Tale of terror: Albino attack leaves villagers in fear

At around 6pm, Goodson Makanjira was enjoying roasted green maize outside his mother’s grass-thatched house.

The maize in nearby fields is at its greenest and taller than any individual in this village of 30 households. He said good night to his stepfather and as he enjoyed his sleep, untold terror would emerge from the same maize field that granted him what many now believe was his last meal.

Some of the terrorised villagers

Goodson’s whereabouts remain unknown, but any hope that he will be found alive is fast ebbing away.

However, the grief that has overcome this village is unprecedented in the area. Men and women’s faces are downcast and very few are tending their gardens.

Until the residents know what became of their son, the majority are not willing to proceed with the daily routine of life as grief has sapped most of their energy.

And it is not just trauma that has defined this village.

 A visit to Makanjira Village, 90 kilometres from Thete in Lobi, Dedza, reveals actual terror of a night many will never forget, let alone, recover from. Women as old as 60 carry big wounds which now have been stitched hurriedly together; one woman has a scar on her neck which was almost cut by a machete, another woman had her hand almost amputated.

What happened here was horror, as Nation on Sunday finds out in an interview with the villagers.

The village head recounts the ordeal his community suffered in a space of less than 20 minutes, that left the whole village fleeing into maize fields for cover.

According to the village head, whose name is Sitiki Wyson, the attackers—about five of them, carrying flashlights—first broke into the house of Goodson’s uncle around midnight—claiming to be Forestry Department officials searching for illegal charcoal burners.

The only strange thing is that they were putting on white masks. And when they didn’t find the ‘charcoal’ in the house, they broke into the next hut, belonging to Goodson’s mother Esnart Makanjira.

“They hit me on the back with a panga and warned me not to shout or I will die. I couldn’t even get the courage to shout for help,” Goodson’s uncle, Ibrahim Lakisoni, tells Nation on Sunday.

Makanjira, a mother of four, was sleeping in a tiny hut with the children, including two who are persons with albinism.

When the attackers came at her fragile door, it didn’t even delay them as they went straight to wrestle with Goodson, a 14-year-old primary school learner described by his mother as ‘hardworking and industrious’, who was the first to wake up.

They tussled with him as he bravely fought his way out of their grip and fled into another house belonging to another uncle who by now had awakened to the commotion ensuing outside.

Makanjira fled with her albino daughter into the maize field. Nobody pursued her, but the attackers broke into the third house, again hacked the owners and snatched Goodson for the last time. Unfortunately for Goodson, all the occupants of the nearby houses, although now awake, were retreating to the safety of the maize fields, after being  terrified.

A police source close to the investigation has claimed to us that four people have been held in connection with the disappearance of the boy. According to a police officer, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, the four include Goodson’s stepfather.

But Dedza Police Station spokesperson Cassim Manda refused to comment on most details of this account, including allegations that suspects have been reluctant to reveal details of their market.

He said police are yet to make any arrest and investigations are still ongoing.

“These are very sensitive matters and we are exercising a lot of caution on how we are reporting as police, but we can say that at the moment no suspect has been arrested and the women from the village were only asked to come to police to make statements as victims, but we did not do any suspect parade to be identified by the victims.”

According to Makanjira, a farmer by vocation, she came to know her husband, who the source claimed was arrested, the time she was living at Mitundu Trading Centre with her former husband, but he only proposed to her recently. They moved in together three weeks ago, but separated after two weeks.

Since 2014, the number of reported crimes against people with albinism has risen to 152, including 25 murders and more than 10 people with albinism reported missing, according to the Association of People with Albinism (Apam).

Meanwhile, President Peter Mutharika on Friday warned politicians in the country against using the killing of people with albinism to score political points.

Apparently Mutharika sounded the warning, in a statement signed by his spokesperson Mgeme Kalirani, in direct reference to what the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera said on Thursday that once elected he would end the abductions and killings within a month. n

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