Activist Mhango pens France for EU aid to Malawi

Human rights activist, Ken Williams Mhango has written Paris to plead with the French Government to try and liaise with its European Union (EU) partners to review their “aid sanctions” on the Government of Malawi.

Several donors including US, Britain, German and other countries have suspended their aid to Malawi in quest to force President Bingu wa Mutharika’s government review what has been described as draconian laws.

“A number of prohibitive laws are holding at ransom the Malawi nation as a whole…donor partners withholding their aid [is] negatively affecting the country’s economy in different sectors, and subsequent suffering of ordinary Malawians,” says Mhango in the letter.

Mhango at the award presentation ceremony in France

The four-page letter, made available to Nyasa Times has been addressed to Michel Forst, secretary general for the French National Consultative Commission of Human Rights.

“I hereby plead with the French Government as a major EU partner to try and liaise with its partners to review their stand on the Government of Malawi, to ensure that the suffering ordinary Malawians are currently subjected to is fairly mitigated,” he writes.

Mhango is the country director for African Network for the Prevention and Protection of Children and Neglected (ANPPCAN) Malawi Chapter.

The letter comes after France, on December 10, honored the Malawian activist as one of the best human rights defenders in the world, among other equally active human rights defenders from Paraguay, Bangladesh, France and South Africa.

The accolade is the highest French award of human rights defenders given by the French government under the National Human Rights Commission of France in recognition of work done by human rights activists.

“By the honor vested in me as a Human Rights Defenders 2011 Laureate given by the Honorable Monsieur Alain Juppe, French Foreign Minister, in recognition of my fight for human rights, it is my humble wish to ensure that the human rights of ordinary Malawians are not subdued,” reads part of the letter obtained by Nyasa Times.

He further writes: “My vision is to make sure that I make a very good use of the status that I have gained in nurturing and protecting the human rights of all the people in my country as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other countries through the collaboration of other players in the sector.”

He says ANPPCAN believes that the trouble with most accounts of democracy is that they want to insist that it has a simple definition and a few virtues, saying democracy, which emerged in the modern world, in response to ancient monarchies and empires has many elements and many inter-connected virtues, which are mirror images of the vices of the ancient regimes.

“In Democracies, unlike empires, government reflects the character of its citizens. It is local rather than remote, and it treats every subject as an equal person, thus bringing us to the notion that it’s unacceptable to subject any person to any form of discrimination, among others.”

In an interview with Nyasa Times, Mhango observed that under the DPP-led government, demonstrations in Malawi have been suppressed, civil society organisations intimidated and “bad laws” such as Section 46 of the Penal Code have been passed.

He said: “To win back the confidence of donors, Malawi Government has to repeal all the bad laws. These laws are not for Malawians who voted for change in 1994. Malawians cannot afford to lose that freedom to strangers, who were never there when we were fighting for change.”

A former MCTU president, Mhango also expressed concern over deteriorating welfare of the majority of Malawians, who he said are getting poorer everyday in this time of fuel crisis which has resulted in the rise of prices of basic needs to the extent that the vulnerable cannot afford.

It is sad to hear parliamentarians debating on raising their salaries while the majority is getting peanuts. 13 million Malawians are suffering out there while a few individuals are busy enriching themselves.”

Pointing out that Malawi has well-versed people that can transform the country and bring back the lost glory, Mhango said “we need leaders that love the country and have the welfare of Malawians at heart. The people who can turn the economy with the resources we have across the nation have been left out.”

Meanwhile, as he continues fighting for advancement of human rights in the country, Mhango has disclosed that his organization will soon embark on a project that intends to uphold the rights of the minority in Malawi, among them gays, lesbians and commercial sex workers.

He made a revelation that investigations have revealed that men have started using acid to punish women, especially commercial sex workers.

“Two women in Mangochi, and one in Lunzu have died after acid was rubbed in their private parts as punishment for having several sexual partners. This has to come to an end immediately, thus we want to alert Malawians on this barbaric behavior,” he said.

Mhango (4th from right) and other awardees with French officials

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