President Peter Mutharika has condemned the killing of a man with albinism, Yasin Kwenda Phiri, 54, saying government will ensure the perpetrators get the life sentence to “rot in jail”.
Speaking at the launch of Chiwanja Cha Ayao at Mangochi Turn-off in Balaka on Sunday, the President said government is committed to ensuring that people with albinism are protected in the country.
But Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) president Overstone Kondowe has described Mutharika’s sentiments as recycled assurances.
Phiri was brutally murdered in his house at Kande Trading Centre in Nkhata Bay on New Year’s Eve in full view of his nine-year-old son.
In his speech yesterday, Mutharika said it is disheartening that people still have beliefs in killing people with albinism and using their body parts for riches, saying there is no evidence that those that have been involved in albino murders have become rich.
A visibly angry Mutharika, making reference to Phiri’s murder, said he has been assured by Malawi Police Service (MPS) Inspector General Rodney Jose that all perpetrators of Phiri’s murder will be brought to book.
Said the President: “This foolishness must stop. How many have been rich in such a way? There will be stiff penalties from now on, life sentences.”
Mutharika further urged people to stop politicising the issue of the killings of people with albinism, saying government is putting in every effort to ensure their safety by, among others, building them houses.
But in an interview yesterday, Kondowe said it is unfortunate that government keeps on recycling false assurances which do not match its actions on the ground.
He said if Mutharika is serious about ending the attacks on persons with albinism, he should institute a commission of inquiry with technical support from foreign criminal investigation bodies to establish body parts markets and the masterminds behind the gruesome acts.
Said Kondowe: “Persons with albinism are tired of listening to empty promises that there is security in the country whose evidence is not justified. The State has an obligation to exercise due diligence, meaning it ought to take all reasonable measures under the circumstances to prevent someone from infringing upon another’s right to life, especially where the State knew or ought to have known that such risk exists.
“It may be time to seek legal recourse and bring government to account for failure to exercise its rightful role.”
He said it would be important that a special court be established to speed up cases related to persons with albinism and equip them with shotguns for defence.
Phiri’s murder has been condemned by various stakeholders including the United Nations (UN), Malawi Law Society (MLS), Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Apam.
During yesterday’s ceremony, Mutharika also called on Malawians to unite for the sake of the country’s progress and that culture must be one such tool to achieve that goal.
In his address, national chairperson for Chiwanja Cha Ayao, McKennedy Aziz yasin, said the grouping is not political, adding it has been established to enhance progressive cultural practices.
Among some notable people present at the ceremony were Chief Secretary to Government Lloyd Muhara, former president Bakili Muluzi, his son Atupele who is also United Democratic Front (UDF) president, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament Esther Mcheka Chilenje, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Eastern Region vice-president Bright Msaka and Minister of Information and Communications Technology Henry Mussa.