An all-stakeholder’s conference on the spate of abductions and killings of people with albinism ended on Tuesday in Lilongwe with delegates proposing near State of Emergency measures to protect people with albinism.
However, government officials, including from line ministries such as Home Affairs and Internal Security, Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Gender and Disability were conspicuously missing from the event despite being invited as claimed by the organisers.
The delegates, who also included lawmakers, called for stiffer penalties, immediate registration of all people with albinism in the country to be provided with special treatment, review of all court cases which government has lost in court or ended up with lenient sentences, among others.
Controversially, the meeting also resorted to a call for the inclusion of death sentence for all those convicted of killing people with albinism.
The meeting also agreed that there will be nationwide protests on 25 May which will culminate into the handing over of a petition to Parliament to institute several measures, including the amendment of the law to ensure better protection of people with albinism and stiffer punishments to abductors.
The delegates lamented that government has not done enough to stop albino attacks which the United Nations (UN) recently said threaten to wipe out the country’s 10 000 population of people with albinism.
Speaking on behalf of people with albinism, Alex Machila, a member of the Association of People with Albinism (Apam), said it is disheartening that government had moved with haste to protect endangered forests reserves and elephants under threat of poachers but failed to do the same with the community.
“We hear they are sending the army to Mulanje to protect the mountain from having trees cut down. We are being killed every day and no special protection is coming for us,” said Machila.
He also criticised the response from the civil society and ordinary Malawians as lukewarm and “not good enough.”
“To be frank, if I claim here that Malawians living with albinism have received adequate support, my friends who have lost relatives in the villages will ask whether I am in my right senses; they will ask, why are the killings continuing? Forgive me, but it has not been good enough,” added Machira.
Chairperson of the organising committee, Edward Chileka confirmed the invitations were sent to all relevant departments.
“They were not represented today but we are optimistic they will be able to implement what we have discussed. We will continue engaging all stakeholders on the matter, as we indicated, we will need to push and follow up on several recommendations we have agreed on and we also note that government is making several initiatives to address the situation,” said Chileka.
Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) chairperson Robert Mkwezelamba called on the courts to use current legislative frameworks which would ensure stiffer penalties such the human trafficking laws instead of ordinary laws that have loopholes for lenient sentences.
He further defended the call for the inclusion of capital punishment as “necessary for the conference but which experts can examine later” but stated could not be ignored.
Machinga East MP Estele Jolobala said the nation has let down the albino community and instead of finger-pointing should now work on finding solutions to the crisis.
Several MPs, too, pledged to move a motion once Parliament reconvenes.
Dinala Chabulika, an Islamic cleric, said there was need to ensure government moves with haste to ensure albinos are all placed under special protection.
“We should not wait for resolutions and discussions, government need to step up now and ensure every albino person is placed under protective care,” added Chabulika.
Delegates also noted that while police were under-resourced and need more funding into its counter measures.