Sunday December 17, 2017

Malawi – an Unknown Country in Africa- is Attacking its own People with Albinism

People with albinism are targeted in Malawi and other parts of Africa because of a false belief that potions made from their body parts will bring good luck and wealth.

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Lilongwe-a city of Malawi. Wikimedia Commons

Malawi is a nondescript country in Africa, bordering Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. It was also called Nyasaland in the past. The country has been witnessing a strange phenomenon: over last two years, it has witnessed killing of 17 people with  medical condition known as Albinism (there is a lack of Melanin pigmentation, thus skin looks blonde)

A person with Albinism. Due to lack of formation of Melanin pigment, the skin looks blonde. Wikimedia Commons
A person with Albinism. Due to lack of formation of Melanin pigment, the skin looks blonde. Wikimedia Commons

so much so that the United Nations cautioned that in Malawi, albinos may be at the risk of total extinction.

VOA reports:

Stronger laws are needed to protect albinos in Malawi from senseless attacks, civil rights campaigners stressed as several hundred people participated in a march to parliament in Lilongwe.

“The presentation of the petition to parliament marks our determination as citizens and civil society to call for immediate stop and end to the killings of people with albinism,” said Edward Chileka Banda, who helped organize the march.

The petition calls for life imprisonment for people who attack albinos.

Parliament member Ester Jailosi Jolobala received the petition on behalf of the speaker of parliament. She said lawmakers will take swift action.

https://youtu.be/8MkEoL9EC1o

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“You know it is disturbing … when you see perpetrators [released] either due to bail, or maybe lenient judicial sentences,” Jolobala said. “This increases fear in people with albinism here in Malawi.”

Seventeen albinos have been killed in Malawi in the past two years. Few perpetrators are caught.

People with albinism — an absence of pigment in their skin, hair and eyes — are targeted in Malawi and other parts of Africa because of a false belief that potions made from their body parts will bring good luck and wealth.

Malawi has dedicated this week to raising awareness on the issue. The country’s top football league kicked off its “Game Over” campaign. The league invited albino individuals to a special match and posted banners around the stadium denouncing attacks.

Albinism is a genetic disease. It is not contagious or infectious.

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UN: Attacks Against Albinos for Body Parts, Stands Human Rights Issue

An albino holds a placard during an Albinism awareness campaign in Harare, Zimbabwe, June 18, 2016

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An albino holds a placard during an Albinism awareness campaign in Harare Source: Pixabay

Geneva, September 21, 2017: “When I was sleeping in my house, four people came and started attacking me with machetes,” said Mariama Staford, an albino in Tanzania. “One of those four people was a neighbor, and he is the one who took the machete and was cutting my arms.”

Staford was 25 years old when she was attacked in 2008. She told VOA that her neighbor first cut off her right arm and threw it to his accomplices. Then, “he chopped off my left arm.”

“I tried my best to struggle in order to defend myself,” she said, “but it was not successful and so they pulled me down in front of my son, who at that time was only two years old.”

She said it took seven hours before villagers carried her on a stretcher to a dispensary.

“When I reached there, the doctor who was on duty said that I should be returned home because I was already dead,” Staford said.

U.N. action

Two years ago, in an effort to counter such attacks, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights appointed Ikponwosa Ero as the first U.N. independent expert on human rights of persons with albinism.

The U.N.'s independent expert on human rights and albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, addresses a news conference at the end of her official visit to Malawi on April 29, 2016.
UN: Attacks Against Albinos for Body Parts, Stands Human Rights Issues

FILE – The U.N.’s independent expert on human rights and albinism, Ikponwosa Ero, addresses a news conference at the end of her official visit to Malawi on April 29, 2016.

Ero, of Nigeria, also has albinism — an inherited condition that affects the pigment of the skin and hair. She said attacks, mutilation and murders occur because of the false belief that albino body parts can bring wealth and good luck.

Ero told VOA that she has documented close to 800 cases of attacks against albinos in the past decade in sub-Saharan Africa, where such witchcraft-related violence is most common.

“Those are reported cases alone. Most cases are not reported because most cases involve family members or people known to the victim,” Ero said.

She said the practice thrives because there is a lot of money to be made.

“The Red Cross reported that the body parts were valued on the black market. Like an arm was valued at $2,000, and a complete corpse at about $75,000. So, there are profits to be made even though you do not believe in witchcraft,” she said.

Though it is the witch doctors who drive this trade, they rarely are brought to justice. Ero said there were very few witch doctors among the prisoners she met during two visits last year to Malawi and Mozambique to assess the situation of people with albinism.

ALSO READ: The Traditional Healers of Malawi Deny Link to Albino Killings.

“Societies are afraid of them,” Ero said. “The police are afraid of them. So, those are usually not prosecuted.

“And then the people on the high scale who are going to pay the money are usually not in jail because they are the elite. Who you find in jail are poor farmers, poor peddlers who are offered a lot of money.”

Staford’s story

No one has paid for the crime committed against Mariama Staford.

“My case reached the trials, and the neighbor that I knew for 10 years was released,” she said. “The court said that because I have albinism, I have low vision, so I could not have recognized my neighbor chopping off my arms.”

