Albinos demand respect and dignity: Femi Akomolafe interviewed John David Tuu Yawanah, president of the Society of Albinos-Ghana, about the organisation's work and the challenges albinos face. Here are excerpts.

Position::AFRICA - Interview

Q: what motivated you to set up the society?

A: I was a lecturer in the political science department of the University of Ghana, Legon, before I decided to take up the cause of the people with albinism. Our daily lives are suffocated with unbridled prejudices and discriminations even from people who should know better. Imagine that I, at the very summit of academia, am daily subjected to very revolting indignities. What then about the ordinary albino who is a virtual nobody?


Q. Last year, your society called a press conference to protest against the Bukuruwa issue where the chief called for the ostracisation of albinos, what was the reaction?

A: Sorry to say, not much was achieved. We got a few mentions in the papers -buried deep in the hard-to-locate crannies. The radio stations also covered it for a minute or so and it was all forgotten. Sadly, we did not get a reaction from the government or any of the state institutions. We are talking about fundamental human rights here! We are supposedly a republic of law and order, how on earth can any person, no matter how highly placed, call for the killing of another human being, and those in authority not react at all? We petitioned as high as the presidency with absolutely no one minding us.

Q: Your society operates under the umbrella of the Ghana Federation of the Disabled, why is that so?

A: Funnily, people do not think of albinos as physically challenged. But the truth is that we suffer from a host of ailments of which seven different forms of cancer are prime examples. We also have serious problems with our eyesight. Think of it this way, we are the only disabled people who cannot organise a protest march. We simply cannot walk in the harsh African sun lest we suffer severe burns.

Q. Do you get any help from the government or any organisation?

A: Unfortunately not. The society is funded by my personal resources and the resources of a few of our members. The government refuses to see our condition as demanding special treatment. I was recently in Malawi and there they have special albino units in some of their hospitals manned by people with albinism. This is in contrast to Ghana where we have had cases where doctors and nurses have actually refused to treat albinos. Being an NGO, we are supposed to be tax-exempted, but as I am talking to you now, I have a consignment of creams donated to our society by a benevolent outsider, rotting at the Tema port. The reason is that...

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