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Malawi Court Convicts 12 People in Albino Attack


FILE - This girl survived an abduction in April 2019 the night when her albino brother was abducted in Dedza district in central Malawi.

BLANTYRE, MALAWI —

A high court in Malawi has convicted five people of murder for the 2018 killing of a 22-year-old albino man, including the victim’s brother. The court convicted seven other people of selling the victim's body parts.

Malawi officials say more than 170 albinos have been attacked in the country since 2014 by people who believe their body parts bring luck and wealth.

Family members of the deceased, MacDonald Masambuka, left the courtroom Thursday with hopes of justice being served after the court convicted all 12 people accused in his death.

Family members, including Masambuka’s mother, appeared calm and composed as Judge Dorothy NyaKaunda Kamanga read the judgments.

Those convicted included a Catholic priest, Father Thomas Muhosa, police officer Chikondi Chileka, clinician Lumbani Kamanga, and the deceased’s brother, Cassim Masambuka. Charges included murder, extracting human tissues, causing harm to a person with disability, and trafficking in persons.

Kamanga convicted the victim’s brother and four others of murder.

The court convicted seven other people, including the priest and police officer, of selling the victim's body parts.

Business with tissue

According to the court, Muhosha, Chileka and others offered to conduct business using human tissue extracted from a human corpse.

The judge said the state proved beyond reasonable doubt the 12 people conspired to kill Masambuka to extract his bones based on a perception they would benefit financially.

She said Masambuka is the latest victim of violent attacks on persons with albinism who have not been protected by the community.

Director of Public Prosecutions Steve Kayuni represented the state in the case. He said he was pleased the court agreed on all the seven charges he presented.

“It’s really something overwhelming on the part of the state considering that this matter, if you notice, there is a police officer involved, a priest involved and there is a brother involved. If you notice, it all revolves around the position of trust — that somebody like the late Macdonald Masambuka trusted so much, they are the ones who ended up betraying him,” Kayuni said.

Masambuka went missing from his village on March 9, 2018, and his limbless body was found buried in a garden on April 2, 2018, in his home district of Machinga south of Malawi.

Enticement

Court documents show that Masambuka was enticed by his brother to meet his friends, who he claimed had found a girl for him to marry.

But when they reached the scene, the alleged friends grabbed Masambuka by the neck and dragged him to a garden where they killed him. Here, his assailants cut off his limbs, burned his body using petrol and buried it there.

This was the first such case involving high-profile community members involved in attacks on persons with albinism.

Masauko Chamkakala, the lawyer for the 12 defendants in the case, said he would comment once he had gone through the judgment.

“We are still waiting to see the perfected judgment so that we can read it and study it and talk to our clients,” Chamkakala said.

Rights activists said they expected the court to give stiffer punishment to those convicted.

'Serious sentencing'

Ian Simbota represented the Association of Persons with Albinism at the court.

“When the judge was reading, what concerned me was that part of a [Priest] Father Muhosha [and others] who have been convicted of transacting body parts. If you go to the Anatomy Act, it is not so hard on such offenses. So, we are really looking forward to the judge, if at all it’s possible, to put a human face to the case so that at least we really need to see serious sentencing on this case,” Simbota said.

The high court is expected to sentence the perpetrators on May 30.

In another case, a high court on Thursday sentenced a 37-year-old man to life in prison for the 2020 murder of a 14-year-old-boy with albinism in Phalombe district.

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