• Lupita Nyong'o and Isaac Mwaura met while she was making her 2009 documentary In My Genes about albinism. (In My Genes)Source: In My Genes
Their friendship goes back long before he was an MP and she became a Hollywood star.
Alyssa Braithwaite

14 Dec 2016 - 11:12 AM  UPDATED 14 Dec 2016 - 11:12 AM

As Kenya's first and only albino MP, Isaac Mwaura has his work cut out for him. 

The genetic condition, which results in a lack of pigmentation in the skin, hair and eyes, is still strongly associated with witchcraft in some African cultures.

There have also been numerous attacks on albinos living in Kenya and other countries including Tanzania, Malawi, Burundi, Kenya and Mozambique. In some places throughout these countries, the limbs of a person with albinism are used in rituals as they are thought to have magical powers that bring wealth and good luck. They fetch a high price when sold to witch doctors, and many still hold the belief that the bones of a person with albinism are made of gold.

Mwaura's parliamentary nomination by Kenya's ODM party in 2013, when he was just 31 years old, therefore aimed to increase the political representation of marginalised communities and advocacy about issues related to albinism.

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Ritual killings of people with albinism "remain a challenge" across the region," Mwaura tells The Independent from his home. 

"In this house we have two little children, Gabriel and Bianca, who would have been killed for ritual purposes if we had not taken them in. 

"The threat is there. Bianca's mother disappeared, we don't know where she went, and it was the father who was actually the one who wanted to sacrifice her." 

It is estimated that one in every 5,000 to 15,000 people are born with albinism in Africa.

"In this house we have two little children, Gabriel and Bianca, who would have been killed for ritual purposes if we had not taken them in." 

In 2006, Mwaura helped to set up the Albinism Society of Kenya and earlier this year they held the world's first albino beauty contest, to promote greater acceptance and understanding of the condition. 

It was through the society that Mwaura met a then-unknown actress by the name of Lupita Nyong'o, when her mother became a supporter of the society.

Nyong'o herself produced and directed a film about living with albinism in 2009 called In My Genes, which Mwaura appeared in.  

In turn, Mwaura helped Nyong'o by introducing him to her father, former minister Peter Anyang Nyong'o. 

"This was a guy I used to look up to, even before I knew I could meet him," he told the Independent. 

"So I met him through the daughter, and that's how I was able to join a political party."

In 2013, Mwaura was made an MP, and 12 Years A Slave made Nyong'o an international star.

"We had been very good friends, and we both achieved our dreams together," he said.

"I remember one day I was looking at the newspapers: she was on the front page and I was on the back page. I can say we walked this journey together."

Mwaura is working hard to change perceptions of people with albinism, but confronts prejudice on a regular basis. 

"You find people don't want to shake your hand - they think albinism is contagious," he said.

There is still a long way to go, but he feels some progress has been made in Kenya, compared to places like Uganda, Malawi or Tanzania.

"I feel it when I travel to those countries and I see how they treat people with albinism, even on a cultural level. I can tell that we have made some progress."

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