Being An Albino In Malawi: The Dark Pains Of Survival

Albinos in Malawi"Pinkman" flickr photo by Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak https://flickr.com/photos/nygus/330824072 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Our Times Editor, Lotus Felix

Persecution against albinos is festering in Malawi where albinos are treated with as much scorn and relish simultaneously. While being socially disenfranchised and detained at the bottoms of their societies, they are yet voraciously hunted for their body parts in the recent spate of ugly advancement in “diabolic technology”. This is the state of that little albino boy in Malawi who can’t tell you his dream career not necessarily because he doesn’t have one but fears he may not live long enough for his ambitions.

Albinism is a skin condition which is passed on genetically. In most common cases, it leads to lack of pigmentation in eyes, hair and most particularly in the skin.

Albinos are culturally besieged by their societies in Malawi. Fetish paradigms have polluted public opinion so strikingly that it is believed the bones and body parts of albinos have magical powers that can make one incredibly rich. Such ill belief systems have confiscated the freedom of albinos as they have become readily hunted. Their body parts have gained such savor that traditional medicine men in Malawi can barely omit it from the budget for people seeking blood money.

All across central Africa and Southern Africa, hoodlums have found “dark collar” jobs in abducting albinos and trading heavily on their body parts in the black market. This cannibalistic merchandise is becoming a thriving private sector. As noted by human rights organizations at the end of 2014, there had been a dramatic rise in the number of attacks on persons with albinism in Malawi. Amnesty International, the UK-based rights group, reports that there has been a minimum of 115 attacks, of which 20 were murders, since 2015. The albino now faces a run for his life amongst his very kinsmen. Thus, it wouldn’t be verbally extravagant saying albinos in Malawi are becoming an endangered species.

Clement Gweza, a teacher in Dedza in central Malawi, still raves with fear from the revolting murder of his pupil, David Fletcher, in April 2016. The unfortunate Fletcher was a victim of a targeted abduction from the village. Some days later, the remains of Fletcher were found in neighboring Mozambique: severed and dismembered!

By Ferdinand Reus – originally posted to Flickr as Benin, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6557855

“I tell Latida [who happens to be another pupil with albinism in his school] not to travel alone, and I also take special care at night, because I know these people are looking for us”, said Gweza recounting his fears, saying further that the community is afflicted with “widespread societal discrimination, including verbal abuse and exclusion from accessing basic public services”.

A lot of this “pigmented genocide” has to do with a fractured judicial system where the law has gone too obese to chase after offenders. There has been a structural reluctance on the part of government in Malawi to appropriately acclimatize to the forming hurricane and declare the situation the crucial emergency that it is. Suspects accused of killing albinos and those accused of attacking albinos are prosecuted with particular judicial vehemence.

Borrowing words from Boniface Massah, the national coordinator of Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM), “We face a high risk of attack and we have seen government commitment in words, but not in action,” Massah explained. ”Students have not returned to school, adults are avoiding going to work, and restricting their movement and this is impacting their livelihoods,” Lamenting the reality, Massah bemoans “security has not improved” leaving his community of albinos relished games for ‘legalized poachers’.

Confirming this, Amnesty International sadly pointed out that very few cases end up in a conviction.

Albinos in Malawi

“Pinkman” flickr photo by Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak https://flickr.com/photos/nygus/330824072 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

“Despite stronger legislation … to tackle attacks against people with albinism, we are seeing an alarming resurgence of killings and attacks against this vulnerable group in 2017,” Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s regional director for southern Africa, revealed in a statement on June 13. “The authorities must take decisive measures to end these attacks once and for all.”

Now, the reverberating humanitarian question we should ask is “is it someone’s fault that he is born an albino?” This is, however, not a rhetorical question. It is one we, as well as the government of Malawi, must answer with actions. Stand up today for the prejudiced albinos in Malawi and Africa.

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