Amnesty says Malawi albino killings reflect police failures

LILONGWE (Reuters) - Amnesty International accused Malawian police on Tuesday of failing to protect people with albinism who are targeted for their body parts which are used in magical potions and other ritual practices.

Police said they were doing all in their power to end the surge in the killing of albinos in the southern African country. Albinos have also been targeted in Malawi’s neighbor Tanzania and elsewhere in Africa.

Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa, said in a statement that Malawian authorities had failed to protect the albinos, leaving them at the mercy of criminal gangs who hunt them down for their body parts.

The report says at least 18 people with albinism have been killed in Malawi since November of 2014 while at least five others are known to have been abducted and remain missing. Four were murdered in April 2016, including a baby.

“Their bones are believed to be sold to practitioners of traditional medicine in Malawi and Mozambique for use in charms and magical potions in the belief that they bring wealth and good luck,” Amnesty said.

“The macabre trade is also fueled by a belief that bones of people with albinism contain gold.”

Malawi government spokesperson and Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati dismissed the claims by Amnesty.

“We are doing everything within the law to stop this carnage,” Kaliati told Reuters.

Malawi Police spokesman Nikolasi Gondwa said gangs in neighboring Tanzania and Mozambique were fuelling the trade.

Albinism is a congenital disorder affecting about one in 20,000 people worldwide who lack pigment in their skin, hair and eyes. It is more common in sub-Saharan Africa.

Reporting by Mabvuto Banda; Editing by Ed Stoddard and James Macharia