Persons with albinism (
The new group said on Wednesday it was against Association of Persons Living with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) position not to meet the President to discuss how stakeholders can work together to stop abduction, maiming and killing of PWAs.
Today’s meeting comes after Apam refused to dialogue with Mutharika, choosing a vigil outside Kamuzu Palace from March 6 to 8 this year instead.
At the heart of the apparent rift between Apam and government t is mistrust. The administration thinks Apam is politicising the issue while the association accuses authorities of not demonstrating political will to protect its constituency. Further, Apam feels authorities are not acting in good faith.
In a statement issued on Wednes
The cracks in Apam became more pronounced when its former president Boniface Massah and other members decided to meet Mutharika.
Incumbent Apam president Overstone Kondowe has, since last week, turned down three invitations to meet Mutharika, arguing that the President is aware of their plight; hence, needs to act and not necessarily meet the PWAs.
While Massah left Apam executive and now works with Standing Voice as country manager, he remains a member of Apam, so too Masambuka who has formed another group. Masambuka was until last week chairperson of Apam in Blantyre.
In an interview on Wednes
He said he views the meeting as an opportunity to hear what government has on offer for the protection of PWAs in Malawi.
Said Massah: “There is no division here.
“As for the vigils, I am a member of Apam, so I will participate in the vigils.”
On his part, Masambuka said in a statement on Wednesday that Apam has taken a militant stand against the government while having a soft spot for the opposition.
He argued that the lives of PWAs have been reduced to a political puppet which can be showcased for sympathy of votes and not necessarily assisting in addressing their plight.
Said Masambuka: “We are aware that many CSOs [civil society organisations] and opposition parties are endorsing the proposed vigils, but in whose interest?”
In an interview on Wednesday, he said his outfit will not attend the planned Apam vigils since they will already have met Mutharika.
Presidential adviser on Non-Governmental Organisations, Mavuto Bamusi, said they had received positive response from stakeholders expected to attend today’s meeting.
He said: “Apam is upbeat as we are optimistic about a reasonable response and turn out from their board of trustees.”
But Kondowe accused government of employing divide-and-rule tactics by bringing confusion among Apam members.
He said: “There are other members of the board of trustees who could be going to that meeting, but they are going there because they are also members of boards for other government institutions and not Apam.”
Two weeks ago, Apam leadership met the country’s estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima who is also president of UTM Party as well as Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera.
Since November 2014, the number of reported crimes against people with albinism in Malawi has risen to more 150 cases, including at least 23 murders and seven attempted murders, according to public records.
There is a myth that PWAs are targeted for their body parts for rituals some people believe bring magical powers, including those that can make one rich.
But the Society of Medical Doctors has dismissed such beliefs, stating that PWAs are no different from any other person apart from the skin, hair and eye colour.
Reads a flyer from the doctors condemning the attacks: “Albinism is an inherited condition characterised by lack of ability to produce a pigment that affects vision, hair and skin known as melanin. People with more melanin are darker than those with less melanin.”
Condemnation of the barbaric acts have been universal.
Last year, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) appealed to authorities to urgently overhaul the criminal justice system to protect PWAs, who face the persistent threat of being killed for their body parts in a country where it said the vast majority of the horrific crimes remain unresolved and unpunished.
In its new briefing, ‘End violence against people with albinism: Towards effective criminal justice for people with albinism in Malawi’, Amnesty International found that people with albinism face long delays in getting justice.
At the time of the Amnesty statement last June, only 30 percent of the 148 reported cases against people with albinism had been concluded, according to statistics from the Malawi Police Service and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
A magistrate interviewed by Amnesty International said most police prosecutors struggle to make sound legal submissions, resulting in either acquittals or convictions on lesser charges.
It is this snail’s pace that is irking groups such as Apam.
Despite launching a national action plan to protect and promote rights of PWAs on June 25 2018 in Karonga, critics such as Apam say almost next to nothing has been done to implement it.
The action plan, scheduled for implementation from 2018 to 2022, was launched at a joint event as the world commemorated the International Albinism Awareness Day which falls on June 13.