The Malawi Police Service has recruited two albino police officers, the first people with the rare genetic pigment disorder to join the Malawi state security organization.
Human rights groups say the settings should support efforts to stop attacks on albinos and restore confidence in the police after some officers were linked to these attacks.
Officers Hamid Vasco and Brenda Mhlanga graduated on Friday after six months of training and joined the police force on Monday along with other new recruits.
Vasco, who is 25, said he chose to join the police force to help stop attacks on people with albinism in Malawi.
Statistics show that since 2014, more than 170 albinos have been attacked or killed in Malawi for mistakenly believing that mixing certain ingredients with their body parts brings good luck and fortune.
“This provided me the chance to seek for a police position so that I could work with my colleagues on cases and crimes involving the murder and kidnapping of people with albinism,” said Vasco.
In June, the Blantyre High Court sentenced police officer Chikondi Chileka and four others to 30 years in prison with hard labor after finding them guilty of trafficking in human tissue. The body parts came from MacDonald Masambuka, a man with albinism who was murdered in 2018.
Vasco and Mhlanga are also the first people with the rare genetic pigment disorder to work at Malawi’s state security organization.
The Association of People with Albinism in Malawi, often called “APAM,” is led by Young Mahamba.
After his association and other activists pushed for the hiring of albinos by the police, he claimed that the police hiring policy had changed.
Albinism is not a barrier and APAM as an organization and all other stakeholders have worked to make sure that people are aware of this.
So we have seen a positive evolution. For example, we saw a person with albinism [for the first time] as a parliamentarian. It shows that attitudes are changing and we will adapt to that,” Mhlanga said.
However, a representative of the Malawi Police Service, Peter Kalaya, said there was no change in policy. He said the problem is that people with albinism do not apply for police jobs.
“Since we have qualifications that everybody who wishes to join the police service must meet, there has been no explicit policy change. And these two were able to fulfill those requirements and even flourish academically and physically,” Kalaya said.