The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Youth and Society (YAS) have set a number of demands that candidates for the fresh presidential election must commit to undertake whether in government or in opposition after the poll.
CHRR and YAS are, among others, demanding that the candidates should guarantee protection and safety for all persons with albinism who are living at the mercy of gruesome murderers.
CHRR is a non-partisan, non-profit, nongovernmental organization dedicated to defending and promoting human rights and good governance in Malawi while, on the other hand, YAS is a nonprofit human rights and governance watchdog whose mission is to promote and defend human rights and democratic governance in Malawi in the principal interest of young people and marginalised groups.
In their letter titled: joint Human Rights Agenda for Presidential Candidates, the two organizations are demanding assurance that all the pending cases of murder and violence against persons with albinism will be expeditiously concluded.
Since November 2014, the country has witnessed an unprecedented wave of killings and other human rights abuses against persons with albinism, including abductions, maiming and exhumation of remains of persons with albinism.
So far, over 153 attacks on people with albinism have been reported, including 25 killings. Although some individuals have been arrested, charged and convicted, the majority of crimes remain unsolved due to failures in the justice system.
“We call upon you, as presidential candidate, to bring all suspected perpetrators of crimes against persons with albinism to justice, expedite the implementation of the National Action Plan on Persons with Albinism and provide adequate resources for its implementation, release and make public the Commission of Inquiry report on killings of persons with Albinism instituted in 2019 by President Prof. Peter Mutharika and ensure accountability of funds allocated towards social security programs of persons with albinism,” the letter reads in part.
The letter has been signed by the CHRR acting executive director, Michael Kaiyatsa, and YAS executive director, Charles Kajoloweka.
Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka stress that the fresh presidential election ordered by the Constitutional Court, and upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeal, holds the potential to usher in changes in the way government addresses human rights and governance issues in the country.
“We, therefore, urge you as a presidential candidate and your running mate to seize the moment and publicly commit to concrete changes to promote human rights and good governance in Malawi and to end the prevailing culture of impunity for human rights violations,” they state.
On unlawful or politically-motivated killings, Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka observe the rising rate of arbitrary or unlawful killings.
The due raise concerns over the unexplained death of murder suspect Buleya Lule on 21 February 2019 while in police custody in Lilongwe.
Lule died a few hours after appearing in court as one of six suspects in the abduction of Goodson Makanjira, a 14-year-old boy with albinism.
An inquiry into Lule’s death carried out by the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) found the deceased was tortured, and his immediate cause of death was from torture using electricity.
Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka also bring to the attention of the presidential candidates the death of Justin Phiri on 24 September 2019, also whilst in police custody in Mzuzu.
Phiri was among approximately 20 individuals arrested and charged with inciting violence during a September 19, 2019, public demonstration at Karonga Town.
He was also among several individuals beaten with sticks by soldiers for allegedly wounding two soldiers during the demonstration. Police investigations into Phiri’s death remain inconclusive.
“On 8 October 2019, a mob killed a police officer Usuman Imedi in the course of doing his duties in Nsundwe. Arrests were swiftly made and suspects were charged. However, they are yet to stand trial. On the night of 2nd of July, 2015, Issa Njaunju was found brutally murdered. It is alleged that his murder was linked to his job at the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). Although government opened an investigation into the matter, no tangible results have come to light to date,” chronicles the letter.
The two human rights activists also dig up the death of Robert Chasowa, a student and political activist, who was found dead on the campus of Malawi University Polytechnic on 24 September 2011.
The Malawi Government commenced investigations and initiated arrests for the suspects. In addition, a Commission of Inquiry was instituted to investigate the murder.
But as Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka state in their letter, it is disappointing that up to date justice has not been delivered and there is no political will to conclude this case.
They also tackle the petro-bombing of Tambala family in area 24 in Lilongwe on Monday, 4 May 2020.
The attack on the UTM office, which played home to Tambala family, claimed three lives— (mother, father and one kid) – and left four family members with horrible burns.
“Disturbingly, there has been no condemnation from authorities or indication to investigate the heinous attack and bring the perpetrators to justice. In view of the above cases, we urge you, as presidential candidate, to commit to: expeditiously act on the findings and recommendations of the MHRC’s report on Lule, institute and expedite investigations into the deaths of Njaunju, Phiri and Imedi, and bring perpetrators to justice, expeditiously investigate the Tambala inferno attack and bring perpetrators to justice; and provide social security and rehabilitation support to the 4 survivors of the Tambala family who are minors and now orphaned, expeditiously act on the Chasowa Commission of Inquiry Report and bring perpetrators to justice and take immediate measures to reach out to and compensate their families,” they demand.
Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka are also demanding the commitment of the presidential candidates to investigate and conclude rape and degrading treatment of women and minors in Msundwe, M’bwatalika, and Mpingu in Lilongwe, attacks based on witchcraft accusations and bloodsucking allegations, threats and attacks on human rights defenders and journalist, threats to freedom of expression, continued underfunding of State human rights oversight bodies, deplorable condition of prisons, discrimination and harassment of minority groups (sex workers, LGBTI).
“These are key challenges that presidential candidates should be prepared to speak publicly about during the campaign, and seriously address as a priority after the election, whether in government or in parliamentary opposition.”
The organisations say the upcoming elections are an important opportunity for candidates from all political parties to proactively address the human rights situation in Malawi and publicly set out their policies in how they will restore rights-respecting governance in the country.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :