The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has welcomed and commended the decision by the Tonse government to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to facilitate a national healing process.
CHRR acting executive director, Michael Kaiyatsa, expresses optimism that the establishment of the Commission will help in addressing abuses of the past regimes.
In his State of Nation Address (SONA) delivered at the Malawi Parliament in Lilongwe on Friday, President Lazarus Chakwera hinted that this Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be established, through the Ministry of Civic Education and National Unity, to complete the task left unfinished by the defunct National Compensation Tribunal.
Chakwera’s pledge to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is also contained in the Malawi Congress Party Manifesto of 2019 and, therefore, the President is probably expressing a campaign pledge to right the wrongs of previous regimes.
In his reaction to Chakwera’s statement, Kaiyatsa said CHRR wholeheartedly welcomes the renewed commitment by the Tonse administration to address abuses of the past.
He said this is what the human rights watchdog has been advocating for since the previous National Compensation Tribunal was prematurely dissolved by the Bakili Muluzi administration in 2004.
However, Kaiyatsa emphasized the need for the new administration to its plans to address abuses of past regimes are in line with the eight objectives of Transitional Justice, which include investigating past human rights abuses, identifying those responsible, imposing sanctions on those responsible (where it can), providing reparations to victims and preventing future abuses.
“CHRR notes that Malawians who suffered violations during past regimes have been let down by previous governments’ failure to take responsibility and address human rights abuses they suffered during those regimes.
“However, CHRR is of the view that the President should have given a clear timeframe for the establishment of this Commission. Addressing abuses of past regimes should not take us forever as justice is urgently needed by the victims,” Kaiyatsa told Nyasa Times.
Kaiyatsa further stated that CHRR would also have wanted the President to clarify whether his administration would revive the defunct National Compensation Tribunal.
He said in their view, reviving the Tribunal would be the best approach to ensure that all those victims that were not compensated during the 10 years of the Tribunal’s existence are compensated.
“A 2017 report by the Ombudsman, titled ‘Malawi’s Unhealed Wounds’, showed that politicians had abused the National Compensation Tribunal by influencing prioritization and payments to politically-connected individuals at the expense of thousands of victims who remained unattended. Therefore, to ensure justice for those whose claims were not settled, the tribunal should be revived,” said Kaiyatsa.
He said they are further excited with the vow Chakwera made on making the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) fully independent and resourced to investigate and prosecute financial crimes in a drive to end corruption in public institutions.
However, CHRR has noted with deep concern that such promises have been made before by previous presidents without their fulfilment.
Kaiyatsa said CHRR would have appreciated it if the President had given a clear timeframe for this process and articulated clear steps that would be taken to achieve this goal.
“CHRR also welcomes plans to allocate more resources to the ACB and the Judiciary as one way of increasing their capacity to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. CHRR further welcomes plans to establish the Financial Crimes Division to fast track the disposal of corruption cases. This is what we have been calling for all these years.
“However, CHRR is deeply disappointed with the lack of any mention by the President of Asset Recovery. Prosecuting those suspected of corruption is a good step, but on its own, prosecution will not stop corruption. To succeed in ending corruption, prosecution must be accompanied by a robust asset recovery programme,” he narrated.
Kaiyatsa cites the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), which explicitly states asset recovery as a fundamental principle of the Convention (Article 51, UNCAC) and dedicates an entire chapter to asset recovery (Chapter V).
At this point, CHRR has urged the government to give serious attention to asset recovery as a means to ending corruption.
“The stolen monies or assets belong to Malawians. Once these stolen assets or money is recovered, it could be invested in the people through social programmess and infrastructure development. It could fund construction of schools, for example, giving children in underprivileged areas the opportunity of learning in decent classrooms. Asset recovery is also about sending a strong message that crime will not pay, and that there will be no impunity.
“Therefore, the Chakwera administration must give serious thought to Asset Recovery. The administration must allocate adequate resources to capacitate the Assets Forfeiture Unit to ensure it discharges its responsibilities professionally in undertaking this noble task,” said Kaiyatsa.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :