UN condemns albino killings

The United Nations (UN) has condemned the killing of Yasin Kwenda Phiri, a man with albinism at Kande in Nkhata Bay on New Year’s Eve, calling it savagery.

In a statement released yesterday and signed by UN resident coordinator in Malawi Benoit Thiry, the body is further concerned that there has not been progress to trace 12-year-old Joseph Kachingwe who went missing on July 6 last year.

Pallbearers carry Phiri’s coffin this week

Armed with pangas, the assailants broke into Phiri’s bedroom through a window, stabbed him in the abdomen and removed his intestines in full view of his nine year old son. They later chopped off his hands from above the elbow joint—the middle upper arm.

The statement said the latest attack and other violations perpetrated against persons with albinism are a setback to the concerted efforts in the protection of people with albinism.

“The UN once again calls upon the Government and all relevant stakeholders to redouble their efforts to effect immediate measures to protect persons with albinism as we go towards the elections and implement the National Action Plan on Persons with Albinism.

“The plan addresses the root causes of attacks on persons with albinism, including a nationwide awareness-raising campaign, strengthened investigations and prosecutions, together with strengthened protection and victim assistance measures. If these measures are not accelerated, we will continue registering human rights violations against persons with albinism,” reads the statement in part.

The body further urged the authorities to ensure a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into Phiri’s killing. We further call upon the authorities to fast-track the investigation and prosecution of outstanding cases on violation of rights of persons with albinism to avoid cultivating a culture of impunity in Malawi.

Meanwhile, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera yesterday said police in Nkhata Bay have arrested four people in connection with the killing of the Phiri, who was 60.

Said Kadadzera: “All I can say is that we have made some arrests, but it is too premature to disclose names of the suspects. We assure the people of Malawi that we are doing everything possible to arrest the suspects and take them to court.

“I should also reiterate the Inspector General’s call that if

anyone has any information on the murder, they should share with us their tips so that justice is served,” he appealed.

Phiri’s sister, Grace Kamanga who worked with him at Kande Health Centre, said she could not imagine the pain that his brother went through, more so, the trauma that George, his son, will live with for the rest of his life.

She said: “My brother and his wife separated a few years ago, but he took on a motherly role and looked after all their children. He has been providing for them, he has been sharing with them the little that he would fetch as a father.”

Kamanga said all the family wants now is justice and an explanation on why they subjected Phiri to such a torturous death.

“He was a peaceful man who never picked quarrels with people. Is it a crime to be born with albinism? Who will take care of these children?

“We want justice and we want the truth. We want to know who killed our brother. We will not sleep and we will not get tired, until we know the truth!” she said.

Phiri’s death has attracted outrage from human rights institutions and the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (Apam), who faulted the State for failing to protect people with albinism in the country.

On its part, the Federation for Disability Organisations in Malawi (Fedoma) on Thursday called on the government to institute a commission of inquiry into the killing of people with albinism.

Apam president Overstone Kondowe, in an interview yesterday, agreed that what happened to Phiri is a sign of leadership failure in the country.

“We have been telling the President what needs to be done to deal with these issues, but the response has been lukewarm. We have seen how our neighbouring countries have dealt with these issues, but we seem not to have learnt any lessons.

The Constitution of the Republic of Malawi also places obligations on the government to protect the rights of all people, including persons with albinism.

In a joint statement, Apam, Human Rights Defenders Coalition, Centre for Development of People (Cedep) and Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), the organisations have challenged government to deal with the issue.

In June 2018, Amnesty International urged Malawi to overhaul the criminal justice system to protect people with albinism.

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