Chimwendo Banda - Albino killers must be executed

Chimwendo Banda – Albino killers must be executed

LILONGWE (Brian Ligomeka, News24)- Albino killers are vicious murderers who must be executed to prevent them from murdering again, some Malawian lawmakers have proposed.

“It is time for tit-for-tat, an eye for an eye, and a life for a life. Let’s join hands and end the senseless murderers by hanging all albino killers,” a lawmaker told a National Stakeholders Conference held in the Malawi capital, Lilongwe, on Tuesday.

Civil society organisations convened the conference to brainstorm strategies aimed at ending the abductions and killings of people with albinism in Malawi.

A lawmaker from the opposition Malawi Congress Party, Madalitso Kazombo, said a group of concerned legislators would table a proposal in Parliament to strengthen the Penal Code so that albino killers were sentenced to death “instead of merely jailing them”.

 “He who kills should be killed. The correct punishment for albino killers is death. We should not even debate about this. Anti-death penalty activists should shut up on this matter,” he said.

Another legislator who backed the proposal, Richard Chimwendo, told the conference that the lenient sentences meted out to albino killers could not stop the problem, hence the need to impose the ultimate punishment of death.

Magicians and superstitious customers 

“We need to appreciate that, both as a deterrent and as a form of permanent incapacitation, the death penalty successfully prevents future crime. If they are hanged, would-be murderers will think twice before killing, for fear of losing their own life,” he said.

Chimwendo also said that those already convicted, and who were given light jail terms, should be re-sentenced.

According to the parliamentarian, the war against albino killings could only be won by taking the battle to the doorsteps of three key players in their syndicates: the ruthless thugs, the deceitful magicians, and the superstitious customers.

“It is a pity that, so far, the thugs who kill albinos and the magicians who use albino parts are the ones who are being netted and jailed, while the customers who are the financiers are walking scot free,” he observed.

The debate on the death penalty remains thorny in Malawi, as convicted murderers are never executed. Their sentences are simply commuted to life imprisonment.

Meanwhile, a man living with albinism, Joe Fernando, has complained that the police were failing to offer them protection.

“The police are offering us zero protection,” he said. “It is painful to hear the government has deployed troops to be guarding cedar trees in a forest reserve instead of offering us protection.”

Shocked 

Fernando recounted a recent incident when four people stormed into his business premise on the outskirts of Lilongwe and abused him verbally and threatened to abduct him.”

“I telephoned the police for intervention. I was shocked when all the officers on duty told me was that they had no transport,” he said.

Fernando said, following that incident, he took the initiative to bolster his own security by ensuring that he was accompanied by his close friend whenever he travelled.

The Association of People with Albinism in Malawi’s general secretary, Alex Machila, told News24 in an interview that, with 17 albinos already killed and abductions continuing, the country needed to declare a “national crisis”.

“So far, 71 cases have been recorded for abductions, trespassing of graveyards, being found with human bones, suicide, assault of bodily harm, conduct likely to cause breach of peace, and killings of people with albinism. Is that a crisis?” quizzed Machila.

Traditional healers and soothsayers 

Considering that the atrocities were committed against a minority population of 10 000 in a nation of 17 million, Machila argued that the best the government could do was to declare the situation as “a state of crisis” for persons living with albinism.

A United Nations human rights expert recently described people living with albinism in Malawi as “an endangered group facing a risk of systemic extinction over time if nothing is done”.

“Persons with albinism, and parents of children with albinism, constantly live in fear of attack,” said Ikponwosa Ero, the UN’s Independent Expert.

Malawi and its neighbour Tanzania were battling against albino killings.

While 17 albinos had been killed, the number of those murdered in Tanzania was around 80.

As part of a strategy to contain the problem, police in Tanzania had so far arrested 225 unlicensed traditional healers and soothsayers.