Demonstrations Erupt Over Failure to Prosecute the Attacks on People with Albinism

By Alfred Mthandizi

People with albinism on Wednesday matched in the streets of Lilongwe demanding to force Government to establish special court and try all suspects arrested for albino killings.

The demonstrators have so far given President Mutharika to address their grievances within 48 hours. But demonstrators failed to access Statehouse because they were blocked by the security forces.

Almost 26 people of Albinism have been killed Since killed and 130 injured while scores of them are missing. Malawi’s Main opposition political party President Lazarus Chakwera has so far described the albino killings as barbaric and uncalled for. Chakwera says there is need for the Malawian President Peter Mutharika to use all his instruments at his disposal and stop the killing of people with Albinism.

There is strong belief that the bones from the people of albinism brings money after being sold. President Mutharika has several times appealed urged Malawians to stop killing people of albinism saying there is no market for their body parts. DPP running mate, who is also Minister of Civic Education, Everton Chimulirenji, condemned the killing of people with Albinism.

Chimulirenji while addressing the rally at Masintha said people with Albinism are human being and similar to anybody. Malawi nation wake up shocked in April 2018 to a news that a Catholic priest Father Thomas Muhosha of Mulombozi Parish in Zomba got arrested over the abduction and murder of a 22-year-old person with albinism, McDonald Masambuka of Machinga.

The matter is currently in court.

Masambuka’s body was found on April 1 by police who traced the body following confessions from suspects arrested in connection with the crime.

The suspects under arrest include a police officer and a clinician at Machinga District Hospital. Police confirmed the arrest of a priest saying the priest was being investigated by the Eastern Region Police after he was mentioned as one of the people who took part in the brutal killing of Masambuka.

The national police spokesperson James Kadadzera said currently, Father Muhosha is being kept by the Eastern Region Police where he is being questioned. Ms. Maria Jose Torres is United Nations Resident Coordinator.

In her statement during the World Zero discrimination Day which falls on 1 March, Under the leadership of the United Nations Joint Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), the UN has since 2014 dedicated 1st March as a day to renew global commitment to combat all forms of discrimination against people living with HIV and other vulnerable and marginalized groups.

The theme for the 2019 Zero Discrimination Campaign Day – “Act to Change Laws that Discriminate” – calls for urgent action to change discriminatory laws and policies that violate and threaten the rights of vulnerable and marginalized populations.

Torres says there is need for collective action to ensure that no population is left behind in collective drive towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as Malawi implements the third Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III).

The UN congratulates the Government and people of Malawi for the effort at eliminating stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV through the enactment of HIV and AIDS Prevention and Management Act in 2018.

The Act seeks to ensure that all Malawians irrespective of age, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, political or religious affiliation have access to HIV prevention and treatment services in an environment free of stigma and discrimination. The Act also provides stiffer punishment of MK5 million to MK10 million- or five-years jail term or both for various forms of stigma and discrimination by service providers. We must work together to ensure the full enforcement of the Act to promote and protect the rights of key populations, marginalized groups and people living with or affected by HIV.

Torres is also asking concerted effort to end stigma towards people of Albinism. “The United Nations in Malawi is concerned by the resurfacing of gruesome attacks on persons with albinism and strongly condemns the killings. The UN calls upon all stakeholders to redouble their efforts to implement the National Action Plan, which addresses the root causes of attacks on persons with albinism, including a nationwide awareness raising campaign, strengthened investigations and prosecutions, together with strengthened protection and victim assistance measures. If these measures are not put in place, we will continue registering violations on the rights of persons with albinism.”  Torres laments.

She says “We are concerned that persons entrusted with the responsibility of promoting and protecting the rights of all Malawians including persons with albinism are allegedly involved in the killing. We encourage the authorities to ensure a thorough, prompt and impartial investigation into the killings and bring the alleged perpetrators to justice.” She says.

The UN says remains committed to supporting the Government and people of Malawi to proactively promote and protect the rights of persons with albinism and ensure their full participation in the socioeconomic development of the country in an environment free of stigma, discrimination and physical attacks.

Currently, there are more than 20 Agencies and specialized organizations of the United Nations active in Malawi which, through their work, contribute to ensuring a better life for the people of Malawi. The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and Association of people living with albinism (APAM) are currently demonstrating and hold vigil at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe.

Persons with albinism organized the vigil in a bid to request President Peter Mutharika to institute a commission of inquiry on the recent attacks, abductions and killings of people with albinism to uncover alleged markets of their body parts and bring culprits to book.

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