Malawi now has its first lawmaker with albinism. Overstone Kondowe was sworn into parliament on Thursday, in one of the countries where people with albinism usually face discrimination and prosecution due to the way they look. Kondowe, an adviser to the president on disability issues, won a by-election last month in central Malawi.
The albino activist will represent the governing Malawi Congress Party, BBC reported. “Being the first person with albinism elected in this kind of office, there is a high expectation, not only in Malawi, but the whole world is looking forward to what I would do,” he told AFP.
“My last word to persons with disability, and in particular persons with albinism, they need not underrate themselves.”
“And they need to work hard towards their goal. I remain a model to them and I will inspire them more so that they aim higher,” he said.
Just like many other African countries, albinos in Malawi continue to be subjected to numerous forms of discrimination and abuse. The genetic disorder prevents skin cells from producing melanin, resulting in abnormal pigmentation of the skin, eyes, and hair.
People with this condition also have vision problems and are at risk of getting skin cancer. But the sun is not their only worry, as many with this condition are often attacked and even murdered by their relatives or strangers. Human rights groups have continuously warned of the rising number of attacks on people with albinism by human traffickers who allegedly sell albino body parts to witch doctors and traditional healers.
Witch doctors reportedly use albino body parts for their magical charms and potions that some people believe can bring luck and prosperity.
In Malawi, there are up to 10,000 people with albinism. Since 2014, there have been more than 160 recorded attacks including over 20 murders, according to Amnesty International.
Last January, Face2Face Africa reported that the cultural problem of hunted albinos in Malawi got a new level of attention from the government with the provision of personal mobile security alarms to the persecuted. The mobile device is activated when its wearer pulls a safety pin in the face of imminent danger. The sound from the alarm can be heard a hundred meters from where it is made.
The government said it hopes the new initiative can drastically confront the spate of the killings of albinos.