Protest by hundreds of people with albinism blocked in Malawi

Malawi has experienced a spike in violent attacks on people with albinism.
Vice President of the Albino Association of Malawi Alex Michila, arrives for a regional conference on albinism organised by the United Nations (UN) to discuss potential measures and legislation to protect people with albinism in Africa from discrimination and supertitious attacks, in Dar es Salaam on June 18, 2016. – In Tanzania, as well as in Malawi and some other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, albino body parts are sought after for potions and charms thought to bring luck and wealth, and many fall victim to murderers who dismember their bodies to supply this grisly black market trade. Canadian charity Under The Same Sun (UTSS) has documented 161 attacks on people with albinism in Tanzania in recent years, including 76 murders, more than anywhere else in Africa. (Photo by CARL DE SOUZA / AFP)

Malawi police on Wednesday blocked a protest by around 200 albinos who marched to the presidential palace to protest the killing and abduction of people living with albinism.

The group, joined by 500 sympathisers, was stopped outside the parliament building, about a kilometre from Kamuzu Palace, where police formed a cordon to stop them.

Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, has experienced a spike in violent attacks on people with albinism over the past four years. In many cases those with albinism are targeted for their body parts to be used in witchcraft.

The Association of People with Albinism in Malawi said they are frustrated by government inertia. The vigil was aimed at forcing President Peter Mutharika into action.

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Mutharika had been travelling to the northern region of the country. Police later allowed the rally to move closer. But the protesters vowed to camp at the palace until he returns.

“We will not leave the state house until the issues that President Mutharika promised have been fulfilled, including … giving each one of us security alarms,” said the association’s leader Overstone Kondowe.

The alarm gadgets will be linked to police stations and can be activated if an albino is in danger.

The genetic hereditary disorder causes a partial or total absence of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes — as a result albinos often experience eye problems and have a heightened risk of skin cancer.

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In a June 2018 report, rights group Amnesty International said since November 2014 there have been 148 crimes reported against people with albinism that have claimed at least 21 lives.

Only 30 percent of those attacks have been properly investigated, according to official statistics, with only one murder and one attempted murder case successfully prosecuted.

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