LILONGWE (Malawi NewsNow) –Amnesty International say there is “poor security” for people with albinism in Malawi despite an increasing number of attacks against them. A body was found last month with both arms hacked off.
An albino woman killed last month in Malawi highlights the government’s shocking failure to protect the right to life and personal security of people with albinism, Amnesty International says.
The mutilated body of Eunice Phiri, 53, was found on 28 January in the Kasungu National Park. Her arms had been cut off – a practice common with ritual murders where people with albinism are killed for their body parts which are sold for use in witchcraft.
Albinism is a non-contagious, genetically inherited disorder, sufferers have an absence of melanin, so are very pale.
Those who suffer the disorder in Sub-Sahara Africa can be subject to assault and murder by those who believe they hold magical powers.
Police in Malawi said the woman was tricked by three men, including her brother, into accompanying them on a trip to Zambia through the Kasungu National Park where she was killed and her body dismembered on 23 January 2016.
Amnesty International director for Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, said there was ” poor security” for people with albinism in Malawi despite an increasing number of attacks against them.
“The government’s human rights obligations require them to protect everyone’s right to life. They must ensure that the police have the resources to protect those at risk of attacks.”
Amnesty was calling on the attacks to be investigated and those suspected of responsibility brought to justice. Though it said this should not mean a death penalty.
The organisation reported that in 2015 45 incidents including killings and attempted killings, and abductions and attempted abductions, as well as opening of the graves of people with albinism were reported by activists in Malawi. Some of those who were abducted have never been seen again.
Muchena called on the government to “take steps to ensure that superstitions and harmful cultural beliefs which fuel the attacks are tackled.”
In March last year Malawian President Peter Mutharika issued a statement condemning attacks on people with albinism, and called on police to arrest perpetrators and provide protection to people at risk of attack.
While some arrests were made, concerns remain about the inadequacy of police investigations and some perpetrators getting sentences which were not in line with the gravity of the crime.
In 2015, the Independent reported that police in Malawi were ordered to shoot anyone attacking or abducting albinos in a bid to curb the killing of those affected by the condition.
In 2011, Ghanaian investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas looked into the abuse of albinos in Tanzania, in an Al Jazeera documentary Spell of the Albino. It found many albinos in Tanzania had been hunted down and attacked for their limbs or organs. Anas’ reporting in 2011 found the practice was increasing.
The documentary showed two albino children, victims of vicious assaults that occurred in the weeks the film was being made, one part of his hand cut off, the other’s whole left arm was hacked off by a stranger with a machete.
Anas went undercover in the guise of a businessman seeking to get rich, came face to face with a witch doctor who tries to sell him a potion containing ground up albino body parts.