CHRR, Cedep demand action from Malawi govt  not lip service as murders of elderly accused of witchcraft rise

The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) have condemned the recent killing of 67-year-old woman, Esinala Mbowe, of Karonga over allegations that she killed her son through witchcraft and has called on government to  take serious efforts to not only to protect  innocent souls of the elederly but to find a solution to the growing problem.

CHRR’s Kaiyatsa: The killings of older people on allegations of witchcraft are steadily rising

CHRR executive director Michael Kaiyatsa and his Cedep counterpart, Gift Trapence, in a statement issued on Tuesday, say the gruesome killing of Mbowe  from Mwahimba Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Kyungu in Karonga Districtis a stark reminder of government’s persistent failure to protect older people from killings based on witchcraft accusations.

Kaiyatsa and Trapence add that the killing of Esinala Mbowe is particularly agonizing and profoundly frustrating coming barely two months after another woman was brutally killed in Fumbwa Village in the area of T/A Tambala in Dedza over similarly baseless witchcraft accusations.

“We urge the Malawi Police Service to do everything in their power to arrest whoever is responsible for this heinous crime and bring them to justice without delay. We also urge authorities to take all necessary measures for enhancing the safety of older persons in the country.

“We note that every time such killings occur, authorities issue statements of condemnation, promising to take firmer action to protect older people from such violence. Yet the killings continue. We urge the authorities to move from rhetoric to action to secure the lives of older persons in the country,” said CHRR and Cedep.

The two organisations say it is high time Malawi made progress in protecting lives of older persons and not paying lip service.

“It is also quite disheartening that although individuals are arrested for such crimes, a majority of the cases do not proceed to trial due to failure in the administration of justice. For the few that make it to court, the charges and penalties often do not match the gravity of the crimes, creating a climate of impunity as well as deep fear among the elderly.

“As a human rights organisation, we have previously raised concerns with other human rights organisations about the lack of progress on crimes related to violence on the basis of witchcraft accusations, but apparently there is no change. We urge the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to improve coordination so that investigations can be concluded and the cases can be committed to the high court for trial expeditiously,” Kaiyatsa and Trapence emphasize.

CHRR and CEDEP have pledged to continue sensitizing communities to desist from violence based on witchcraft accusations.

With support from the Royal Norwegian Embassy, CHRR and CEDEP are currently working across 20 Traditional Authorities in 10 districts to address violence on the basis of witchcraft accusations through awareness raising, advocacy, capacity building and systematic human rights monitoring, documentation and reporting.

The belief in witchcraft is deeply rooted in many ethnic groups across Malawi  and whenever a misfortune strikes, including loss of a life, someone is blamed for it. This belief cuts across all classes of society, the rich and poor, the educated and the uneducated, and the young and the old.

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1 year ago
  1. If duty bearers do not act, then they also act as accomplices in such murder cases
  2. Or means they also hold the same witchcraft beliefs being part of the society
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