Fury over albino murder

Malawians have come in unison to denounce the heinous murder of a man with albinism, Yasin Kwenda Phiri,  with the Malawi Police Service (MPS) vowing to hunt down and bring the perpetrators to book.

Jose: We will hunt perpetrators down

Since the incident occurred on New Year’s eve, various sectors have condemned the vicious killing of 54-year-old Phiri in full view of his nine-year-old son, inside his house at Kande Trading Centre in Nkhata Bay.

MPS Inspector General (IG) Rodney Jose, several civil society organisations (CSOs), Mdawuku wa aTonga (Mwato)—a Tonga tribe cultural group—and UTM Party yesterday issued statements, all condemning Phiri’s brutal murder.

The shocking news of Phiri’s gruesome murder and dismembering follows another gloomy murder of another man with albinism,  McDonald Masambuka, in March last year in Machinga.

“The Inspector General and MPS join hands with all stakeholders in condemning, in strongest terms, the killing of Yasin Phiri in Kande,” reads the police statement.

The police observe that after Masambuka’s killing, the nation experienced a period of calm, giving hope that the perpetrators had realised their superstitions were primitive.

“However, the Kande murder shows that we still have unpatriotic and barbaric people with backward superstitions that albino tissues may be used for wealth-creating rituals. This thinking is not only myopic but uncalled for in the modern world,” reads the statement.

On its part, Mwato said it had learned about the murder with utter shock and deep sadness and pledged to work with police, chiefs and other authorities to trace Phiri’s murderers to face justice.

“Mwato urges the police nationally to intensify the search for all murderers of persons with albinism countrywide and lay bare the alleged albino body parts business syndicate that is fuelling the taking away of innocent lives,” says Mwato in its statement.

The cultural grouping also pleaded with government to consider providing security and trauma-alleviation to late Phiri’s son, George, who witnessed his father’s murder, saying he could be targeted by the same criminals.

On its part, UTM Party said Phiri’s murder is a reminder to Malawians and people with albinism in particular of how government has failed to act decisively to eliminate attacks on people with albinism.

“This insanity has gone on for too long and because any life lost needlessly is one too many, we in UTM will deal with this evil decisively,” said UTM in a statement signed by its spokesperson Joseph Chidanti Malunga.

The CSOs that have already condemned the killing include Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Centre for the Development of People (Cedep), Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (Apam). Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), a State institution, was the first to condemn the act.

The late Phiri worked at Kande Health Centre and lived in Mundiyeye Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Fukamapiri, but his paternal home was Mgodi Village, T/A Malanda in the district.

Apam president Overstone Kondowe told The Nation on Tuesday that Phiri’s killing was a result of leadership failure in the country.

He lamented: “We have seen how our neighbouring countries have dealt with these issues, but we seem not to have learnt any lessons.

“Imagine from 2014, we have had 160 cases, but only 43 have been dealt with. What message are we sending out there? We need to seriously implement the laws, we need people to know that a person with albinism is like any other.”

Recently, Minister of Information and Communications Technology Henry Mussa said government is committed to handling court cases related to the abduction and killing of persons with albinism as it works to find the lasting solution.

Currently, 23 people are on remand at Zomba Prison following their arrests in connection with  Masambuka’s murder.

In June 2018, Amnesty International urged for an overhaul in the country’s criminal justice system to protect people with albinism.

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