A group that Nsanje police labeled an angry mob brutally attacked and burned seven men on Tuesday, allegedly because the men were using human bones for witchcraft. Police confirmed the murders and the body count on Wednesday, although officials could not yet positively identify all the deceased due to the nature of their injuries.
The Officer-in-Charge of Nsanje police, Kirby Kaunga, spoke to the media and gave the official details of the gruesome murder scene.
“[The mob] attacked the deceased before setting them on fire… after some villagers had claimed that they were carrying bones of a human being. [The seven men were] found in possession of human bones, and the mob took it upon themselves to burn them with petrol.”
— Jake Wilde (@Jake_Wilde) March 2, 2016
Chief Tengani, local traditional chief added that suspicions piqued because of some phone conversations that occurred within earshot of local villagers. Further inquisition and investigation by the villagers uncovered a bag full of human bones on one of the seven men.
“He was chased and arrested,” chief Tengani said.
“The man is said to have confirmed that his bag contained human bones and that’s when the mob began rounding up the seven and burned them, one by one.”
Officials began investigating the remains to decide whether these human bones belong to one of the victims of recent albino crimes. Albinos, because of the rare genetic disorder that strips their hair and skin of all natural pigmentation, supposedly have magical qualities according to lore in certain African countries, and their bones are in high demand on this underground economy. People who trade for these albino human bones use them for witchcraft and magic rituals.
Nearly ten albino human beings fell victim in a surge of attacks that began over a year ago. In September 2015, a teacher was accused of attempting to sell a young albino girl and was later arrested. There are many other people still awaiting trial for crimes which include abduction and murder of albino people and unlawful possession of human bones.
Malawi mob burns seven to death over suspected witchcraft https://t.co/nYOy3NC4q5 And they put up a picture of Zimbo cops!! WTF
— marko phiri (@phirimarko) March 2, 2016
“[Experts will] conduct [postmortem testing] on the on the bones in the bag to establish whether they are albino humans or not,” said James Kadazera, police spokesman.
Malawi officials outlawed any trade involving human bones and body parts. The act of trafficking itself is punishable under the Anatomy Act, which officials established, along with other government efforts to abolish the attacks on albino people. The government has also held events to raise awareness about the issue to protect albinos. It seems that none of their efforts have ceased the influx in the trading of human bones, or done much to deter the murder and dismemberment of albino human beings.
However, one thing that officials do not encourage is the type of punishment delivered by this “angry mob.” While the government feels passionately about stopping the injustices against albino people, police do not wish for people to issue their own forms of ‘mob justice.’
“We also want find out who actually torched these people,” Kadazera said.
“Police [condemn] mob justice where members of the public [take] the law into their own hands.”
Although police have shreds of evidence from the villages surrounding the scene where the bodies of the seven men were found, they have no official leads on the mob that attacked them.
“We have not yet made any arrest. We are currently investigating the matter,” Kaunga said.
They have no suspects so far, but according to Kaunga, they are conducting their investigations to find members of this mob in the area.
[Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images]