On Thursday, an albino campaigner was sworn in as a member of Malawi’s parliament, a first in a country where people with albinism have faced persecution and murder.
Overstone Kondowe won a by-election in central Malawi this month, marking a watershed moment after years of persecution.
“Being the first person with albinism elected to this kind of post, there is a lot of anticipation, not just in Malawi, but around the world,” he told AFP shortly after being sworn in.
“My final message to anyone with disabilities, particularly people with albinism, is that they should not underestimate themselves,” he stated.
“They must also put in a lot of effort to achieve their aim. I will continue to be a role model for them and will continue to motivate them to strive for greater heights “Added he.
Since late 2014, Malawi has experienced a wave of attacks against albinos.
In 2016, at the height of the attacks, Kondowe created the Malawi Association of People with Albinism to pressure the government into action.
Since 2014, more than 20 albinos have been killed in Malawi, according to Amnesty International.
Amnesty International reported seven crimes against albinos in the last four months, including murders, grave tampering, attempted abductions, and physical violence.
Albinos’ body parts are used in rituals to bring money and luck, just as they are in other countries in the region.
Some albinos have also been accused of being “vampires” that seek human blood for rituals, which has resulted in vigilante violence.
Kondowe has been appointed as President Lazarus Chakwera’s special adviser for individuals with disabilities. Kondowe is also the current president of the African Union for Albino People.
“Overstone’s election is a huge step forward in the preservation of albino people’s human rights in Malawi and the rest of Africa,” she said.
“It demonstrates that discrimination against people with albinism in Malawi is changing for the better.”