Staford has suffered other repercussions, as well. When the attack occurred, she was six months pregnant. She lost her baby.

She told VOA she also must live with the suffering of her son who, as a two-year-old child, was forced to witness the horrific attack against his mother.

“It saddens me to know that, as a mother, I was unable to take care of him, just like a mother would do — even embrace him after the attack,” Staford said. “But also, he is a sad person and he always remembers what happened.”

Staford said there should be stringent laws against any person who attacks people with albinism. She also would like to see the government take away licenses to practice from witch doctors.

Staford and her son, who does not have albinism, as well as two siblings — who do have the condition — are living in protective custody in a safe house in Tanzania run by a branch of a Canadian-U.S. charitable organization called Under the Same Sun. (VOA)

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Cheetahs in Malawi: Poaching and Wildlife Trafficking endangers Africa’s most Iconic Species

A total of four cheetahs – two males and two females – were airlifted to Liwonde National Park in Malawi from South Africa in May

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Cheetahs back from the brink in Malawi
The cheetahs spent their first three weeks in an enclosure before being released into Liwonde National Park in Malawi. VOA
  • Liwonde National Park in southern Malawi has just welcomed some new inhabitants – four cheetahs
  • Liwonde National Park has a population of 12,000 large mammals including bush buck, water buffalo, and antelope
  • Park officials say they also plan to reintroduce leopards and lions to restore the park’s lost glory

LIWONDE NATIONAL PARK, MALAWI, June 10, 2017: Poaching and wildlife trafficking have endangered some of Africa’s most iconic species and the loss of the animals has cost African countries critical tourism revenue.

But at least one national park is getting a second chance. Liwonde National Park in southern Malawi has just welcomed some new inhabitants – four cheetahs relocated there from South Africa courtesy of the nonprofit African Parks group.

Park rangers lured the first cheetah out into its new home with a fresh carcass. It’s the first cheetah Malawi has had in the wild in two decades.

The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world, but even that couldn’t protect the species in Malawi. Poachers killed off the cheetahs’ prey and ultimately the cheetahs themselves.

“They were last seen in Malawi about 20 years ago,” said Craig Reid of the Liwonde National Park. “Specifically in Liwonde area, they have been absent for over a 100 years. So, as part of the rehabilitation of the park, we feel it is very important to bring back the cheetah to Malawi and Liwonde specifically.”

A total of four cheetahs – two males and two females – were airlifted to Liwonde from South Africa in May.

Before being released into the park, the cheetahs spent their first three weeks in an enclosure to allow them to become acclimated to their new surroundings.

Liwonde National Park has a population of 12,000 large mammals. These include bush buck, water buffalo and antelope.

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The cheetah is the first large predator to be reintroduced to the park.

“We have a very healthy animal base and now that the protection measures are in place as we have got a very good law enforcement in the park,” Reid said. “The numbers of animals are increasing very rapidly and, as a result to that, there are more than enough animals to provide for some carnivorous animals such as the cheetah”.

Officials are holding meetings with communities surrounding the park.

“Those people are likely to face danger,” said David Nongoma of African Parks. “And our message to the community is to say that…they refrain from entering the park and stop doing what they used to be doing because these animals are definitely very dangerous. They can kill a human being.”

Park officials say they also plan to reintroduce leopards and lions to restore the park’s lost glory. (VOA)

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Facebook Bars Software Developers from Using social network’s Data to create surveillance tools

police were using location data and other user information to spy on protesters in places such as Ferguson, Missouri.

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FILE - In this May 16, 2012, file photo, the Facebook logo is displayed on an iPad.VOA

US, March 16, 2017: Facebook barred software developers on Monday from using the massive social network’s data to create surveillance tools, closing off a process that had been exploited by U.S. police departments to track protesters.

Facebook, its Instagram unit and rival Twitter came under fire last year from privacy advocates after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a report that police were using location data and other user information to spy on protesters in places such as Ferguson, Missouri.

In response to the ACLU report, the companies shut off the data access of Geofeedia, a Chicago-based data vendor that said it works with organizations to “leverage social media,” but Facebook policy had not explicitly barred such use of data in the future.

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“Our goal is to make our policy explicit,” Rob Sherman, Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer, said in a post on the social network on Monday. He was not immediately available for an interview.

The change would help build “a community where people can feel safe making their voices heard,” Sherman said.

Racially charged protests broke out in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson in the aftermath of the August 2014 shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.

In a 2015 email message, a Geofeedia employee touted its “great success” covering the protests, according to the ACLU report based on government records.

Representatives of Geofeedia could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday. The company has worked with more than 500 law enforcement agencies, the ACLU said.

Geofeedia Chief Executive Officer Phil Harris said in October that the company was committed to privacy and would work to build on civil rights protections.

Major social media platforms including Twitter and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube have taken action or implemented policies similar to Facebook’s, said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director at the ACLU of Northern California.

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Ozer praised the companies’ action but said they should have stopped such use of data earlier. “It shouldn’t take a public records request from the ACLU for these companies to know what their developers are doing,” she said.

It was also unclear how the companies would enforce their policies, said Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice, a nonprofit that opposes government use of social media for surveillance.

Inside corporations, “is the will there, without constant activist pressure, to enforce these rules?” Cyril said. (VOA)