"Shoot every criminal who is violent when caught red-handed abducting people with albinism," Reutersquoted the inspector as saying. "We cannot just watch while our friends with albinism are being killed like animals every day. We do not realize that these people are ruthless, have no mercy and therefore they need to be treated just like that."
Malawi's 10,000 albinos have never had it easy, but they have faced more violence than usual over the past few months. The UN recorded six reported attacks in the first three months of 2015 in Malawi alone, versus two in all of 2014 and one in all of 2013. Some of these attacks have been especially brutal: Recently, a man was sentenced totwo years in jail (a rare, if light, conviction for a type of crime often practiced with impunity) for kidnapping his own 11-year-old niece with the intent of selling her body for $6,500. Another man was recently arrested for trying to strangle a 16-year-old albinoin the boy's home in February 2015.
"We are hunted like animals," Boniface Massah, the president of the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi, told News24 while talking about the forces driving his people into hiding. "You are no longer sure you can trust even friends or relatives."
The shoot-on-sight order is just the latest in a string of recent attempts to counteract the anti-albino spree in the nation. In early March , the Federation of Disability Association called for stronger legislation to protect the nation's albinos. By mid-March police in Machinga claimed they'd started to clamp down, arresting 14 attack suspects. And toward the end of the month , President Peter Mutharika openly condemned such attacks, calling on security forces to go on high alert, while Minister of Gender, Children, Disability, and Social Work Patricia Kaliati developed a five-point plan for greater education on albinism, community policing, and research into the root causes of the troubling medicinal trade in albino body parts.
Tanzania finally started taking great strides to curb the albino trade this year . (In 2009 , the then-Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda did call on civilians and police to kill those attacking albinos, but this vitriol seemingly never translated into appreciable action.) At the start of 2015 , the government banned unregulated traditional healers, cracking down on those implicated in anti-albino attacks. About 225 healers were arrestedacross the nation, with plans to spread the dragnet further in the future (although most of those arrested have now been released ), and several were sentenced to death in rare, harsh sentences for albino killings. Then last month , Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete promised publicly to crackdown harder in the future.
"Those who are in the business of selling body parts of albinos," News24 quoted Massah as saying, "have established a market in Malawi, because it has become tougher to do business in Tanzania."
A similar spillover trend was observable in Burundi during the global response to the first proliferation of albino killings in Tanzania seven-to-eight years ago. Locals claim that, until then, Burundi's 600-odd albinos lived largely in peace, until demand in Tanzania created a profitable market for murderous Burundians.