Amnesty International has called on Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders to ramp up efforts to protect the security of persons with albinism in the region where 150 persons have been killed since 2014.
The human rights body said this today ahead of the 39th SADC Heads of State Summit in Tanzania.
According to Amnesty, SADC leaders should adopt a Regional Action Plan to ensure a coordinated security response for persons with albinism across southern Africa.
In countries such as Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo, 150 persons with albinism have been killed since 2014 for their body parts.
Hundreds of persons with albinism have also experienced mutilations, kidnappings and attempted kidnappings in recent years.
Tanzania has reported the highest number of killings, 76, for the same period.
“Across the SADC region, persons with albinism continue to live in fear of being killed or abducted for their body parts. These waves of violent attacks are fuelled by the false and dangerous myth that body parts of persons with albinism can make someone rich,” said Depose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“SADC leaders must tackle the root causes of these targeted attacks to end the plight of persons with albinism who continue to be terrorized by criminal gangs across the region. As they meet in Tanzania this week, they must turn the tide against these horrendous crimes.”
The crimes against persons with albinism have taken a transnational form across the SADC region in recent years, with victims lured from countries like Malawi having been found in countries like Mozambique.
Amnesty says criminal justice failures, such as poor handling of cases and evidence, to resolve cases of crimes against persons with albinism have driven the impunity and persistent crimes against the vulnerable group.
While there have been legal reforms, including changes to the Penal Code and the Anatomy Act to tackle attacks, in countries like Malawi and Tanzania, they are yet to yield positive results as persons with albinism continue to be targeted by criminal gangs.
“It is intolerable that persons with albinism continue to live at the mercy of these criminal gangs. SADC leaders must use this summit to send a clear message that those who perpetrate these attacks will be brought to justice,” said Muchena.
In the lead-up to the May 21 elections in Malawi this year, the United Nations said it had noted a spike in the number of attacks.
In Malawi, attacks on persons with albinism stem from root causes such as negative mystification of albinism, stigma, poverty and harmful practices based on manifestation of belief in witchcraft.
The group also faces discrimination and challenges in everyday life that seriously undermine their enjoyment of human rights, including the right to health, education, employment, the right to live in the community and political participation.
According to the 2018 Malawi Population and Housing Census Report, there are 134,000 persons with albinism in Malawi.