Aubrey Maulidi, 19, a person with albinism (PWA), escaped death by a whisker last Monday at midnight after a sinister plan by some unknown people to abduct him got botched.
Clothed in darkness, some unknown assailants crept into Maulidi’s house, which is enveloped in a green lush of maize gardens in group village head (GVH) Thanganyika ,under Traditional Authority (T/A) Kuntaja in Blantyre. They managed to stealthily open a window in an attempt to abduct the young man who was sleeping alone at that time.
This was before cries for help from the aspiring medical doctor drew a quick response from family members and neighbours who saw three people with torches dash to a waiting vehicle parked about 100 yards from the scene.
Although an initiative by the community and police has enabled the Form Four student to move into boarding school, Maulidi describes his experience as traumatic.
Looking sad, with a face downcast and sweat dripping down his skin, he struggles to share the tale of sadness following an attempt on his life.
He says around 11:55pm, as he was about to sleep, he noticed that a metal plate that protects the window to his living quarters had been loosened.
Maulidi did not react immediately until he saw a person trying to get in.
Overcome by fear, he shouted as loud as he could, drawing people’s response as he started to ran for cover to his aunt’s house nearby.
“But immediately I got outside, I saw three men running towards the road with torches in their hands. The next thing I heard was the banging of car doors and the screeching of tyres as they sped away,” narrates Maulidi.
He says his life has not been the same since.
Maulidi says: “The images of that night keep playing in my mind, over and over. I do not know who to trust. Although I am back in class and in a different environment, my mind cannot focus. It is like I am dead already. Why are we being hunted down like this?”
Nevertheless, the news having filtered to all corners of the village, has left community members in fear as they are having difficulties accepting the reality that their area faces threats of attacks on people with albinism.
During a visit to the community on Wednesday, we found parents with their children of school-going ages who claimed that the pupils were refusing to go to school for fear of criminals.
Maulidi’s case mirrors the extent of the threat PWAs have been facing in the country which has been gripped by numerous abductions and killings.
The Association of Persons with Albinism (Apam) has planned vigils at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe on March 6 to force the government to implement the National Action Plan instituted in June 2018.
Apam refused an offer from the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to discuss ways of curbing the atrocities against PWAs with President Peter Mutharika, leading to the formation of a splinter group called Poor and Concerned People with Albinism (Pacpwa) which met the President on Thursday.
Since 2014, 23 PWAs have been killed in the country, with some cases still dragging in court, forcing Apam and other stakeholders to push for special courts to expedite the cases.
Back in Thanganyika Village, Maulidi’s aunt, Julia Mataya, 44, thanks the heavens that her nephew is safe after the foiled abduction attempt.
She said the effect of the attempted abduction has left an enormous mark on her household.
“Before this happened, we would hear about the atrocities on the radio, but never did we imagine that my ward would be targeted. Since that Monday night, we have had sleepless nights, always wondering what will happen next. He [Maulidi] has been refusing to eat. Even other family members are equally stressed. I count it a blessing that the abduction did not work,” she said.
Two weeks ago, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma, in a letter addressed to the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, asked government to do more in protecting the lives of vulnerable citizens, including PWAs, stating that government’s resolve will be measured by how it responds to the matter.
GVH Thanganyika asked government to protect two of his subjects who are with the condition.
“My village has succumbed to fear. People are afraid of going about their normal business. We want these people found and we would like to see our children protected from these murderers,” she said.
Southern Region Police spokesperson Ramsey Mushani has since assured the community that the law enforcers are investigating the matter.
He said: “The decision to send Maulidi to boarding school was arrived at after a consultation meeting between various stakeholders. We feel that a boarding facility will be safer for him as he will no longer have to walk long distances to and from school. Also he will always be in the company of friends and the school has better security mechanisms. We will find the suspects as investigations are underway.”
Out of 165 cases related to people with albinism reported since 2014, only 61 have been finalised, according to a World Vision Malawi statement issued last month.
Since November 2014, an unprecedented wave of killings and abductions of PWAs have been happening in the country. Similar attacks have occurred in neighbouring countries such as Mozambique, Tanzania and South Africa.
PWAs are targeted for their body parts that are allegedly used for charms.
Society for Medical Doctors last week said people with albinism are just like any human being and that their bones and body parts do not possess any special elements, according to scientific investigations.
The current population of people with albinism in Malawi is estimated at 10 000.
Last year, government launched a four-year National Action Plan for Persons with albinism aimed at ending atrocities against them and improving their welfare.