Two groups and some concerned citizens have petitioned Ombudsman Martha Chizuma to thoroughly investigate the country’s failure to protect persons with albinism (PWAs).
Specifically, Association of People with Albinism (Apam), in its petition, wants the Ombudsman to direct President President Peter Mutharika to appoint a commission of inquiry and conduct a comprehensive research to trace and identify the alleged source of demand and supply for body parts of PWAs.
Further, Apam also wants Mutharika to seek, as a matter of urgency, international support to conduct investigations, including specialist support for forensic testing and combating human trafficking, to bring perpetrators of these gross human rights abuses to justice.
The petition, signed by Apam president Overstone Kondowe, shows that there are currently 165 cases against PWAs, including 36 concluded cases, 39 cases pending in courts, 79 under investigation and 12 cases closed due to lack of proper evidence.
On the other hand, Federation of Disability Organisations in Malawi (Fedoma) executive director Action Amos said his organisation was concerned that there was no breakthrough in tracing the root cause of the atrocities or markets.
Reads the Fedoma petition: “We are demanding that your office assist with pushing for an establishment of a commission of inquiry. The current technical committee is toothless and won’t bring us any results. We have development partners willing to support the commission of inquiry.
“When we are saying government is not assisting, we are also including offices such as the Ombudsman and Malawi Human Rights Commission [MHRC].”
In the other petition dated February 18 2019, a group of about 260 concerned Malawians that signed an online petition on the atrocities stress that it is seriously aggrieved and alarmed by the lack of action in Malawi to protect the lives and dignity of PWAs.
It reads: “Provide resources to raise public awareness that people with special needs, especially people with albinism, have the same rights as everyone else in coordination with other human rights advocates; Institute a dedicated team to engage with neighbouring countries to seek a coordinated effort in investigating and combating crimes against people with albinism…”
In an interview yesterday, Chizuma described atrocities against PWAs as sad and said her office would do everything within its powers to ensure that the country finds a permanent solution to stamp out the vice.
“You are aware that MHRC, where I am also a commissioner has done something on this, and I believe this issue can best be handled by the MHRC.
“This is not the time to be simply posing on social media with PWAs, but time for action. This is a cry we must all respond to.”
Mutharika, who has of late been talking tough on atrocities against PWAs, has been blamed for simply making podium rants, with little being done on the ground to stop the vice.
Malawi Government launched a four-year National Action Plan on Persons With Albinism aimed at ending atrocities against persons with albinism, and improving their social welfare. Since 2014, at least 23 PWAs have been killed.