BLANTYRE, Malawi (LifeSiteNews) – A Catholic priest is among 12 suspects found guilty over the murder of a 22-year-old man with albinism in Malawi.
Malawi24 reported that Fr. Thomas Muhosha was among seven suspects who were found guilty for the March 2018 abduction and murder of a 22-year-old man, MacDonald Masambuka, with albinism.
On April 28, 2022, in Malawi’s Blantyre High Court, Judge Dorothy Nyakaunda Kamanga declared that the 12 suspects intended to kill Masambuka before extracting his bones, with the aim of selling them for profit.
The sale of body parts from people with albinism is a lucrative part of the black market, as such body parts are believed to bring good luck. The body parts are also used in rituals pertaining to witchcraft and black magic.
Judge Kamaga noted that Masambuka “is the latest victim of violent attacks on persons with albinism who have not been protected by the community.”
“This is a violation of the right to human life and the greatest violation of the rights to life and integrity for persons with albinism,” she said.
Fr. Muhosha was one of seven suspects found to be guilty of selling Masambuka’s body parts, while the other five suspects were found guilty of actually committing the murder, including Masambuka’s brother – Cassim White Masambuka.
Masambuka was last seen on March 9, 2018, when he went to meet his brother who had reportedly found a girl for Masambuka to marry. According to court documents, upon arrival at the scene, Masambuka was seized by his friends, murdered, his body burned with petrol, and then buried.
His corpse was later found April 2, 2018.
Fr. Muhosha, of the Catholic diocese of Zomba, was suspended by Bishop George Desmond Tambala on April 17, 2018, after the diocese learned of the “allegations” made against Muhosha regarding Masambuka’s murder.
Bishop Desmond wrote of the diocese’s “profound shock and shame” over the accusations against Muhosha, saying that the diocese “has always strongly condemned the killing of our brothers and sisters with albinism.”
Muhosha was formally suspended from the priesthood while the diocese awaited the outcome of the civil trial, but with the promise of a canonical trial following completion of the civil trial. “Upon the conclusion of the matter by a competent court of law, due Church processes will follow according to the prescriptions of Canon Law,” wrote Bishop Desmond in 2018.
The 12 guilty suspects will now be sentenced on May 31.
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However, Ian Simbota of the Association of Persons with Albinism, pre-empted the sentence and called for a harsher sentence for Muhosha: “When the judge was reading, what concerned me was that part of a [Priest] Father Muhosha [and others] who have been convicted of transacting body parts.”
“If you go to the Anatomy Act, it is not so hard on such offenses,” he said. “So, we are really looking forward to the judge, if at all it’s possible, to put a human face to the case so that at least we really need to see serious sentencing on this case.”
Speaking to Crux, secretary general of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, Father Henry Saindi, said that “Malawi has the worst case of killings, attacks, and abductions of persons with albinism in Africa.” There have been over 200 officially reported cases in Malawi since 2013, added Fr. Saindi.
A now archived 2009 report from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reported senior police officers in Tanzania suggesting that “a complete set of albino body parts – including all four limbs, genitals, ears, tongue and nose – was fetching the equivalent of 75,000 US dollars.”
The news of Muhosha’s involvement in Masambuka’s murder comes only days after another Catholic priest was jailed for his role in “plotting” to kill a bishop-elect in South Sudan. Fr. John Mathiang was sentenced to seven years in jail for his role in the attempted assassination of the bishop-elect of Rumbek diocese in South Sudan.
He had previously run the diocese in the absence of a bishop for over seven years.