Bizarre ‘bloodsuckers’ scare puts Malawi in disarray ……as US embassy withdraws volunteers
Penelope Paliani-K amanga
A bizarre panic has gripped communities in four districts in southern Malawi as residents are scared that unknown people will suck their blood magically while they are sleeping in a move that has led to the masses killing six innocent people whom they suspected to have been the blood suckers.
The vampire paranoia has been so bad that it has forced the United States Embassy to temporarily withdraw American Peace Corps volunteers working in the four districts over reports about the presence of human bloodsuckers as well as mob justice in Phalombe and Mulanje districts.
More than 2 400 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Malawi since the programme was established in 1963, working in areas of education, environment and health.
A security alert issued by the embassy last week prohibited temporarily its staff from travelling to Mulanje due to ongoing acts of vigilante justice stemming from fevered rumours of vampires.
“The US Embassy has instructed its personnel to exercise extreme caution when travelling to Thyolo, Chiradzulu and Phalombe districts due to reports of high tensions and threats of vigilante justice in those districts stemming from the same rumours,” read the message from US Embassy in part.
For the past three weeks, there have been reports of “bloodsuckers” in the four districts, a development that is forcing some people to sleep outside their houses at night.
The myth about bloodsuckers in the district comes barely three days after six people, including a tourist and a renowned village headman, Landani Chipira, 48, were burned alive in Mulanje at Milonde in Mabuka on suspicion that they were bloodsuckers or were allegedly siding with blood suckers who came to the district.
The Malawi Police Service (MPS) national spokesperson James Kadadzera in an earlier statement described the bloodsucking rumours as a hoax.
The Malawi police has since appealed to communities in the tea growing district of Thyolo not to live in fear amid rumours of blood suckers currently circulating in Thyolo, Mulanje, Nsanje, Chiradzulu and Phalombe districts.
Their bizarre methodology is said to involve somehow disabling their target using an electrical charge or chemical substance, removing their blood via an unidentified instrument, and then vanishing in the form of a cat or dog.
Inspector General of the Malawi Police Services, Lexten Kachama has dismissed reports of some persons sucking people’s blood in Mulanje, saying the stories were mere speculations from deceitful people designed to instill fear in communities.
Kachama said people should stop believing in such rumours and return to their normal routine after noting that many people were sleeping outside their homes in fear of the alleged blood suckers.
“Currently nobody has died for being sucked of blood here in Mulanje. Some people have just created the story to breed fear among communities.
We would like to assure residents of Mulanje that they are protected and that police investigations are underway to find the root cause of such and get to the bottom of the matter,” he said.
He said the rumours were also affecting economic activity as agricultural workers stayed indoors.
“As police we are here giving you maximum security day and night so you must not live in fear, those are just mere rumours,” he said.
He bemoaned that some innocent people had been victimized and harassed for being suspected of being connected to those involved in the alleged blood sucking activities.
Commenting on the rumours, chief preventive health officer at the Thyolo district health office, George Chitimbe, also urged residents not to live under panic, saying blood transfusion requires professionalism.
“Blood transfusion needs professional equipment. I don’t know if these so-called blood suckers have such equipment; you should not panic,” he said.
Investigations also revealed that Thyolo police is keeping in custody two men who are connected with the same blood sucking rumours around group village head Kululira in Mulanje.