Activists give Christmas donation to prison inmates

Human rights lawyer Habiba Osman and activist Ben Chiza Mkandawire on Thursday gave women inmates at Maula prison in Lilongwe Christmas gifts by donating food stuffs, toiletries and baby food for a new born whose mother is on remand and the prison.

During the year, Osman and Mkandawire had been remanded at Maula Prison when they were arrested after taking part in a small demonstration urging President Bingu wa Mutharika to hold a referendum calling for an early election.

The two encouraged the prison wardens to carry on with the good work in making sure women prisoners have the “best care as they go through a rehabilitation process to becoming good and resourceful citizens of Malawi.”

Activists Osman, Chiza Mkandawire and prison warden after their donation

“Our prisons face serious challenges that threaten the welfare of prisoners and vulnerable children that are born within the prisons,” said lawyer Osman.

Chiza Mkandawire said he was appalled at prison conditions after he spent days in detention.

During remand at Maula Prison he had seen at first hand conditions of overcrowding, poor sanitation, and other factors making inmates vulnerable to contagious diseases like TB, diarrhoea and scabies.

“Prisons are supposed to reform and rehabilitate people, the Malawi government is torturing prisoners through dehumanising conditions,” he said.

Mkandawire said many inmates were on remand for petty offences, waiting for their cases to be heard for months, others for years, saying the delays are inordinate.

He condemned the excessive and extended pre-trial detention, saying it violates a number of rights, key among which are the right to liberty, dignity, a fair and speedy trial, and to be free from torture and other ill treatment.

Mkandawire is a politics student at University of Huddersfield in UK. He is also one of the leaders of Malawi Diaspora Forum in UK and was part of a group carrying a banner calling president Bingu wa Mutharika a dictator when he was arrested.

He together with other protesters also demanded the resignation of police inspector general Peter Mukhito and called for an investigation into his alleged involvement in the death of student activist Robert Chasowa last month.

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