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Malawi bans foreign witchdoctors over albino murders

29 May 2016, 15:52Brian Ligomeka, News24 Correspondent

Lilongwe - Malawi has banned foreign witch-doctors from plying their trade in the southern African nation in a bid to curb a rising wave of abductions, attacks and killings of albinos.

So far 18 albinos have been gruesomely murdered in Malawi in the past three years, according to authorities. The 18th victim was 38 year-old Fletcher Masina who was murdered in his garden in central Malawi’s district of Ntcheu on Tuesday.

In a statement, Malawi President Peter Mutharika’s chief political adviser Dr Hetherwick Ntaba said that only herbalists who adhered to a code of practice would be allowed to operate in Malawi.

"Foreign witch-doctors should immediately stop plying their trade in Malawi. We have just learnt that some witch-doctors who were banned in Tanzania and others from Mozambique fled to Malawi and are fuelling attacks on people with albinism. They must be deported,” said Ntaba.  

He accused the foreign witch-doctors of fuelling killings by lying to superstitious Malawians that albino body parts when mixed with other charms bring good luck and wealth.

Traditional Healers Association of Malawi president Frank Manyowa welcomed the ban.

“We, the traditional healers, simply heal various ailments using plants with medicinal nutrients. It’s the foreign witch-doctors and soothsayers who are perpetrating the killings because of their belief in black magic,” he said.

He added: “Local magicians must be arrested and jailed while foreign magicians should deported back to their countries.”

Manyowa said the only way to success was through innovation and hard work and not through the use of rituals, Satanism and witchcraft.

Affected students

Meanwhile government has pledged to send children with albinism to boarding schools as one way of offering them protection while guaranteeing them their right to education.

“The Ministry of Education will place children who are failing to go to school for fear of being attacked in boarding schools with appropriate security arrangements made for them,” said Ntaba  who is also Chairperson of the National Technical Committee on Abuse of Persons with Albinism.

According to Ntaba, government was concerned to learn that some children with albinism had dropped out of school for the fear of being abducted.

Government disclosed that it was looking for at least $500 000 to be used immediately in the crackdown of abductions and killings of people with albinism.

“At the moment, there is no special funding for the undertaking of several interventions. We are simply using whatever resources available in various ministries and departments,” he said in his appeal for financial and non financial support.

Other strategies the government was using in responding to the crisis included speeding up prosecutions, registration of people with albinism, regulation of traditional healers, intelligence research and continued awareness.

Stiffer penalties

Government’s interventions came after albinos stormed Parliament premises in Malawi capital, Lilongwe on Tuesday demanding among others the execution of convicted murderers.

Several Malawi lawmakers backed the proposals to execute albino murderers.

 “It is time for tit-for-tat, an eye for an eye and a life for a life. Let’s join hands and end the senseless murderers by hanging all albino killers,” an opposition lawmaker Madalitso Kazombo said.

Malawi, a nation of 16 million people has an estimated population of 10 000 people with albinism, which is caused by a hereditary recessive gene resulting in a lack of melanin pigmentation.

Three Southern Africa nations of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania are battling against albino killings.

While 18 albinos have been killed in Malawi, the number of those murdered in Tanzania hover around 80. Mozambique has arrested over 50 people in connection with the trafficking and murder of albino citizens. 

- News24


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