Author: Outreach Scout Foundation's Amon Lukhele, on April 25 2017 - In Malawi, persons with Albinism are facing challenges of life. Everyday/month we hear stories regarding the killing of persons with Albinism. Politicians, including the President of Malawi, have pledged support to end these deaths, but these crimes are failing to die. The law enforcement is falling behind, as they don't have enough resources to work on the matter. The most worrying thing is that those who were caught are given simple punishments, i.e., 2 to 10 years.

My question on this issue is simple: Why is the government failing to protect its own people???

Weak engagement of human rights organizations

Malawi has numerous civil society organizations working towards human rights protection, yet the action from the CSOs remains very weak to speak and act on the human rights violations facing persons with Albinism in Malawi. It is very disheartening that CSOs who are very vocal on issues of socio-political rights, good governance and accountability seem uninterested to join the bandwagon and tackle the rights violations facing Albinos in the country. There is a huge opportunity for human rights CSOs in the country to get involved in data collection, monitoring, research, advocacy and service delivery to ensure that the rights of persons with Albinism are protected in the country.

Need for an urgent high level summit in Malawi

The current killings, trafficking and abuse of persons with albinism in Malawi is a human rights emergency and cannot be treated with silence. Hence there is a need for a high level summit which will bring together human rights defenders, CSOs, human rights lawyers, international NGOs, development partners, policy and decision makers, government officials, judiciary and the Malawi Police Service. This high level summit could be a turning point to eradicate killings and rights violations faced by albinos in the country. The summit could be critical to provide a platform for a wide range of stakeholders to explore solutions and even agree on a basket fund or a financing mechanism that could be used to provide resources to tackle the human rights abuses.

The summit could also draft a text for a costed National Action Plan to tackle the human rights violations faced by persons with Albinism in the country. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability is very clear on the need for States Parties to take, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human [1]rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk.

A responsive media platform in public awareness

The local media including radio stations, online publications and newspapers have been relentless and have continued to strongly publish and air stories on human rights violations, including killings, trafficking and grave robberies on issues to do with persons with Albinism. The responsiveness shown by the media should be recognized because it shows that the media is a strategic stakeholder in human rights protection. However the local media lacks skills and knowledge to report accurately and needs capacity to enable them to excel in the media coverage. Although there have been complaints of stigmatizing media coverage, it should be noted that the media remains a force to reckon with and will be very critical in the work of human rights defending. Hence it is important the media be put at the centre of any human rights interventions to highlight issues related to persons with Albinism in the country.

Counting the interventions from traditional leaders

Traditional leaders are an important platform to raise awareness on human rights protection regarding the safety and well-being of persons with albinism. In Machinga district Senior chief Kawinga is one of the notable traditional leaders who mobilized his subjects and community members to be conducting sensitization meetings in the surrounding communities about killing and abduction of Albinos. Community members took part by offering safe spaces for survivors of the abductions or other members who were affected by the killings. Vivid examples are cases of Margret Chikoti who left her matrimonial home following the abduction of her 2 year old child. She has now been welcomed back at her parents’ home. Chisomo Godfrey, who also survived the abduction, has been adopted by a well-wisher who is educating her at the well-wisher’s private primary school in Chikwewu.

Traditional leaders should also be put in the front because they have demonstrated high level commitment in human rights protection of persons with Albinism, what is required now is to build their capacity in human rights monitoring and other aspects to make them more proactive and responsive.

 

Key Policy Recommendations

 

       TO Government of Malawi: We call upon the government and the line ministries to urgently make an inter-ministerial declaration on the human rights violations facing persons with Albinism in Malawi at the moment and put in place a mechanism to call for a high level national summit. The high level summit should bring together CSOs, human rights defenders, policy and decision makers and other stakeholder groups to chart the way forward to swiftly eradicate the human rights violations.

  • Consider reviewing of the Disability Act, Witchcraft Act and Trafficking in person Act to include issues of protection against persons with Albinism.
  • Malawi government must provide more resources towards the National Taskforce Response which was formed by government.

 

       TO donors and development partners: We are appealing to the development partners and donors to urgently set up a basket fund to help the judiciary and strengthen the rule of law and ensure that the courts have all the resources to process and conclude all cases which are facing a back log. In addition, we call upon the donors to show more responsiveness and commit themselves to the protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights.

 

       TO policy and decision makers: We are calling upon policy and decision makers in Malawi to urgently consider developing a costed National Action Plan on the protection of persons with Albinism in Malawi as a minority group. Since the country has ratified various international human rights treaties, it is important that such rights be upheld and protected. In this case, it is important for the Malawi Human Rights Commission to take a leading role and the Law Commission to take the necessary steps to review the Disability Act and make it clear that rights violations of Albinos will not be condoned in the new democratic dispensation.

 

       TO the local media houses: We recognize the important work the media is undertaking to continuously report on the human rights abuses faced by people with Albinism. It is important for the editors in all the media houses to also emulate other media institutions to dedicate space and allow more coverage on the human rights emergency we are facing.

 

       TO Members of Parliament and councillors: We call upon legislators and councilors who are the representatives of the electorate to demonstrate political commitment and take a lead in ensuring that in the 93 constituencies in Malawi and the wards there is increased awareness on the human rights violations facing persons with Albinism. The MPs should ensure that in their meetings with their full councils and district commissioner offices, there is a rapid response in the humanitarian and reporting mechanism so that victims are given the assistance they deserve.

[1] UNCRPD Article 11, Situations of Risk and Humanitarian Emergencies

Image caption: Where are laws of protecting albinos in Malawi 

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