Score of Malawians have staged a “half naked” protest march in the capital Lilongwe, to demand urgent steps from the government to protect people living with albinism in the country.
The protesters made up of legislators, human rights activists and concerned citizens were protesting the continued abduction and killings of albinos.
At least 19 people with albinism have been killed since 2014 in the country where albino body parts are used for witchcraft. The parts are believed to bring wealth and good luck and are used for charms and magical potions.
Rights groups Amnesty International has called on the country’s authorities to do more to punish those responsible.
Bon Kalindo, a Member of Parliament for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who led the march said “those perpetrators are living with us in our neighbourhoods. Why should we not kill them”.
“Why are we pretending as Malawians that everything is ok when things are not ok. Things have gone haywire” he said advocating that “we need to kill (perpetrators) because we have the law in place. Who do we want to please?”
Senior government officials including president Peter Mutharika have publicly condemned the attacks and announced several measures including the appointment of a legal counsel to assist with investigations and a national response plan.
A report by Amnesty International however notes that these measures have so far failed to stop the violence.
Police reports show at least 69 crimes against people with albinism have been documented in the country since November 2014.
The protesters marched to parliament where they presented a petition calling for harsher punishments for albino killers.
MP Kamlepo Kalua who received the petition on behalf of the Speaker of Parliament said Tanzania has managed to deal with the incidence of attacks on albinos “and we have to do likewise”.
He gave the assurance that “we are not going to stop at anything apart from seeing to it that this thing has come to a stop”.
People with albinism face discrimination and threats and there are many myths about the condition with some saying having sex with an albino is a cure for HIV.
There have been attacks against albinos in other parts of southern and eastern Africa including in Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Burundi.