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Malawi Community Stories - Albinos At Risk In Malawi

Albino Child in Africa - Photo Credit Dietmar Temps

They have their reasons why they do it. They say there are many ways of killing a rat. They also say someone in America said ‘Get Rich or Die Trying’. To many people it is nonsense, barbaric, retrogressive, inhuman, ruthless, callous and ungodly. But they do it.

I had an opportunity to interview one of the suspect’s who was in police custody. My first question was ‘Is it worth taking someone’s life?’ He could not answer the question and his face told me that he was not sure of what he was doing. I asked another question ‘Where is the market where you sell these bones?’ He could not answer this question either. So I had to ask him what happened, and he said:

“It all started as a joke when I was at Utopia beer joint in my community. I had no money but I was heavily thirsty for kabanga ‘local brewed beer’, so it was only there at Utopia where I had assurance that I can quench my thirst even on credit. I was warmly received upon my arrival as a frequent customer, there was no time to waste and straight away I shouted: ‘one Liter of Kabanga’, then I started greeting people who were there. Some of them were friends while others were strangers. I had to greet everyone as per our tradition, and to my surprise I finished greeting the people but my order was not acknowledged. I shouted again to the customer attendant [equivalent to a bar-tender] ‘hey you idiot!!!! Where is the beer I ordered?’ No one seemed to have heard what I said. The customer attendant returned fire to me, ‘so you cannot read! I thought your boasting about your education is real; Can someone read the notice which is in front of this educated man?’ those were the harsh and embarrassing words coming from the customer attendant who was also half drunk. ‘Pay first for your order to be honoured’ shouted one of the customers.

There was a moment of silence as people were waiting to hear my counter-reaction. In addition the same people would be waiting to hear what I might say after I have given the customer attendant the money. This fuelled the embarrassment since I had no money to pay. ‘This notice was written for guys like you’ the customer attendant had yet another one on me, now I was knocked-out and everyone could say whatever he wanted. ‘You are keeping millions at your house’ ridiculed one of the customer’s. ‘Yes! You have millions which are not guarded’ laughed another customer. ‘If you do not know where to sell your albino ask me’, now that was my friend speaking.
I had nothing to answer them, and I wished I could have the millions to buy everyone beer and to tell them that it was not my fault to have an albino child, and to tell them that he was just a human being like anyone else. ‘Come over here sir, leave these useless creatures and let us drink’, this was a stranger speaking.

I had no time to waste, not only that I wanted to drink but also the insults were too much. I sat next to him as he handed me the chipanda ‘Malawian tradition beer cup’. I finished the beer which was left in just seconds. This was to show that I was thirsty and I do not play when drinking beer is concerned. The stranger smiled after noticing that I left nothing in the chipanda, and he went to the customer attendant and gave him the money, enough to  buy for all the people in the shed. I said to myself ‘this is what I was just dreaming, let me drink now’. The beer kept on flowing and people started wishing they could be me, so that they can also enjoy as I was doing. Stories were erupting as if we were old friends. He did not tell me what people call him but that he was married and he was currently not staying with his family because of the nature of business he was into. This disturbed my mind, as I asked him what business was that which could not allow him to be staying with his family. He told me that we had all the time and I will get to know him.

I did not know how I got home but it was the next day and I was having a headache from hangover [sic]. The first thought which came to my mind was, where was the stranger? I asked my wife how did I find myself home, and she said the stranger brought me home together with my friend. I asked for food with the intention of going back to Utopia so that I could properly say thank you to the stranger. She gave me the porridge which I ate like a person who had stayed for 3 days and nights without food. The speed was to make sure that I should get hold of this stranger. The Utopia beer joint was not that far away from my house and in no time I was inside Utopia. Though this was morning hours,  there were people drinking and some already drunk. I did not have to search around for the stranger, I just heard his voice calling me. ‘Hey over here’ the stranger sounded welcoming again. He handed the chipanda to me again as a welcome. This time I did not finish the beer in the chipanda since I knew that more beer is coming. He went to the customer attendant and ordered more beer. After the attendant brought the first round, the stranger excused himself saying he wanted to answer the call of nature. I told him jokingly that he should take his time, there should be a difference on how chickens and humans answer the call of nature. I told him that he should not be as fast as a hen.

He left laughing while leaving his bag with me, and he gave me some money so that when he takes long I should help myself.[sic]

The stranger now was my saviour. The money he gave me could see me drinking for the whole week. I saw my dream from yesterday coming true as I bought everyone who was in the shed a chipanda. Everyone was amazed since it was my first time to do this. Others jokingly teased me that the gods have favoured me. I drank till I could no longer carry the chipanda again. The people took me home again but this time without the stranger. I slept like a baby till late in the night when my wife woke me up vigorously. I woke up and asked, what was the matter? She asked me where was Tendelani our son. I was angry because the whereabouts of Tendelani had nothing to do with me. I did not answer her as she kept on asking me where our child was. I answered her with anger that the child was in the bag, so that she should know that I don’t know where the child was and that it was not my business to be looking after the children but hers. She opened the bag of the stranger which people carried together with me to my house. Surprisingly she found money in the bag, although it was not a lot of money, and she started crying as she went out of the room.

Thirty minutes later I heard noise from outside and some shouting as people were demanding for me to come out. I went out to see what was happening and I was welcomed with slaps, kicks, whips and blows. I fought back but I was too weak and half sober. I was severely beaten until I was unconscious. The next morning I found myself in the hospital with stiches and plaster of Paris on my both legs. My hand was cuffed to the bed I slept on. Behind me was a police officer. I had the courage to ask him what had happened and where my wife was? He said I was under arrest and that anything I would speak could be used against me in the court of law. He did not tell me what crime I committed. I thought I was dreaming but then I saw my wife coming crying that she wants her child back, and this left me with many questions since the police officer had to stop her crying and turned her away. She came with two other police officers who told the police officer who was with me to take my wife out of the hospital.

‘Why did you have to sell your own blood?’ The first police officer asked. ‘What is the name of the guy you sold your child to?’ This was the second police officer. ‘I do not know what you are talking about’, I replied angrily. The first police officer told me that I should not waste their time since the stranger that I was drinking with was the one I had sold my child to and they just wanted his name. The second police officer told me that he was the one who went to my house and told my wife that I sent him to come with the child to Utopia, and that my wife saw the money which the stranger gave me in his bag as I answered her that our child was in the bag. That is why I am here sir.”

This time both our cheeks had a bath of tears and I had questions… why Albinos? They say the rituals for wealth accumulation needs the Albino’s bones, but they are just bones like mine. They have just blood like mine. They are also blood donors just like me. I could not continue asking him questions as he asked me to write this story for him since there was no evidence that he had nothing to do with the kidnapping of his child.

If you are aware of anyone who is an Albino at risk, please contact the Malawi Police Service or your local Police if in another country to inform them of this.

Author: D. Gondwe
Editing: A&A Mzumara
Photo Credit: Dietmar Temps (http://dietmartemps.com/)