In some African countries like Tanzania, Burundi and Malawi, killing and abduction of albinos (people with albinism) has sparked wide campaign against such horrific acts by their hunters who considered them as “tribe of ghosts.”
Malawi is a Southern African country where albinos are being targeted for their body parts, which are sold to be used in potions made by witch doctors who claim they bring wealth and good luck.
A woman, Edna Cedrick, who suffered a sorrowful ordeal said she is haunted daily by the image of the decapitated head of her 9-year old son. She was asked to identify the body, by the Malawi Police, after the boy who had albinism was snatched from her arms in a violent struggle.
According to a new Amnesty International (AI) report released Tuesday, the toll which reported at least 18 albino people being killed in Malawi in a “steep upsurge in killings” since November 2014, and five others have been abducted and remain missing, says it is likely much higher because many killings in the rural areas are never reported.
26-year old Cedrick, the mother of the murdered boy, narrated how he was abducted last month to Associated Press interviewer. She tells of the incident while holding the boy’s surviving twin brother, who also has albinism and she said it all happened in the middle of the night, when she woke up to the sound of people kicking down the door of the house.
Her husband was not home, she said, as tears stream down her eyes.
“Before I could understand what was happening, they sliced the mosquito net and grabbed one of the twins. I held on to him by holding his waist, at the same time shielding the other with my back.”
When they could not over power her, one assailant hacked her in the forehead with a machete, she said:
“This dazed me, and I lost hold of my son and he was gone. I shouted for help, but when my relatives rushed to our house, they were gone. His twin brother keeps asking where his brother is and I lied, saying he will return.”
On another killing which happened on same day of the interview, in another part of Malawi, a 38-year old Fletcher Masina, an albino father of four was found dead with his limbs missing.
The human rights group says “the macabre trade is also fueled by a belief that bones of people with albinism contain gold.” They noted another mistaken belief is that sex with a person with albinism can cure HIV.
According to the report, there are widespread discrimination against people with albinism, including by family members.
Active protest has storm the streets of Malawi, marching to parliament to present a petition calling for strict penalties for people who attack or kill albinos. Their President, Peter Mutharika has since established a committee to look into the issue, which he called disgusting. He told a political rally on June 1;
“That anybody could think that you can be rich by using bones or something like that because some witch doctors have said so…. That’s stupidity.”
Meanwhile, the police has conceded that lack of security has caused albinos, and their parents, to live in fear of attacks. The officer in charge in Machinga district, Isaac Maluwa, said, “these attacks are rampant in rural areas because we do not have enough police officers.”
Some AP crew in Machinga district were staggered when they tried to interview a man carrying a 3-year-old albino boy, who charged at them with a knife because he thought they were the enemy.
The man, 31-year old Razik Jaffalie, later explained that he is in dire straits after giving up his work as a bicycle taxi operator to protect his son.
“My life has come to a standstill,” Jaffalie said, then declared: “Anyone who will come to try to snatch my child from me will have to kill me first.”
Amid the fears, there are stories of optimism around albinos. Mina Godfrey, a 13-year old girl with albinism in Machinga district, said she placed first in her latest school exams and hopes to become a lawyer. But this comes after she survived being abducted from her bed at night by her uncle.
“I was deep in sleep when next thing I realized was that I was outside the house, naked, while heavy rains pouring down on me. When I screamed, my uncle grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and I choked.”
She tried to flee but was tied to a bicycle that her attackers used to transport her.
“But when we went to the next stop, they untied me to negotiate with the buyer and started discussing before moving away a little bit, giving me an opportunity to run away again.”
The girl escaped to a nearby house, where she squatted until the owner found her in the morning.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for southern Africa, concluded that the time has come for the government of Malawi to stop burying its head in the sand and pretending that this problem will just go away.