Business ground to a halt around City Centre in Lilongwe yesterday as hundreds of people flocked to the Presidential Drive where Mulanje South member of Parliament (MP) Bon Kalindo (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) led the “naked” demonstration for the cause of protecting people with albinism.
People from all walks of life—learners, business people and the working class—were seen at Area 18 Roundabout on the Lilongwe-Kasungu M1 Road, the starting point, and marched along the Presidential Drive to demand tough action against perpetrators of the continued hunting, abduction and killing of persons with albinism.
The marchers walked past Parliament Building and made a turn at the Capital Hotel Roundabout back to Parliament Building where human rights defender Billy Mayaya presented the petition to the National Assembly through Rumphi East MP Kamlepo Kalua (People’s Party-PP).
However, the “naked” demonstration turned out to be a mere code-name as the participants, in accordance with the law that prescribes as an offence nude appearance in public, put on undergarments such as boxers and underpants.
From the start to the end, heavy presence of armed police could not go unnoticed. The police kept a watchful eye on the participants perhaps to ensure no one walked in the nude.
Briefly, the petition expresses disappointment and anger at the Executive for not enforcing the death penalty on people found guilty of the attacks. The petition also rebukes Parliament for its failure to review and amend the Anatomy Act.
Coincindentally, MPs later yesterday passed the Anatomy Bill which seeks to give the ultimate penalty for all perpetrators of the killings of people with albinism. The amended law increases the penalty and removes fines as an option for those found with tissues of human body parts as well as supply the same.
During the march, Mayaya said the continued attacks of Malawian citizens with albinism has brought the country into disrepute.
He said: “Despite the condemnation of these barbaric actions, nothing seems to be deterring these evil people from reinforcing their skewed beliefs that they can get riches from the body parts of fellow human beings. We believe that there is need to reinforce the law in order to deter the future slaughter of people with albinism.
“We are in agreement with the sentiments made by the UN independent expert Ikponwosa Ero that Malawi is on the verge of genocide if nothing substantial is done towards ending these belief systems that reinforce the ritual murder of people with albinism.”
The petition, among others, demands transparency and accountability within Malawi Police Service (MPS) to “allay allegations of corruption in handling matters related to attacks on people with albinism”.
It also demands speedy amendments to sentencing rules in the Judiciary so that punitive measures as regards ritual murder are tightened.
Reads the petition: “We demand that parliamentarians effect these changes within this current meeting of Parliament failing which we shall continue to exert pressure on government to meet our demands.”
In an emotional speech to fellow MPs, Kalindo said time had come for Malawi to start executing anyone guilty of hunting, abducting and killing fellow human beings, including persons with albinism.
He condemned international human rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) for allegedly “siding with murderers while neglecting the rights of those suffering persecution, abductions and killing by the elite”.
Said Kalindo: “AI should go to hell with its segregate rights. It should stop interfering in the affairs of this country because Malawi is a sovereign State. We have our own laws, which must be enforced without some white man and the so-called human rights activists interfering.”
The legislator was apparently referring to AI’s position against execution of people found guilty of perpetrating the attacks.
Earlier this month, AI presented an 80-paged report to President Peter Mutharika titled We Are Not Animals to be Hunted or Sold: Violence and Discrimination Against People with Albinism in Malawi.
Kalindo, who broke down as he explained the objective of the march, warned local human rights activists that they risk losing their lives if they continue “serving the interests of a whiteman”.
Kalua assured demonstrators of the MPs’ commitment to ensuring an end to the persecution by reviewing and amending the Anatomy Act.
No arrests were made as demonstrators conducted themselves within the law.
Statistics indicate that Malawi has recorded 67 cases of albino victimisation, including seven killings, 14 kidnappings, three missing persons and 29 of tampering with graves since November 2014.
The death penalty exists in Malawi’s statutes but has not been enforced since 1994. Human rights activists and some major donors have lobbied for its abolition saying it infringes on human rights.
But in 2014, Malawi told the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, Switzerland it had no intention to abolish it. n