Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) has given government a seven-day ultimatum up to Monday to release a report of a Commission of Inquiry President Peter Mutharika appointed to investigate killings and abductions of persons with albinism.
In an apparent government’s move to respond to Apam’s demand, Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark Botomani, who is also government spokesperson, yesterday called for a late evening news conference in Blantyre to outline progress the commission of inquiry was making.
The minister, who showed up alone at the news conference but later was joined over the phone by chairperson of a taskforce on atrocities against persons with albinism Hetherwick Ntaba, said the commission of inquiry ran out of funds and it also asked for more time.
The minister told journalists that initially, the commission was given K100 million, adding government has set aside an additional K40 million which would be released by the week beginning today.
But Apam’s president Ian Desmond Simbota, sounding upset with government’s claims, described Mutharika’s government as a “very disappointing administration ever”.
He said the commission of inquiry was appointed on March 5 2019 and was expected to give a report to Mutharika on April 30 2019, but nothing happened.
“The commission had ample time. At one point in January, chairperson of the commission, retired Supreme Court judge Justice Richard Chinangwa, told the media that they were not doing anything as they were waiting to get some instructions from the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).
“And when we pressed Minister of Information [Botomani] that time, he said the report was being compiled and was going to be released soon. And seriously should the same person be telling us today that the commission ran out of funds and is yet to continue with investigations? This is a big joke,” he said.
Simbota said their ultimatum stands and should government fail to release the report, Apam would take unspecified options.
But Botomani said once the commission resumes its work, it would require at some point to travel to Mozambique and Tanzania where cases of killings and abductions of persons with albinism were also reported.
The minister asked for patience as the matter is also political in nature, explaining that people have brought in politics into the matter.
Botomani chose not to say anything on that matter, saying it is court, but assured that once ready, the report would be released to the public.
Apam, in its published statement signed by Simbota, unconditionally demanded the release of the report of the Commission of Inquiry on the Killings of PWAs by March 30 2020.
Reads the statement: “We further would like to appeal to all the other partners that have invested into studies investigating market for body parts and tissues of PWAs to remember that accountability remains a key tenet in human rights work.
“To this effect, we call upon them to release the locked up reports whose key finding will contribute to the unshackling of PWAs in the country.”
They further demanded that the Malawi Police Service (MPS) should immediately release the Buleya Lule report and prosecute officers who were involved in the “mafia-style killing” of Buleya Lule in police custody.
“We wish to agree with the United Nations’ Independent Expert on Human Rights, Ikponwosa Ero, who on her recent visit to Malawi expressed serious fears that the May 2020 presidential and legislative elections could aggravate the killings and harvesting of body parts for PWAs associated with winning of elections,” reads the report.