The biggest mistake we are making in our response as a nation to the killings of people with albinism is to think that the heart of the problem is the perpetrators’ ignorance of the truths and realities of albinism. This is a dangerous assumption and the reason the killings and abductions are continuing unchecked and with impunity especially since 2014 onwards. Although ignorance is certainly playing a role in this tragedy, it is only in a supporting role. It is not the main actor.
The main villains in this drama are greed, poverty and a worsening social-economic environment; and the hero is supposed to be action- not demonstrations and awareness campaigns. Perpetrators of this crime know fully well that people with albinism are humans too and that what they are committing is a serious crime. Their motivation is not leisure based, or facilitated by some sort of complacency over issues to do with humanity. They are poor and greedy, and they believe that committing this crime is a sure shortcut to great riches.
Now, the government’s response to increases in general crime such robberies and thefts in the neighbourhoods is not usually to march in protest or stage awareness campaigns. Neither is the United Nations or any donor’s helpful support in response to the crime problem of any country a funding of crime awareness campaigns in that country. What we usually see when crimes of any kind go up are strategies for action, and then the implementation of those strategies. We see the police receiving funding to obtain more and better equipment to fight crime. We see more police in the streets well quipped to deal with the crimes. We see more police patrols in the night and a generally raised police presence especially in the areas designated as crime hot spots. Police use their criminal intelligence skills to investigate perpetrators and round them up, interrogating them to reveal who their accomplices are, or who the masterminds are behind the scenes.
Donors come with special police training programs to train the police on how to deal with such specific crimes. Sometimes, police will identify the criminals’ so-called “fences” – these being the people that buy stolen goods or otherwise help the criminals in disposing their crime-gained assets – and find ways of taking them out of play, thereby reducing motivation for the criminals to continue stealing and robbing things they cannot “move”.
There is a place for awareness campaigns and demonstrations. For instance, if Malawians males are not aware of the dangers of prostate cancer and the need to have regular medical check-ups, then an awareness campaign on this issue is relevant and can most likely bring about the desired change of mind-set. If Malawian females are unaware of the importance of having regular pap smears to reduce the risk, or have an early detection of cervical cancer, then an awareness campaign certainly fits the bill for useful action on that particular issue.
There is also a place for mass protests or demonstrations- naked or otherwise. When academic freedom is threatened at Chancellor College, university lecturers taking to the street, preferably dressed, to demonstrate against their freedom to teach and lecture without fear and intimidation is certain warranted, and can even force the head of state to change his mind on the subject.
But where crime is being committed through greed and total disregard of the law and what is needed is action, an awareness campaign parading the victims or potential victims could backfire into simply a showcasing to the perpetrators that their financial goldmine maintains yet unexplored and unexploited reserves.
In this regard, I would like to see a study, perhaps, which demonstrates that the recent awareness shows that were conducted across the country this past week will actually stop or even reduce the plight that people with albinism are facing. In my view, these charades served the organisers more than they helped the victims and potential victims, and I suggest that it is time to seriously reconsider our methods. We need to be careful not to use the plight of people with albinism to score cheap political points and gain political capital.
Additionally, the other cliché response to any serious issue that the country faces is to hold national prayers. The thinking, apparently, is that Malawi is a God-fearing nation and must turn its problems to God especially in times of crisis. Nothing is impossible with God, so the thinking goes, and so, miraculously, God will change the minds of all killers of people with people albinism towards him and the problem will go away. This kind of thinking is stupid. It fails to understand the forces of good and evil that control the spiritual realm of life and of the world and deliberately forgets that we have been praying for economic affluence as a nation for over 50 years now, and yet we remain one of the poorest nations on God’s good earth! Don’t get me wrong. I believe in God. But my understanding of the God I believe in is that he wants me to participate in dealing with the problems my nation or I am facing rather than simply wait for him to perform a miracle.
It is a disturbing, and indeed somewhat pathetic to see that as people with albinism continue to be massacred, their president and government, and the people that are supposed to help deal with the problem hands on are content to have awareness campaigns, public demonstrations of their disapproval, and prayers.
People with Albinism are facing extinction because of crimes perpetrated with impunity by people that have total disregard for the Law, for God, and for whatever speeches you may make at public awareness campaigns. Our response should be simple and decisive: more police in the locations looking after these people. We could perhaps even have heavily guarded safe houses for them to live in and have special guards and vehicles to transport them around the way we do with our rapidly devaluing Kwachas when transporting them from the Reserve Bank in Lilongwe to Blantyre. The so-called markets for the parts of the victims should be investigated vigorously and shut down. Malawian lives are at stake here. I will not let anybody tell me we do not have the money or the resources to do such things. For starters, if we cannot afford to build such a safe house just now, give them some of the state houses that are even now vacant and almost dilapidating for lack of use!