By Moses Mphatso
My dear Fellow Malawians,
I am certain various civil, political and social actors in Malawi have kept abreast with the appalling trend in which people with albinism are being treated. They have been abducted, beaten, and some brutally murdered for the harvesting of their organs, the fulfillment of superstitious rituals and for grim profiteering.
Many of these inhumane, sadistic acts have targeted children, although their gruesomeness has not spared adult peoples with albinism.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva issued a statement presenting these attacks in a wider context of political tensions as Malawi approaches the general elections in May. Political violence, generally, has targeted vulnerable groups, in particular women, such that the underlying factor of how such violence manifests is in its targeting of the most vulnerable (rural and poor children including infants, rural and poor women, people with albinism, and men of low socioeconomic standing, all with few exceptions). These matrices of their low social, economic and political standing exclude most from private forms of security, media attention, and/or legal representation. It appears to me that this socioeconomic invisibility coupled with benighted views about albinism as well as the predatory opportunism of the vile persons trafficking in this kind of brutality, enable these attacks to persist, absent most conspicuously, tangible responses from either the Malawi Government or International Non-Governmental Organizations (I-NGOs).
But this abrogation of responsibility does not end there. Other potentially crucial actors have looked on too, in spite of their tremendous political influence: Radio Stations and the Press have continued to report these abductions and murders as desultory incidences even though they appear systematic, involving the tracking of potential victims by criminal groups in cahoots with some community and family members. Furthermore, political actors vying for the presidency this May, have neither fully allied themselves nor provided firm, actionable commitments beyond the odd podium platitude.
Similarly churches, mosques, and other religious institutions, associated with fervid pro-life stances, have generally withheld their colossal footprints in a country with over eighty, in other estimates ninety, percent of people associated with one or another religion. Moreover, the citizenry at large has remained disinterested. Put together, all this collective inaction says it is acceptable to us, that (just from the most recent harrowing events):
(a) A man be hacked to death as his child looks on in their home;
(b) An infant (now believed to have been killed and hacked to pieces) be abducted at night from its mother’s bedroom;
(c) That people with albinism continue to live in this state of fear and terror after others have been mutilated and dismembered, because they are persons with albinism.
Injustices are plentiful in Malawi, but if we are not moved to prevent the openly systematic killing of vulnerable people among us, we cannot claim seriousness about other matters.
Our calls for justice, equality, and equity in different sectors of our society, all ring hollow as the bodies of people we have collectively decided to ignore pile up in front of us; these calls ring hollow in our electoral politics, hollow in our economic aspirations, hollow in our professed systems of morality and ethics; hollow in education; hollow in health; hollow in gender and matters relating to children; hollow in every other realm of advocacy; and hollow in our avowed love for our different spiritual beliefs.
Please note if you take offense at the language I am using here, it is misdirected. Your umbrage must be directed at the abductions and murders of human beings, and the collective culpability engendered by a general unfeeling and silence to unmistakable human suffering.
Perhaps this situation says a lot about who we actually are as a nation.
As indicated above, these abductions and murders do not seem haphazard. The victims have largely been infants and children; the rural poor; and those at the lower levels of, or outside the formal political and economic sectors of Malawi. There is thus a criteria of vulnerability, which is informing these vicious attacks. This means, while all people with albinism must be protected from these trafficking profiteers and killers through our collective efforts, then activism and programming must be sure to equally develop some criteria by which people with albinism most at risk are identified and targeted for assistance. Additionally, such a National Action Plan, adequately resourced and fastidiously implemented, presents a great policy vehicle for positive change as the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (APAM), has already highlighted.
Finally, in this era of protracted developmental assistance, a culture of “advocacy for pay” has inundated us, such that critical matters, like this one under discussion, remain uninteresting until external financing and career opportunities become available.This is grossly sad and should be embarrassing to every Malawian.
We absolve ourselves of responsibility, distilling our sense of interpersonal duty and community to individual gain in terms of money or professional ascendancy. And yet, in our different spaces of influence, with the resources and relative visibility we each enjoy, within the circles we mingle and the institutions we work, through our networks, lay opportunities we can seize to ensure a society in which people with albinism thrive, live freely, and safely, without fear of being abducted and killed, as has been the situation in the past.
Moses Mphatso is a Maravi Post contributor. He holds a n MA in political science from the University of Southern Mississippi. He writes widely about social justice causes, particularly economic, racial, and gender justice. He writes frequently for iAffairsCanada.
The views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the Publisher or the Editor of Maravi Post.