Printed: 2020-07-09

Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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Albino Killings and Humanism in Malawi

Leo Igwe

Ethical Technology

June 12, 2015

Four persons suspected of murdering an ‘albino’ have reportedly been arrested in Malawi. They allegedly abducted an ‘albino’ man from his village, killed him, removed his body parts and buried them in a riverbed. These horrific murders which have been taking place mainly in Tanzania seem to be spreading to this Southern African country, and it is important to rally Malawians against this horrendous practice before it is too late.

At least six albinos have been killed in the country since December according a local support group, Association for Persons with Albinism(APA). This is surely a very disturbing statistics for a small country like Malawi particularly for its 10,000 persons living with Albinism.

The killing of albinos is driven by the belief that their body parts have magical powers that can bring good luck and success. Nobody knows the origin of this murderous misconception. But it is definitely rooted in magical thinking, and in what is considered by the local population as the ‘strange’ nature of the skin.

Hence there is a black market of albino body parts which sell for thousands of dollars. The question is this: Who are those purchasing these body parts? Some say it is the politicians. Well the police in Tanzania said albino body parts sell for up to 75,000 dollars in Dar es Salaam which is an amount that most persons in the region cannot afford. So it is important to uncover those who purchase these body parts, and also ascertain if there is an international angle to this trade.

The recent reported cases of albino killings in Malawi presents another challenge to the humanist movement in the country. Malawi has a small humanist group which has been doing a great job in terms of spreading the message of reason and critical thinking. The local humanist organisation, the Association of Secular Humanism (ASH) of Malawi, has in recent years been active in combating witchcraft and related superstition in the country. The group has succeeded in providing a counter narrative to the idiom of witchcraft and magic.

The humanist group needs to enlist the campaign against albino killings and the irrational beliefs connected with this atrocious practice in its list of programs. ASH can partner with APA to execute this project. There is need for a nation wide public education campaign to get Malawians to understand that the belief that the body parts of albino will bring them good luck is nonsensical and baseless.

The awareness program should include a scientific explanation of albinism which hopefully would lead to a change of attitude and the cultivation of a more rational and  scientific mind set

I hope the humanist group in Malawi can rise up to yet another challenge of using the values of enlightenment to save lives, to protect vulnerable persons and dispel the forces of superstition-based abuses.

Leo Igwe, as a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, has bravely worked for human rights in West Africa. He is presently enrolled in a three year research programme on “Witchcraft accusations in Africa” at the University of Bayreuth, in Germany.


Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
IEET, 35 Harbor Point Blvd, #404, Boston, MA 02125-3242 USA
phone: 860-428-1837