Alphonse Mwimba Makiese, DR Congo’s wrestling champion who campaigned for fellow albinos facing stigma, was lauded Monday for his work fighting discrimination following his death at 54.
Makiese, whose sporting nom de bataille was ‘Texas’, died Sunday in Kinshasa after a year-long illness, close associate Lucien Dianzenza said.
Always clad in his trademark red garb, Texas was one of Kinshasa’s most popular wrestlers.
But beyond the sport earned wider respect for his efforts campaigning for the rights of albinos, whose ultra light complexions result from a shortage of melanin affecting hair, eyes and skin.
The congenital condition often brings with it social stigma and marginalisation as well as poor vision, making them vulnerable in many African countries.
In some nations, young albinos have been victims of ritual sacrifice. The prevalence of albinos up to four times higher in Africa than in other parts of the world.
Makiese, a father of two non-albino boys, set up the Mwimba Texas Foundation to protect the interests albinos and other vulnerable groups.
“He was an exceptional man whose motivation was to care for others. He gave everything for the albinos’ cause,” said Dianzenza.
Albinos need constantly to seek protection from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays and Makiese would often be seen handing out protection cream, sunglasses and headgear.
The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office paid tribute to a man it dubbed “a defender of human rights engaged in the promotion of and the defence of the rights of all.
“The Mwimba Texas Foundation made an incalculable contribution to raising awareness of albinism in DR Congo,” the UN office said in offering its condolences to his family and associates.