26 April 2016

Malawi: UN Envoy, University of Malawi Law Students Ponder On Albino Killings

The United Nations envoy on people with albinism has said that sensitization on the rights of people with albinism is the main solution to end the senseless killings targeted at them.

The envoy Ikponwosa Ero was speaking at University of Malawi's Chancellor College law faculty boardroom on during a meeting with law students conducting disability clinic.

She was in the country to assess the situation on the killings which have shocked the country.

During the meeting, students were given a chance to state their views on the killings.

Arabi Mairosi, a second year law student blamed poverty as the root cause of the problem.

He said people are promised huge sums of money if they get bones of a person with Albinism and this motivates them to commit such heinous murders.

Another second year student Allan Chimwaza blamed the media for carrying adverts that promise people unrealistic riches.

"Where is the morality when newspapers are allowing witchdoctors to advertise things like chitaka, sendawana? Are these things supposed to be seen in public papers?" argued Chimwaza to the applause of fellow students.

The majority of the students which included Police officers, Court Magistrates were of the view that there is a need for the government to come up with a special law to deal with the killings.

Coordinator for Chancellor College legal clinics Timothy Chirwa, who presented a paper during the meeting on the same issue, faulted the low fines and lenient sentences meted to people who violate the Anatomy Act.

"The law is limited in the Anatomy Act, it is too lenient and does not deter one from committing these crimes" argued Chirwa.

He said that while Section 16 prohibits the removal, sell of human tissue; it is the punishment in Section 18 that is a major concern.

Chirwa argued that to sentence someone for ten years or giving him an option of K15, 000 for being found with human tissue is a lenient sentence.

"People will always do calculations and where they have been promised millions will a K15, 000fines deter them?" queried Chirwa.

While acknowledging that there is someone people who may be in possession of human tissues with valid reasons, he appealed that the law should be tough on those who cannot explain why they are found with human bones.

Chirwa argued that all those who would be found with bones of people with Albinism should automatically be treated as murders and should not be given an option of a fine but life sentences. He appealed to the envoy to push for a private members bill in Parliament so that a special law to deal with these killings should be enacted.

In her speech, Ikponwosa thanked the students for their views.

She said that she could not understand the argument that poverty could be the driving force behind the killings as there are countries that are also poor as Malawi.

"How do we explain it that in some poor countries, these killings are not happening?" the envoy wondered.

She said that if the government could intensify civic education as it has been done with gender violence or HIV/AIDS there may be a change.

In answering what countries like Kenya and Tanzania who experienced the same problem have done to stop these killings, the envoy said that in Tanzania, the government has appointed people with Albinism into prominent positions just to show people that people with Albinism are humans too.

The envoy also said that in Tanzania, traditional doctors are licenced and all those who were known to indulge in these evil practices had their licences revoked.

In Kenya, the civil societies conducted awareness campaigns for four years and it paid dividends at the end. Kenya has experienced one killing last year and none this year.

Mathews Chione reports for Nyasa Times at Chanco, he is a law student, member of disability clinic.

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