A gang of criminals also known as ‘albino hunters’ have instilled fear in the minds of the residents of Malawi, especially the people living with albinism. They raid the streets of Malawi armed with machetes, knives and axes abducting and often killing albinos both in broad daylight and in the dead of night.
A 9-year-old boy living with albinism in Malawi’s eastern district Machinga is the latest victim of the brutal attacks perpetrated by the albino hunters. His mother Edna Cedrick tried effortlessly to rescue her son from the clutches of the evil two attackers who eventually abducted him last Friday.
A Machinga district police officer, Isaac Ndala, confirmed that the young albino was abducted while the boy’s mother sustained injuries during the struggle with the two attackers. The mother had to take on the attackers alone as her husband was out on a fishing errand at the nearby Lake Chilwa.
The boy is still missing without any trace.
The rampant abduction and brutal murders of people living with albinism led to the branding of albinos an ‘endangered specie’ by police authorities.
Police statistics show that bout 50 criminal offences have been committed against albinos without counting the unreported cases.
“The latest statistics we have are of last year, 2015,” police spokesperson Nicholas Gondwa said.
“Over 30 criminal cases were reported that included killings, abductions, and being found with bones of persons with albinism. Just imagine, there are even some daredevils who go to cemeteries to dig graves where people with albinism were buried. All that is done in the name of hunting for the body parts or bones of albinos,” he said.
According to police statistics in January this year, not less than 11 people with albinism were killed while at least 34 others were attacked and some escape with body mutilations.
Apart from violence, police say these albino hunters use all sorts of tricks to hunt for albino body parts in Malawi, including the use of parents and relatives to catch their prey.
The police used a 53-year-old woman with albinism, Eunice Phiri, who was found dead in Kasungu National Park in January as an example.
Reports say that Phiri was lured by three men, her brother inclusive, into accompanying them on a trip to the neighbouring Zambia. She was killed en route to Zambia and her body dismembered. Her brother allegedly received his own share of the money that was gotten from selling her body parts for the part he paid in luring her.
Police also arrested a man, Collin Zulu in central Malawi’s district of Dedza who abducted and wante to sell his own son to albino hunters.
The chapter of Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) executive director Boniface Massa said the police was right to say that the official figures of albinos killed or abducted is an underestimate.
“Some victims are abducted or even killed without trace. Some of those who are abducted have never been seen again. Some such incidents are never reported to police,” he said.
Massah placed the blame on witch doctors who convince these get-rich-quick people creating the impression that the body parts of albinos constitute potent charms and may even cure HIV and AIDS!
“There are all sorts of baseless misconceptions. They include the wrong belief that having sex with an albino will cure HIV and Aids. Some are hoodwinked into believing that our body parts can make one get rich quickly, either by using parts such as eyes to be visionary and forward-looking. Those are empty lies,” he said.
This unfortunate turn out of events prompted the Malawian Police chief Lexen Kachama to issue orders to his officers to “shoot-to-kill those caught in the act of abducting or killing albinos” in order to curtail the horror engulfing the citizens.
“We first heard of such horrible stories of albino abductions and killings in neighbouring Tanzania. The problem has now spilled to Malawi and hence it is important to fight against this criminality aggressively and professionally,” said Kachama.
He extended the task to the general public to help the police to put an end to this horror.
“But we need members of the public to support us. The kidnappers live with us in our communities so if we join hands, we can end these horrible attacks and murders,” said Kachama.
Meanwhile, it is not surprising to hear that some members of the community have resorted to taking the laws into their hands because they could no longer tolerate the slow pace of justice.
Police confirmed the scorching to death of seven alleged members of an albino hunters gang who were caught in possession of human parts including bones in southern Malawi’s border district of Nsanje.