If you are an albino, and your very life is threatened by ritualistic killings methodically being done by outlaws, I do not think that you can be comforted and start thinking all is well simply because you are invited to the State House to meet the president. What you really want to see from your leadership are practical steps that will give you total protection and security. Your peace of mind cannot come from empty State House rhetoric, or Sanjika palace scones and coffee.
If you are an albino, and your life is so threatened, you must wonder what the effect of registering your name with the police will be if all it does is let the police know you exist, but not result in any special police protection for your life.
If you are a president, and your albino citizens are losing their lives to ritualistic killings, you should be the first to realize that speeches to outlaws accomplish nothing. Where there already is a law that criminalises murder, and murders continue to happen at this level, a president should be the first to realize that new, innovative steps need to be taken to protect this very special targeted group.
If you are a chief of police, and you find yourself in a special situation where albinos are being killed in ritualistic fashion, surely your response should go beyond marching the streets together with albinos for a day. Police do not march the streets to demonstrate their unhappiness with crime. They act. A chief of police’s professed solidarity and understanding of the special law enforcement challenge he is facing should be demonstrated through a pragmatic police response. This may be a deployment of more police officers to deal with the security of albinos than those deployed in streets and public roads, causing traffic congestion and harassing drivers for bribes on road traffic duty.
The issue of albinos being killed in this country did not start yesterday in a sudden fashion. It has always been there. The killings have only escalated in recent months because of police and policy complacency about it. Those perpetrating the crimes have been encouraged because very little thus far has been done to protect these vulnerable people.
In response to the escalation of these crimes in recent days, however, what we are seeing are cheap stunts by both the president and the police. The president is inviting albinos to state house feasts and making empty speeches, and the police are marching the street, apparently protesting to the criminals that they’re unhappy with the situation. Surely what is needed are practical steps that will truly ensure the safety of albinos and convincing policy enunciations.
I asked a police officer the other day what special measures have so far been put in place to protect albinos in this country. He told me that the only measure he knows of is that albinos are being instructed to register their names with the police. I asked what the police will do after they have the names of all the albinos in the country. The officer was not sure what the next step after this registration would be. Nothing has been thought through.
I have tried to listen carefully to the president’s many speeches in which he has spoken about the albino problem. Other than making this his favorite subject of late, and appealing to people to stop killing albinos, he has not told us exactly what steps or policies his government will pursue to respond to the problem. Now, Mister President, do you really think appealing to outlaws who are gaining financially from the practice will work? Lest we forget, these are the very criminals for whom you have desperately failed to provide alternative employment!
Many commentators in the country have declared that anyone who is found committing this crime should be killed immediately. I certainly understand this emotional response by the many concerned Malawians as they see these heinous crimes escalating.
It has dawned upon me, however, that such a call of an immediate death penalty to be imposed to albino killers is nothing but a desperate emotional response to a situation that the government seems failing to address effectively.
If we go with this logic, then we might also need to think of imposing such strict and emotional punishments on a great many crimes. Take corruption for instance; or the desperate failure of our politicians to actually lead the country in such a way that albinos lives aren’t threatened in the first place!
As we sympathise and empathise with the albino situation in the country, it is important to bear in mind that albinos are being killed because of rampant ignorance and desperate poverty in the country. The crime is escalating now because of serious hunger and desperation. People that normally had food through other means are resulting to this crime as a means of getting money quickly. Ultimately, it is important for our leaders to accept and admit that their failure to address poverty, especially the hunger sweeping the nation, is the reason albinos are being killed in this country.The rampant ignorance and poverty driving many to kill albinos is a result of poor economic development, and this has been caused largely because of corruption and greed on the part of the leaders.
Eliminating corruption and developing this country will reduce ignorance and thereby eliminate senseless ritualistic crimes like killing of albinos. Of immediate importance, however, are practical steps that truly protect albinos, not self-serving speeches and pointless police demonstrations.
UNCOMMON SENSE is a new Z Allan Ntata Column which will be coming weekly on Maravi Post.