Amnesty International, the international human rights body says remarks by Minister of Homeland Security, Nicholas Dausi, that the genocide of persons with albinism has not reached crisis levels are a disturbing reminder of the Malawi government’s inaction on the issue.
Malawi is experiencing a resurgence of attacks against persons with albinism, with two fatalities and three abductions since 31 December 2018. Two of those who were abducted were later rescued by community members. A 14-year old child, Goodson Makanjira, remains missing.
“The latest comments from Minister Nicholas Dausi are yet another indication that persons with albinism in Malawi are on their own when it comes to their safety and security,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.
“For years, people with albinism have been living at the mercy of criminal gangs who target them for their body parts. The recent spike in attacks shows that the government, despite amending the Anatomy Act and the Penal Code to ensure stiffer penalties, hasn’t lived up to its commitments on protecting this group.”
On the night of 31 December, eight people broke into Yasin Phiri’s house, a 54-year-old person with albinism, while he was sleeping in Kande, Nkhata Bay. The suspected perpetrators grabbed him and brutally killed him as his nine-year-old son, George, looked on in horror.
According to eyewitnesses, the criminal gang hacked off both of Phiri’s arms, removed his lower teeth, cut off his private parts and removed one of his lungs.
In another case, six masked men broke into 14-year-old Goodson Makanjira’s home on 13 February. His body was later found dumped in the Dyamphi River in Dedza, 85km south of Lilongwe. The killers removed his teeth, hands and private parts.
On 22 January, a one-and-a-half-year-old Eunice Nkhonjera was abducted from her house in Lulanga Village in Karonga District in the northern region. Baby Eunice and her mother Loveness Nkhonjera were sleeping when some unknown people broke the door and entered their home in the early hours of the morning. Her mother woke up at around 4 am only to realize that her daughter was missing. Eunice has not yet been found. Two other abductions were thwarted by community members.
“The authorities must promptly, thoroughly and effectively investigate the recent attacks against people with albinism and ensure that suspected perpetrators are brought to justice for these gruesome attacks in fair trials. People will albinism cannot continue to live in fear in their own country.”
Meanwhile, Buleya Luke, a suspect in the abduction of Goodson has died mysteriously while in police custody. Graphic images of the suspect circulating on social media that this publication can now share show that he has died with a wide cut on his buttocks. The police have refused to comment on Buleya’s death. Buleya is said to have offered abductors K800 thousand kwacha for the child who remains missing.
Persons with albinism are targeted for their body parts in the belief that they contain magical powers. The current population of people with albinism in Malawi is estimated at between 7,000 and 10,000, representing a ratio of 1 in every 1,800 persons.