Blantyre – Malawi has ordered police to shoot “dangerous criminals” who attack albinos in order to sell their body parts for witchcraft.
“Shoot every criminal who is violent when caught red-handed abducting people with albinism,” the country’s police chief Lexen Kachama told officers at the weekend, according to local media.
Six albinos have been killed in the poor southern African nation since December, according to the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi.
Kachama told officers in Machinga district in the south of the country, where most of the attacks have happened, that we cannot just watch while our friends with albinism are being killed like animals every day.”
He said he does not want to “hear of a police officer chasing dangerous criminals, especially those abducting albinos, carrying teargas or any other soft weapon.
“That is why I am ordering the police to use weapons in proportion to the gravity of the offence. We need to be secure from criminals,” he added.
Kachama, appointed last month by President Peter Mutharika, ordered his ill-equipped force of 12 000 not to be afraid to use “live ammunition” after criminals shot a police officer in the commercial capital Blantyre last week.
“We will not put down or hold back our weapons until Malawians are living and doing their business freely,” he said.
He said police were empowered by law “to use any weapon when discharging our duties”.
Albinos have been the victim of a surge of attacks across Africa in recent months, with the UN warning that the situation was particularly acute in Tanzania, Burundi and Malawi.
It said the spike in violence against them in Tanzania may be linked to general and presidential elections in October 2015, as political campaigners attempt to win over influential sorcerers.
The UN Human Rights Council last month decided to appoint an expert to investigate abuses suffered by albinos across east Africa.