VENTURES AFRICA – Yesterday, Malawi’s Inspector General of Police, Lexen Kachama, ordered a shoot on sight of any person caught attacking albinos. The drastic measure come after rising attacks on Albinos in the Southern African country. Since the beginning of the year, at least six Albinos have been killed in the country.
Malawi, Tanzania and Burundi are plagued by attacks on Albinos by people who believe that their body parts possess magical powers. Witch doctors in the three countries reportedly pay $75,000 for an albino. Their hunt for the people with the skin anomaly is based on superstitious beliefs that the body parts can bring wealth and luck.
While Tanzania once had the highest incidence of Albino attacks, over the past year they have been trumped by neighbouring Burundi. The United Nations said there have been 9 cases in the former since August 2014, while 19 have occurred in the latter in the same period of time.
Although the governments of the affected countries have initiated strong campaigns to eradicate the act, people are still reportedly swayed by the money being offered. The U.N. Human Rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, said that a man in Malawi was paid $6,500 for attempting to kidnap his 11-year old niece. He added that the man, who recently received a two-year prison sentence, was one of at least three people involved in this operation.
Albinism is a congenital disorder that prevents the body from producing melanin. It is responsible for giving colour to the skin, hair and iris of the eye. Tanzania has one of the highest Albino birthrates in the world with one occurring in 1429 births. Myths have long endured in the country and region that albinos are walking ghosts that can be used to produce stupendous wealth. The plight of albinos gained international attention when the European parliament condemned the act in September of 2008. In 2010, the U.S House of Representatives also passed a House Resolution on albino killings in East Africa.
Despite the local and international campaigns against Albino killings, the act has persisted. Activists say efforts to stop Albino slayers are inadequately supported. Josephat Torner, an albino campaigner interviewed by Mail Online, says the fight is further complicated by the fact that family and friends can turn abductors. “We do not know who our enemies are or who to trust anymore.” He also added that there is a major challenge in catching the kingpins, from whom the enticing money flows. “The big fishes are behind the issue. It has been really a big discussion. If I say big fish, or big people, it is those who have enough resources, enough money. People sell the body parts for high prices.”