Malawi rights campaigner and prominent leaders of Civil Society organisations (CSOs) leaders, who have been critical of government and issued a communiqué calling on President Peter Mutharika to address economic challenges or resign, have been receiving serious threats to their lives including warning of their impending death.
The threats are said to be forcing some activist to fall silent at great risk to themselves and their loved ones.
Outspoken executive director of Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence of Centre for Development of People (Cedep) said they have received threats to their lives through anonymous phone calls.
They accuse the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) operatives of being behind the death threats, saying the party is now unleashing terror similar to what they face during late Bingu wa Mutharika’s regime.
Mtambo and Trapence said they have reported the matter to the United Nations (UN) seeking international protection.
Mtambo said among those that are threatening him is Nelson Chijere Mwase whom he described as an operative of the DPP.
Mwase, who in 2011 was arrested for threatening Mtambo’s predecessor at CHRR Undule Mwakasungula, is leading what is known as a National Youth Forum.
But Mwase denied issuing threats or aiming at harming the activists, saying he is only challenging the CHRR leader, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) spokesperson Jessie Kabwila, former Bingu wa Mutharika’s legal adviser Allan Ntata to a public debate on Malawi situation.
Mtambo said he cannot debate with Chijere Mwase because of his criminal and said he believes the intimidation and threats against activists were a consequence of their legitimate work on the human rights defence and the governance situation in Malawi.
In a letter which Nyasa Times is in possession signed by Nelson Chijere Chirwa Mwase which is reportedly to have been dropped by unspecified person at CHRR offices gates in Area 47, Lilongwe.
“In recognition to the recent topical issues which has been tackled by a number of individuals and organization in Malawi, I Nelson Chijere Mwase wishes to challenge the following to public debate that will enable populace appreciate reality behind the same: Ms J. Kabwira (Malawi Congress Party Spokesperson); Mr. Allan Ntata (former Presidential Advisor on Legal Affairs), and the Director (Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation),” reads part of the letter.
Ironically, in a news story carried out by The Nation newspaper prior to July 20, 2011 demonstrations titled “Bingu sympathiser arrested for threatening Undule”, Nelson Chijere Mwase was once arrested for allegedly warning the-then Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) chairperson and CHRR executive director UnduleMwakasungula with unspecified action if he did not apologise to President Bingu wa Mutharika and First Lady Callista Mutharika for his remarks on her salary.
“It is true that Mr Mwakasangula lodged a complaint following a letter written by Mr ChijereMwase. We arrested and released him on police bail after he was cautioned. He was charged with intimidation under Section 88 of the Penal Code and today [Wednesday], he appeared before the court but I am not aware of what transpired,” the then Central Region Police spokesperson John Namangale was quoted in the paper.
DPP spokesperson Francis Kasaila has since dismissed the activists for their claims of receiving death threats and decision to report to UN, saying that are “seeking attenting.”
The DPP government also accuses some CSOs of exceeding “their terms of reference” and are into political activism.
Mtambo and Trapence dismiss such accusation, saying the government should ensure the safety and protection of all human rights defenders in Malawi, investigate the threats being made against them and bring those found responsible to justice.
Meanwhile, veteran activist Mwakasungura see the solution in dialogue between CSOs and government.
Government said it is open to hold talks with CSOs.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :