Ongoing killings and attacks on albinos: Pan-African Parliament seeks action

A child living with albinism and his father in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in this file photo. Photo: Panos/ Dieter Telemans

By Jeffrey Onganga

Amnesty International Regional Director (Southern Africa) Deprose Muchena has bemoaned the low levels of prosecution of cases involving attacks on people with albinism.

“In Malawi for example, out of the 122 reported cases, 38 have been prosecuted while 46 are yet to be prosecuted. This is because the 84 cases are being handled by only four senior magistrates,” Muchena said in a statement this week.

The ongoing killings and attacks on People with Albinism (PWA) on the continent have prompted several organisations to appeal to the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) to adopt the resolution endorsing the Regional Action Plan on albinism.

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights endorsed the plan laying out specific measures for addressing attacks and discrimination against persons with albinism through prevention, protection, accountability as well as equality and non-discrimination measures.

Albinism is a rare non-contagious genetically inherited condition present among all ethnic groups but there have been recorded cases of murder, mutilation, digging up of graves of PWA for the cultural beliefs that their skin and bones can create wealth or heal diseases.

According to Amnesty International and the United Nations, there have been 600 cases of attacks on PWA reported while many others go unrecorded.

The associations from the three African regions briefed PAP Committees on Justice and Human Rights and the Committee on Gender, Family, Youth and Persons with Disabilities that attacks on PWA was an infringement on several rights; among them – right to life, health, education and security.

Chairperson of the Committee on Justice and Human Hon Ignatienne Nyirarukundo expressed PAP’s concerns that attacks were escalating in some parts of Africa blaming it on the lack of awareness by some communities that people with albinism held some mystic magic to bring wealth and heal chronic diseases.

We should know better that murder is murder and merits grave punishment

“We are not in the Middle Ages, we should know better that murder is murder and merits grave punishment,” she said.

Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi President Overstone Kondowe said PWA in Southern Africa were experiencing human rights violations of a higher magnitude including extreme acts of violence and killings.

The highest number of attacks against PWA are in Southern Africa with Malawi registering 136, 45 in Mozambique, 11 in Swaziland, 8 in Uganda and South Africa and two in Zimbabwe. About 70 percent of the attacks are on women followed by 23 percent being children.

“It is against this situation that I call upon members of the PAP to urge member states to domesticate the Regional Action Plan on Albinism in Africa to address discrimination, killings and attacks on persons with albinism,” Kondowe said.

The situation is no better in East Africa where 178 attacks have been documented in Tanzania, 38 in Burundi, 13 in Kenya and eight in Uganda.

“There is a need to ensure that cross border human trafficking menace is addressed and that African states cooperate on this matter. It is important for African governments to take concrete actions aimed at addressing this continued discrimination,” Chairman of Albinism Society of Kenya, Hon Dr Isaac Mwaura told the committee.

On its part, it was the appeal of Divine Connection, a Benin and West African based organization that national Parliaments pass laws that combat and condemn attacks on PWA.

In West and Central Africa, 149 cases have been reported, Democratic Republic of Congo leading with 67 followed by Ivory Coast at 30 and Guinea at 15.

Onganga is a media Officer at the Pan-African Parliement in Midrand

 

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