Malawian albinos are being kidnapped and sacrificed

Organisation: Position: Deadline Date: Location:

Nowhere is it more dangerous to be an albino than in Malawi, where they are captured by the albino-hunting gangs and either killed immediately or taken to places of ritual sacrifice.

For Malawi’s 10,000-odd albinos, being born with the condition is a curse, reports The Daily Telegraph. Their fathers often desert them at birth, believing their wives have been unfaithful with a white man. At school they face bullying. Many suffer semi-blindness and risk skin cancer from the mercilessness of the African sun, which causes the young to look prematurely old.

But, the report says, worse, they live in a society where too many only value them dead. Those captured by the albino-hunting gangs are either killed immediately or taken to places of ritual sacrifice by rivers. There, witchdoctors can wash away the blood as they remove the innards and limbs of their victims, according to activists and the testimony of some witchdoctors themselves.

The killings, it is widely believed, are done to order, carried out by an organised criminal network acting on behalf of rich clients willing to pay thousands of pounds for albino body parts believed to bring wealth and political good fortune. Who those clients are, the report says, no-one knows, for none have ever been brought to trial. But senior government and opposition figures, who say they themselves have been urged to go to witchdoctors when the political winds have blown against them, believe that politicians are heavily involved in the trade.

Who those clients are no-one knows, for none have ever been brought to trial. But senior government and opposition figures, who say they themselves have been urged to go to witchdoctors when the political winds have blown against them, believe that politicians are heavily involved in the trade.

Attempts to document albino killings only began in late 2014 after activists noticed an increase in attacks in the build up to Malawi’s general election earlier that year.

Since then, the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM) has documented 25 murders, 15 disappearances and 122 cases of attempted abductions and the exhumation of albino bodies from graves.

With another election due to take place in May, activists say there has again been a surge in attacks over recent months. 

As the scandal has grown, even Peter Mutharika, Malawi’s president, has been implicated, while the personal bodyguard of Lazarus Chakwera, a leading opposition candidate contesting the presidency, has been arrested.

Since New Year’s Eve, when a gang entered the Kwenda Phiri family home in Nkhata Bay on the shores of Lake Malawi, there have been at least 11 attacks, according to Ian Simbota, APAM’s secretary-general.

The report says crude superstitious beliefs, even if only upheld by a minority, are widespread in Africa, with albino attacks reported in 28 countries across the continent. Some have made progress in protecting their albino minorities; Tanzania, which has banned witchdoctors, and Nigeria have both created island refuges. Kenya has elected an albino senator and organises albino beauty contests. But nowhere in Africa is it more dangerous to be an albino than Malawi, activists reckon.

The Daily Telegraph report

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