WINDHOEK - Alfred Misoya, cries everytime when he thinks of events of 3 March 2017. The 32-year old Malawian man with albinism narrates that in the early hours of that fateful Friday continue to haunt him to this day.
Misoya and his younger brother, who is also living with albinism had visited their mother the previous day at Nankumba village in southern Malawi.
Their mother insisted that her sons who live with their father just over one kilometer away from her house spend the night with her.
Misoya broke down as he related how “unknown men from nowhere” tried to kill him and his younger brother while they were sleeping in a hut at their mother’s residence.
“It was in the dawn of 3rd March last year when unknown men from nowhere came during the night and found us asleep in the same hut with my younger brother. They broke into the house carrying their machetes and it’s so sad story… (Sic),” Misoya related barely unable to speak as he broke into tears. The unknown men hacked Misoya and his younger brother all over the body, he explained.
“They hacked in different parts of my body. On the nose, the elbow…,” reminisced Misoya, showing the scars from the attack.
Misoya shared his story with participants at a side event of the 38th Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Summit of Heads of States and Government organised Amnesty International on Monday.
Misoya explained that his younger brother screamed loud when he could no longer bear the pain from their attackers.
“After shouting for some time people came out from the house to rescue us,” related Misoya. They were taken to a hospital in Blantyre, the capital of Malawi where they were treated for seven days. “I remember waking up in hospital,” said Misoya adding that during the attack he lost consciousness. An investigation was launched and a suspect was arrested in connection with the attacks, Misoya explained.
“But what is surprising to me is that the one who was suspected was released but if you ask about that they are saying that they are still investigating until now,” he said.
Misoya said he and his brother live in fear because they do not know when they will be attacked again.
“I took up the matter but I did not receive much support from my country,” said Misoya who is doing his Form 4, at the Magoti Community Day Secondary School. Because of the severity of the attacks on his arms, Misoya said he struggles to use his hands but that will not stop his from pursuing a law qualification.
“I’m asking for support which can lead myself to reach to the stage where I can be a lawyer because I want to fight for human rights,” added Misoya.
Misoya said he has five other siblings, two others are living with albinism.
He added: “I’m living in fear and I am not always at home just because of those suspects who keep coming back to our community. I’m afraid that one day they will kill us,” he said as he cried while being comforted by the Amnesty International Southern Africa Regional Director, Deprose Muchena.
“I’m just asking well-wishers if possible to support me with a scholarship so that I may support my relatives in the family and I wish to represent people with cases against persons with albinism. I’m planning to be a lawyer in future (sic),” said Misoya.
According to Amnesty International, people with albinism across Africa face the persistent threat of being killed for their body parts due to stereotypical beliefs that these parts bring wealth and good luck.
In countries such as Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, impunity for these horrific crimes has fueled vicious attacks against this vulnerable group, according to a statement from Amnesty International.
“The reality is that people with albinism live in constant fear of being abducted or killed for their body parts across the region. They live at the mercy of organised criminal gangs who are baying for their blood in the belief that they will make a fortune. This must stop,” stressed Muchena.
According to Amnesty International website, in Malawi many will pay huge sums for their body parts, allowing a gruesome trade in human bones to flourish. “It is a trade driven by the growing demand for these body parts in southern and eastern Africa,” according to the website.
Albinism is an inherited genetic condition that prevents the body from making enough colour, or melanin, to protect the skin from the sun.
Nearly 600 reported cases of attacks in 24 African countries, according to Amnesty International. Amnesty International in Southern Africa works to prevent human rights abuses and holds governments and corporates accountable for their actions.
The side meeting convened by Amnesty International this week, bringing into sharp focus indiscriminate attacks on albinos adopted ten resolutions.
“We urge member states, civil society organisations and communities of people with albinism and other key stakeholders to work together to address root causes of discrimination and violence against people with albinism and increase knowledge,” the participants resolved.
SADC members are also urged to conduct comprehensive awareness campaigns to combat stereotypes and prejudices in communities.
They also called on SADC member states to sign, ratify and enact the United Nations Convention on the Rights of people with disabilities and the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of persons with albinism in Malawi.
“We urge states to enhance regional cooperation in the investigation and prosecution of cross-border crimes against people with albinism, particularly cases of abduction, murder and trafficking of body parts,” read one of the resolutions.
Media Ombudsman, Advocate John Walters who also attended the side by Amnesty International told New Era that although there are no reports of physical attacks against people with albinism in Namibia, attending the meeting was an “eye-opener”.
“We will aggressively create awareness that people with albinism are human and they have the right to be respected,” said Walters.