Police yesterday abandoned their duty of protecting people living with albinism. Instead, they arrested and beat them for wanting to meet President Peter Mutharika on his way from Mzuzu to Blantyre.
The development left Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) president Overstone Kondowe and 12 other people with albinism (PWAs) injured.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) national chairperson Timothy Mtambo regretted the development, saying it is the worst scenario PWAs faced yesterday considering that they are still fighting for their right to life.
The arrest was also extended to Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) reporter John Paul Kayuni as he was executing his duty of informing Malawians on the current situation PWAs are facing as they are camping at Malawi Institute of Management (MIM), waiting for President Mutharika to respond to their queries.
According to Mtambo, what caused the whole issue is that protesters camping at MIM were asked to surrender keys at the reception, meaning they were to leave the campus.
But this, according to Mtambo, raised questions on where they were going to camp as they were still waiting to hear from the President. As a result, they decided to leave the campus for Apam offices where they were going to agree on the way forward.
However, Mtambo said as they were still planning to leave the campus, some unidentified officials tried to block them, a development that forced the PWAs to go on rampage.
But a well-placed source, who did not want to be named, revealed to Nation on Sunday that one of the victims fell sick and police wanted to take him to the hospital in the absence of his colleagues.
This also escalated tension, as a result the PWAs resorted to blocking the road so that President Mutharika should meet them there on his way to Blantyre.
Mtambo said: “I can confirm that a number of people with albinism are currently receiving treatment at the Deayang and Kamuzu Central Hospital. Seven others, including a Zodiak journalist have been arrested and they are held at Lumbadzi Police Station.
In an interview, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera played down sentiments that victims were arrested because they wanted to meet the President.
He said they we arrested because they broke the law and that they infringed upon other people’s right to use the road.
“We told them not to block the road, but they decided not to comply. We thought we should bring peace and tranquility by arresting their ring leaders. So, seven of them have been arrested and they will answer charge of causing breach of peace,” he said.
He could not give the number of victims seeking medical attention at the two hospitals. However, he said not only people with albinism were injured, but also a number of undisclosed police officers.
As we went to press, Kayuni was also seeking medical attention at one of the clinics in Area 18 as he was also assaulted during the fracas, while those who had been arrested were reported to have been granted bail.
Asked to comment on the development, Media Institute in Southern Africa (Misa-Malawi) president Teresa Ndanga expressed dismay at police conduct considering that the law enforcing agency has been claiming that it is reformed that it would handle conflicts professionally rather than beatings.
Apam members and well-wishers, including Chancellor College law students have been camping at MIM in Lilongwe in accordance with a 48-hour ultimatum given to President Mutharika so that he should meet them and provide solutions that would end killing and abduction of people with albinism.
Presidential spokesperson Mgeme Kalirani said in an interview yesterday that the President will not comment on the matter.