Pan African Parliament legislators have been urged to address the increasing physical attacks on people living with albinism in Africa and East Africa in particular, where they suffer discrimination, ill-treatment and denial of basic human rights.
According to Isaac Maigua Mwaura, a member of the Kenyan Senate, who is also the National Coordinator of the Albinism Society of Kenya, many persons with albinism have been killed for ritual purposes under the belief that their body parts can bring good fortune or cure diseases.
“The attacks take the form of murder, mutilation, rape and grave robberies to exhume and sell body parts of persons with albinism,” he said, adding “these attacks violate virtually all human rights and civil liberties as elucidated by the international and regional human rights instruments.”
Maigua said cases that have been officially documented in the region include: 178 in Tanzania, 38 in Burundi, 13 in Kenya and eight in Uganda.
Senator Maigua is part of the delegation of persons with albinism from Western, Eastern and Southern Africa who are lobbying the continental legislature to take up issues of albinism with their national parliaments. They were briefing PAP MPs from the Committee on Justice and Human Rights; and the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline on Friday.
Overstone Kondowe, the President of the Association of Albinism in Malawi, said that in Southern Africa countries, many attacks and murders target women and children with Malawi having the highest number of reported attacks at 136.
MPs some of whom come from countries where albinos are persecuted desired for an improved way of life for people with albinism.
Hon. Babirye Veronica Kadogo (Uganda) represents a constituency in the East part of Uganda where many albinos live. She recalled previous attempts she undertook to have albinos get funding from government.
“Albinos are disabled people but since they are not recognized to be having disabilities, the government has no programme to address their needs,” Kadogo said.
She added that she brought the concerns of people with albinism to parliament during discussions on the budget, with a view of government allocating funds and removing taxes on products used by albinos.
“We need a law to protect our people. We need taxes removed on cosmetics for albinos and we need a budget to cater for the needs of people with albinism,” she said.
Hon Janet Kabila (DRC) said that it was important to look at the causes of the attacks on people with albinism. She said that sensitization should start with parliamentarians in constituencies where there are families that have people with albinism. She said the root causes of the attacks is poverty and the beliefs that show ignorance about albinism.
At regional level, the continental parliament was asked to develop a guiding document, policy or model law to address the problem; and also that national parliaments amend the trafficking in persons law to include provisions on persons with albinism.
Governments were asked to commission urgent registration of persons with albinism, and domesticate the Regional Action Plan on Albinism in Africa. They were also implored to set aside a budget to address the education and health related rights of people with albinism; and consider appointing persons with albinism deliberately into senior positions in both public and private sector to promote their visibility.