Malawi Bans Witchdoctors to Stop Albino Killings

For Clement Dayile, the decision to stop giving sermons to his congregation is a matter of simple survival.  

A pastor at the Christ Citadel Church in southern Malawi, Dayile fears that being an albino may make him a target given the rash of brutal albino attacks that have occurred in Malawi in recent years.   "The situation is not conducive for me to be going out to preach. I don't even go out on longer distances, in fear I will be the next victim," said the church leader said.

The popular belief that body parts from albinos can be used in magical remedies ensuring wealth has given rise to a gruesome black market and has left many albinos in fear of their lives across the African nation.   Along with eighteen murder cases in the past two years, kidnappings and attacks on albinos have also increased while three Malawi nationals with albinism are still missing.   At least twenty-eight graveyards across Malawi that contain the bodies of albinos have been reportedly desecrated.

In a recent BBC interview, Malawi president Peter Mutharika admitted to being "ashamed" of the rising number of albino attacks in his country and denounced the superstition behind it all.  "The people who are telling people that it makes people rich are not even rich. They are wearing rags. How can a person like this make your rich if he himself cannot make himself rich?" he said.   Though the same problem is plaguing other African nations, including neighbouring Tanzania, Malawi has been the focus of international outrage.

To stop albino killings,  Malawi's High Court has now banned all witchdoctors from plying their trade anywhere in the country.   In his recent ruling, Judge Dingiswayo Madise ordered all traditional healers, witchdoctors, charm producers, magic users and fortune tellers to stop practicing and also ordered all media outlets from publishing or broadcasting advertisements for these services.   The ruling is the result of a court case in which three residents of northern Malawi sued two witchdoctors whose charms failed to work as advertised.  

Along with accusing the witchdoctors of fraud, the complainants are also accusing them of being the main customers for albino body parts.  One of the complainants, Oswald Phiri, also has an albino relative and filed the complaint as a way to protect his family.    Judge Madise said in his ruling that, "At the request of the three concerned Malawians to ban activities of witchdoctors in order to eliminate albino attacks and killings, this court grants the order." 

Though the court had initially intended the ruling to apply to foreign witchdoctors only, it has since been extended to all magic workers in the country.    President Mutharika also blamed foreign born magic workers fleeing other countries where they face criminal charges over albino killings.   "We have just learned that some witchdoctors who were banned in Tanzania, and others from Mozambique, fled to Malawi and are fueling attacks on people with albinism.  They must be deported."

While it is unclear whether the albino killings will stop now that witchdoctors and other magic workers have been banned in Malawi, albinos such as Clement Dayile are still living in fear.   Only time will tell how safe they will be in future.


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