BY Mercy Ndirangu
Discrimination against people with albinism (PWAs) and numerous attacks brought together leaders from 15 countries with albinism and experts working for the realization of the rights of PWAs across Africa region on Sunday 13th 2016 in Maanzoni, Machakos County.
The Conference that lasted three days was a follow up forum on Action on Albinism in Africa that took place in Dar es Salaam Tanzania on June 2016, which was hosted by United Nations Independent Expert Ms Ikponwosa Ero in conjunction with open Society Initiatives of Southern and Eastern Africa. The purpose of the conference was to find more ways to raise awareness on albinism Worldwide.
Speaking at the conference, Ero indicated that attacks against persons with albinism for trafficking and sale of their parts continued to occur across the continent due to ignorance about the scientific basis of albinism. She indicated that witchcraft practices and insufficient government responses has continued to stress her day in day out.
“Civil Society and reliable sources report over 600 cases of attacks since 2007 across 26 countries in the region. These are reported cases only. Many attacks are unreported due to the secrecy of witchcraft practice, family involvement, and the likely involvement of the rich and powerful.” said Ero. The human rights issues faced by persons with albinism critical across the region and therefore should be treated with specific and effective action.” She added.
The forum built on the outcomes of the consultative Forum hosted by Tanzania to translate them into an action plan against attacks, with a clear time frame, which included simple and effective measures that can be executed at low cost in the region by all stakeholders.
“Kenya has made progress in addressing issues concerning PWAs for example, the Just concluded first Ever Mr and Miss Albinism was able to create awareness all over the world and the society was able to view PWAs in a different way.” said Honorable Isaac Mwaura the National Chairman, Albinism Society of Kenya. “The rights of PWAs must continue to be guarded.” He added.
The Measures that were developed were grouped under four thematic areas: Preventative measures, protection measures, accountability measures and anti-discrimination measures. Specific measures that were identified included the provision by government, of iron bars and proper locks on doors at the homes of persons with albinism particularly in rural areas as a preventative measure against attacks, and the provision of cement to families to cover the graves of their deceased members with albinism so that their remains are not stolen, as this was identified as a common problem.
The action plan that was developed will be further refined by the UN Expert over the coming years before becoming an effective road-map for action with specific, concrete and achievable short medium and long term measures to guide all affected countries.
“Now that we have a catalogue of concrete and effective measures which are not very expensive to execute, governments should no longer act ignorant of what to do on the issue. Moreover, given the size of this people group, cost cannot be an excuse. With this meeting and this plan, we have made their job easier and they too have been a part of this process. It is time to act. “She Concluded.
As Africa celebrates the decade of human rights and the UN launch of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the forum as stated by UN expert, the forum created context in which to develop, plant and receive support for a regional action plan on Albinism.