By: Wonderful Mkhutche
Another innocent life brutally murdered in Dowa. Her only crime was that she was born with albinism. A twenty one year old woman, Enelesi Nkhata, who was living with her grandmother in Dedza, was taken from home by her uncle, Gerald Phiri, 38, to Dowa. It has been reported that the uncle lied to the grandmother that he would find a job and sunscreen lotion for her in Dowa.
But he had other sinister plans. The uncle, just like several others, had come to believe that the bones of a person born with albinism can be used for wealth charms. Phiri conspired with nine other people to have the girl in Dowa. They had found the market for the bones in Lilongwe, through one of the suspected killers. But the business did not materialize.
The dead girl was discovered by neighbors. They had seen him at his house with the girl for a week before she went missing. They suspected something wrong and they reported the matter to the police. They questioned the uncle until he revealed that the girl was killed for her bones. He led them to where the body was buried and gave the names of all his accomplices. They have all been arrested.
It sounds like fiction. But that brutality is real. The young innocent woman was probably happy and relieved that the uncle had indeed come with good news to her troubled life. She looked at him as God sent, coming all the way from Dowa just to get her for the job and sunscreen. The grandmother as well easily trusted the uncle because he was one of their own and probably never thought of him doing her any harm.
But they were all wrong. The same man they thought had come to help ended up being the one to end the life of one of their own. For the record, this is the second ritual abduction and killing in Dowa in a space of three weeks. After happening in Machinga for the past year, it seems the activity is moving into the central region. Within the month, a two year child born with albinism was abducted and killed as well in Kasungu. For the Dowa case, the businessman who was to buy the bones is from Lilongwe.
And that is where the danger is. When I wrote previously that xenophobic violence related to these abductions and killings are coming, just as it happened in Lusaka, Zambia, most people reacted that the message was inciting violence. Another person threatened me with a court summon if the article was not withdrawn. And one even said it cannot happen in Malawi because we are a “God fearing nation.” But the same person is failing to reason that in the same God fearing nation, people are abducting and killing each other for money. What can fail the xenophobic attacks?
That is the very aim of this piece, to raise awareness of the danger that is coming upon us. Lilongwe is a complicated place where matters can easily escalate. It is the center of everything in Malawi since it is the capital city. This is the first connection Lilongwe has to the abduction and killings of people with albinism, and we must all get worried.
People of every kind of life, emotions, intolerance, among others, are found in this city. There may have been mild reactions in Machinga and Kasungu from the general public on the abductions and the killings. But make no mistake; Lilongwe is a different place. Should something connected to this issue happen again, the emotions will easily boil up and the reaction from the general public will be something Malawi would never have imagined.
The media may not have revealed who the businessman is who contracted to buy these bones, but eventually someone will reveal his name. They will get to know everything. The real danger is that Lilongwe is the city that hosts a good number of foreigners. With most people already having the opinion that these people are taking our wealth, and with the first Dowa ritual killing which involved a foreigner from East Africa, the ones in Lilongwe will be the main suspects.
People will start looking at the wealth they have as coming from the ritual killings. And we must expect more cases from the city now. The fact that a Lilongwe businessman wanted the bones from Dowa, it tells that some businessmen in Lilongwe, who believe in the charms, will not take the risk of having the killing done somewhere far. They will start hunting right from the city.
This is a warning to all the concerned authorities. They are working hard to have this eradicated among us. But they should do more. The evil seems to be spreading. The police are the heroes of the situation. They are doing a commendable job. But they are being betrayed by the courts and the government as a whole. The Civil Society Organizations as well are not finding creative ways of dealing with the issue.
Let me give them an idea: They can use the trial of these arrested ten people, caught red-handed in the act, as the point of action. Gathering at every court appearance with placards showing how much tired they are with the situation, making all the kind of noise they can, asking the courts for stiff sentences, will take the addressing of the issue to a new positive direction. With it they can easily raise the conscious of the nation against this evil. People born with albinism need to see that we are being there for them.
And the appeal is for people to face the reality. Continue to look at Malawi as an innocent God fearing nation, and that this issue will not escalate matters, will not help. All along, it has not been given the attention it deserves. People think it will end by itself. But as days go by, new cases are surfacing, and the practice keeps growing before our very own eyes.