Atrocities on people with albinism: Commission of Inquiry 'still doing its work', says Information Minister

Written by  MBC Online

 

The Commission of Inquiry on Atrocities faced by People with Albinism “is still doing its work after they asked for extension of time and had run out of funds,” Minister of Information, Civic Education and Information Technology mark Botomani said Saturday, dismissing that Government was reacting to a recent seven-day ultimatum by APAM to release the report.

President Mutharika (middle),  top Government officials and leaders of people with albinism at the launch of the National Plan of Action in 2019. President Mutharika (middle), top Government officials and leaders of people with albinism at the launch of the National Plan of Action in 2019.
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March

Botomani said violence against people with albinism was a complicated issue as it was linked to cultural and political beliefs, adding that this was why it was taking time to finish the probe because the Commission wants to do a “thorough job.”


He said Government had bankrolled the Commission, which was appointed by President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika last year, with an additional K40 million from its original budget of K100 million “to finish its job” which involves travelling to Tanzania and Mozambique where such atrocities are also common to help find out the root cause of albino killings and abductions 

 

The Committee is chaired by retired Supreme Court of Appeal justice Richard Chinangwa.

 

“Let’s give the Commission time and space to finish its job. APAM should also be patient as results of the findings will be made available to Malawians once the report is done.”

 

He said the matter of atrocities was “serious and sticky issue as it concerns lives of people with albinism.”

 

INVESTIGATION WILL HELP UNCOVER EVIDENCE

 

The Minister  said the probe was crucial as atrocities were linked to politics, “it will help uncover evidence whether this is indeed true. We shall know the truth about it all.”

 

Botomani  said Government was committed to continue to provide security, education, housing and other basic facilities to people with albinism “to enjoy life just like everybody else.”

 

He said the report will first be delivered to the President before its findings are announced t Malawians.

 

“The President cares, Government cares, “Botomani said.

 

Chairperson of the National Plan of Action of People with Albinism, Dr Hetherwick Ntaba, told the briefing thorough live telephone conversation from Lilongwe that the four-year National Plan of Action was slated K3.1 billion and so far K560 million had been utilized for activities to promote the safety, better education and healthcare of people with albinism.

 

He said Malawi had done a lot of work to protect people with albinism and this was recognized at international level.

 

Mutharika took a bold step last year when he launched the 2018-2022 National Plan of Action help to stem the tide of atrocities faced by persons with albinism by announcing a raft of tough measures that may lead to the root of the vice and find perpetrators who have eluded all intelligence networks.

 

MALAWI HAS 134, 000 PEOPLE WITH ALBINISM

 

Malawi has an estimated 134,000 people with albinism , but since 2014, up to 150 cases, 25 murders and scores of abductions have been recorded leading to a United Nations expert to warn in 2016 that witchcraft threatens them with extinction and the situation “constitutes an emergency and a crisis disturbing in its proportions.”

 

People with albinism have a hereditary genetic condition which causes a total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes. They are targeted because of beliefs that their body parts can increase wealth, make businesses prosper or facilitate employment.

 

As part of the plan,  Mutharika announced some of the following key directives and interventions:

 

. Government set up a commission of inquiry and procured 3,000 personal security alarms to be distributed to people with albinism  to alert police when faced with abduction threats.

 

. A K5 million reward awaits anyone who can provide police with information leading to the arrest and prosecution of people who abduct or kill them.

 

. Malawi will engage foreign investigators to probe the whereabouts of the body markets for people with albinism.

 

IT'S AN EVIL ACT AND IHUMANE

 

“It’s an evil act and inhumane, it reduces the dignity of our fellow citizens with albinism. I repeat…stop politicising albino killings and let us join hands to protect them,” the President said when he launched the plan.

 

“It is a tragedy that has befallen us that needs collective solutions. We will not be able to solve the current problems by finger pointing.”

 


Ikponwosa Ero, the United Nations independent expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism, warned in 2016 that people with albinism in Malawi render them “an endangered group facing a risk of systematic extinction over time if nothing is done to stem the tide.”

 

Ero, a Nigerian national and herself a person with albinism, said the “frequent involvement of close relatives in cases of attacks is highly disturbing and persons with albinism are unable to trust even those who are supposed to care and protect them.”

 

She added: “Even in death, they do not rest in peace as their remains are robbed from graveyards. Attacks against a few of them constitutes a danger to all of them.”

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