Malawi to probe ‘root cause’ of al­bino killings

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY FELIX MPONDA

Malawi has launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the root cause of a re­cent spate of mur­ders of al­bi­nos, a se­nior of­fi­cial said Satur­day, as the coun­try marked in­ter­na­tional al­binism aware­ness day.

There was a need to ed­u­cate cit­i­zens to “change their mind­set (and un­der­stand) that al­bi­nos do not have any mag­i­cal pow­ers,” Isaac Katopola, deputy sec­re­tary in the so­cial wel­fare min­istry, told AFP.

Al­bi­nos, who are very pale due to a hered­i­tary ge­netic con­di­tion that causes an ab­sence of pig­men­ta­tion in the skin, hair and eyes, are some­times killed for their body parts for use in witch­craft.

Katopola said “of­fi­cially six al­bi­nos have been killed” since a surge in at­tacks be­gan in De­cem­ber, while U.N. agen­cies in Malawi put the fig­ure at nine.

There was also “con­tin­ued ex­huma­tion of al­bino re­mains for their bones,” he said.

The two-month probe, which is be­ing sup­ported by the United Na­tions Chil­dren’s Fund and U.N. Women, will also es­tab­lish “where the mar­ket for body parts is among Malawi, Mozam­bique and Tan­za­nia.”

“There is some­thing go­ing on and this will help us to un­der­take ap­pro­pri­ate in­ter­ven­tions,” Katopola said on the side­lines of a col- or­ful cel­e­bra­tion of al­binism.

Sus­pects ar­rested in killings, ab­duc­tions and those in pos­ses­sion of al­bino bones have said they sell body parts of al­bi­nos in Mozam­bique and Tan­za­nia.

The aware­ness day was at­tended by scores of young and adult al­bi­nos who braved a scorch­ing sun — which can dam­age their pale skin — at a soc­cer ground lo­cated at the foot of Mu­lanje Moun­tain in the south of the coun­try.

Boni­face Mas­sah, di­rec­tor of the rights group As­so­ci­a­tion of Peo­ple Liv­ing with Al­binism in Malawi, told AFP that be­cause of “deep cul­tural be­liefs, Malawi had a long way to go to re­spond to the rights of al­bi­nos.”

Ele­men­tary school teacher Bertha Ma­leya, 28, an al­bino her­self, urged the gov­ern­ment “to take tough mea­sures against al­bino killers and charge them with mur­der.”

“We are liv­ing in fear since the at­tacks be­gan,” she said.

Julita Deleza, 30, with her al­bino daugh­ter Jac­quiline strapped to her back, said she trav­eled three hours to reach the venue to “hear it for my­self about the safety of my daugh­ter ... I never leave her alone.”

The of­fi­cial U.N. In­ter­na­tional Al­binism Aware­ness Day was June 13, but was de­layed in Malawi. Malawi Pres­i­dent Peter Mutharika was due to ad­dress the cel­e­bra­tion but did not turn up.

AFP

Cather­ine Amidu, a 12-year-old Malaw­ian al­bino girl, poses in a maize field, in the tra­di­tional au­thor­ity area of Nkole, Machinga dis­trict, on April 17.

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