A PETITION TO THE OMBUDSMAN IN MALAWI TO ADDRESS HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES AGAINST PEOPLE WITH ALBINISM
People with albinism in Malawi are living in fear. Many do not go out at night and are wary about whom they meet. The belief by some members of society that body parts of people with Albinism can generate extraordinary powers and riches have contributed to the inhumane killings and dismembering of this minority group.
"To lose a loved one to murder is horrific and devastating. To have somebody's body parts cut off for unfounded beliefs is inhumane. To be denied a proper funeral due to abduction and not knowing where the body is, causes unimaginable suffering to families and the community."
Sadly, families of people with albinism are enduring these nightmares when their loved ones are abducted and disappear, at most times, without a trace. It is unfortunate that when some of the killers are caught and in rare cases brought to the courts, the killers are not pressed enough to reveal the whereabouts of their victims' bodies (in cases of abductions), nor a revelation of the powers behind the abductions. The desecration of graves is another prevalent offence that invades and disrespects the dignity of resting places for People with Albinism (PWA).
According to Amnesty Report (2018), in Malawi, the killings, abductions and failed abductions of PWA have risen since 2014 with only 44 cases being concluded in the courts out of 144 cases recorded.
Malawi is a relatively peaceful country and the violence we are witnessing is uncommon. It is our neighbor Tanzania, that had previously been associated with attacks of this nature. But the Tanzanian government has in recent years done something about it. It arrested unlicensed traditional healers and imposed stiffer penalties on "albino hunters" and those who trade in body parts. Thanks to the crackdown and to a campaign by a Canadian charity to teach Tanzanians that people with albinism have no magic powers, attacks against them in Tanzania have fallen. The government has registered people with the condition, so that it can monitor and track them, and has established safe houses for children at risk of attack.
In 2016, a law was passed in Malawi to tackle an increase in killings of people with albinism in the country. However, it is observed that the killers are evading justice as a result cases of abductions and killings are becoming more common and in the absence of stiffer penalties cases have continued to rise.
Amnesty International, a human-rights group, notes that the Malawian government has failed to protect people with albinism. It criticizes the government for, among other things, not trying hard to investigate why Malawi has seen a rise in attacks or to work out where demand is coming from. In their 2018 report, Amnesty International Report outlined recommendations for the Malawi government. As it currently stands there is no public awareness of whether the recommendations have or are being implemented. We also doubt if the custodian of the report has disseminated the recommendations to key stakeholders or strategized with key players on a framework to sensitize the public and solutions to eradicate the inhumane killings.
We, hereby, petition the Ombudsman to thoroughly investigate and address the alleged malfunction of the trusted system to protect in a dignified manner the community living with albinism. In the interim we petition Ombudsman to instill and uphold their rights and dignity through:
1. Emergency sheltering for people with albinism while the government works out a more permanent solution to ensure on their protection. The practicalities for interim sheltering will have to be worked out by a range of stakeholders including leaders and family representatives from the community of people with albinism, traditional and religious leaders and representatives from relevant government agencies.
2. Providing resources to raise public awareness that people with special needs especially people with albinism have the same rights as everyone else in coordination with other human rights advocates.
3. Instituting dedicated team to engage with neighbouring countries to seek a coordinated effort in investigating and combating crimes against people with albinism.
4. Engaging and sensitizing the police, chiefs, religious leaders and other community leaders to devise ways of protecting people with albinism when they live in their natural communities.
5. Investing in technological solutions by providing electronic devices that will link with the police and chiefs to raise alarm to thwart attempted abductions and/or murders (devices that will track and monitor unusual activities).
6. Imposing stiffer penalties on perpetrators plus adequately funding the police and judiciary system to effectively tackle crimes against people with albinism.
Setting up a comprehensive registry on people with albinism would help in executing these interventions. We understand relevant data to feed into this was collected during the previous census exercise.
Look at Kenya and Tanzania. They prioritized and focused energies and there have been massive improvements. This is a human rights issues that is possible to redress in a short to medium term. In Kenya, it was the government that took charge. In Tanzania, the lead was taken by the aid agencies. The success in these countries illustrates how government and civil society and the public can change a situation.
Living in fear is an infringement of basic human rights. Please support us by signing this petition.