05.02.2023

Chilling resurgence of killings and kidnappings of people with albinism in Malawi, Amnesty warns

Last week, two assailants tried to abduct a 12-year-old albino girl from her home and, elsewhere, a Saidi Dyton, a 26-year-old man with albinism, was murdered.

Three men have confessed to killing him on 27 January, while a fourth suspect is on the run.

These are just two of seven attacks made against people with albinism in the country in the past four months. As well as murder and attempted abduction, albinos’ graves have also been targeted.

The latest Amnesty report comes five years after the organisation reported that people with albinism were being hunted and killed “like animals”.

These incidents occur because the body parts and bones of people in this vulnerable group are believed to bestow good fortune. Turned into lucky charms and potions by witchdoctors, they can be sold at exorbitant prices.

Albino hunters can get up to $75,000 for a whole body, according to a report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in 2016.

Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty’s deputy director for southern Africa, said that the latest attacks are a “chilling reminder” that people with albinism “are simply not safe in Malawi”.

“These attacks are fuelled by a culture of impunity and Malawian authorities must swiftly move to bring suspected perpetrators of these latest crimes to justice in fair trials,” she added.

Menard Zacharia, the executive director of the Association of Persons with Albinism, echoed Ms Mwananyanda’s comments, saying that Malawi’s government is obliged “under domestic and international human rights law” to ensure justice for the victims.

Since November 2014, there have been more than 20 murders of people with albinism, and at least 170 attacks in total.

These incidents are not isolated to Malawi, with the UN saying that around 75 albinos were killed in Tanzania between 2000 and 2016.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been reports that people with albinism are being blamed for the spread of coronavirus in Africa.

Last year, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human RIghts, said in a statement: “There are reports of persons with albinism being branded “corona” and “COVID-19” in some countries, effectively labeling them scapegoats of the pandemic and further ostracising them in their communities.”

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