APM swears in probe team

President Peter Mutharika yesterday swore in a commission of enquiry into attacks, abductions and killings of persons with albinism (PWAs) with an attack on Apam leadership and human rights defenders.

During the ceremony at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe, the President accused the leadership of Association of People With Albinism in Malawi (Apam) and Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) of using their members for personal gains.

Chalera takes her oath administered by Clerk to the Cabinet
Marjorie Shema

He said Apam leadership turned down his invitation to a roundtable on three occasions to discuss solutions to end the atrocities against PWAs and instead chose to take to the streets.

On HRDC, Mutharika accused its national chairperson Timothy Mtambo of abandoning the PWAs after their abortive march and vigil at Kamuzu Palace last Wednesday.

He said: “Mtambo and [Charles] Kajoloweka abandoned people with albinism. They left them without food and water. People with albinism are human beings and they have to be treated as humans. They should not live with fear in their own country.”

But in an earlier interview, Mtambo denied abandoning the people, saying alongside the President’s aides Mavuto Bamusi and Hetherwick Ntaba, they made arrangements to ferry them to a safer place.

On the commission of the enquiry, the President urged the members to be apolitical to avoid manipulating information to suit interest of politicians.

In his remarks, Chief Secretary to the Government Lloyd Muhara argued that the appointment of the commission is one of the measures government is taking to ensure that abductions and killings of PWAs is brought to an end.

The swearing-in ceremony marks the beginning of investigations into root causes of killings and abductions of PWAs. The enquiry is also one of Apam’s demands.

The six commissioners sworn-in yesterday are retired Supreme Court judge Robert Chinangwa who is the chairperson, Abgail Dzimadzi, Paramount Chief Kawinga, Rexa Chalera, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen)executive director George Jobe and Brenda Vokhiwa-Kapenda as the secretary.

Mutharika appointed eight members to the enquiry on March 5 this year, but two others, the Reverend Timothy Nyasulu and Grace Massa, were not present. However, the President said they will be sworn-in at a later date.

In an interview Chinangwa said the commission will execute its duties with diligence and commitment to ensure that it meets the April 30 deadline for report submission.

Since November 2014, the number of reported crimes against people with albinism in Malawi has risen to 152 cases, including 25 murders and more than 10 people missing, according to Apam.

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