President Peter Mutharika, perplexed by the continuing murder of people with albinism, has called for “honest” national dialogue on whether the country should implement the death penalty on individuals convicted of murder.
The country has laws that empower presidents to sign for the death penalty in murder cases. However, since attaining democracy in 1994, no president has ever signed the death penalty, in worse cases most sentences have been commuted to life imprisonment.
But following the recent abduction and murder of Mcdonald Masambuka, a person with albinism in Machinga, Mutharika wants the country to dialogue whether the death penalty should be implemented now.
In a press release that The Nation has seen, President Mutharika said he was aware that there are some stakeholders who feel passionately that implementing the death penalty on individuals sentenced to death can deter would-be offenders from attacking persons with albinism.
“On the other hand, the President is also aware of the international community’s stand against the death penalty. These two view points are on opposite extreme end of each other, hence the need for dialogue and a national consensus,” reads the press release.
In an interview, Malawi Human Right Commission executive secretary David Nungu observed that the upsurge in cases of killing of people with albinism makes it ‘very’ difficult to balance the protection of people with albinism and those that are being accused of murder.
“There are so many arguments whether death penalty is effective to deter those killing people with albinism or [whether]our courts are competent enough to convict people who eventually would be put to death,” he said.
Mutharika said he was shocked and saddened by the news of re-emergence of attacks on persons with albinism in some parts of the country, saying it was a depressing development that was happening at a time government had made tremendous progress in efforts to stop such barbaric acts.
“What is more disheartening to President Mutharika is that preliminary investigations into the abduction and murder of Mr. Masambuka are showing leads to the effect that some wayward police officer and some members of the community in which the late Masambuka was residing, including a member of his immediate family, might have been involved in his abduction and murder,” reads the statement.
Government says it appreciates the support it has thus far been receiving from the international development partners, traditional leaders, the Judiciary and the clergy in protecting the lives and rights of people with albinism and holding rights’ violators accountable.