that are happening in Zambia are about to happen in Malawi.

The blame will be on the government for allowing the security gap to exist. This will not be the right way to deal with the matters. But human nature tells us that man is capable of doing such an evil when he has been stretched beyond his limits. The consequences of it will be too many. The reputation of our country will be destroyed and the relations between Malawians and the foreigners will take time to be amended. It will take time to recover from the ordeal and the financial costs to make things right again will be even higher than those spent preventing it from happening.

This is a warning to the government. Please, act right and in time. Something never thought of is about to happen because you have relaxed. This is a social prophecy God has given to Malawi through what is happening in Zambia.

About the writer: Wonderful Mkhutche is a speech writer, a political scientist and a manuscript editor and developer.

 

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