New concern for albino attacks as Malawi elections loom
A group of United Nations experts called on the Malawi government on Friday to act quickly to prevent people with albinism from attacks and killings linked to cultural superstitions, especially as the May elections approach.
Malawi has seen 150 such cases since 2014, with an uptick in recent weeks that included the New Year’s Eve death of one person in Nkhata Bay, and the abduction of a one-year-old baby from Karonga, both towns along the western shore of Lake Malawi. The ritual killings of people with albinism and the sale of their body parts support the belief that they bring good luck and power, and cases rise at election time.
“Despite various steps to support people with albinism, the recent attacks demonstrate that the Government needs to redouble its efforts to end the ongoing atrocities,” said the UN group, which includes Nigerian albinism expert Ikponwosa Ero, above.
President Peter Mutharika said last month that Malawians should not politicize the problem, as his government came under fire for not doing enough to protect people and ensure justice for victims. Church leaders in Blantyre pressed for better enforcement in January, while international NGOs including Amnesty International and Under the Same Sun have long insisted on human rights protections in Malawi as well as neighboring Tanzania, Mozambique and other southeastern nations.
The UN experts’ appeal comes as Malawi closed its filing deadline for presidential candidates. Among them, in addition to Mutharika, are People’s Party candidate and former president Joyce Banda, and the United Transformation Movement (UTM) party’s Saulos Chilima.
Image: APAM file