The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Youth and Society (YAS) have alleged that some political leaders are manipulating and mobilising young people to perpetrate violence against their opponents to further their selfish political objectives.
According to CHRR and YAS, the alleged politicians are taking advantage of the poverty and vulnerability of the youth to turn them into political thugs fronted to spearhead politically engineered crimes.
This is contained in a statement the two non-governmental organzations (NGOs) issued today.
CHRR acting director Michael Kaiyatsa and YAS executive director Charles Kajoloweka, who have signed the statement, have also challenged political leaders to break what they have described as ‘cycle of political violence’ and no-go zones’ if Malawi is to achieve real peace.
“We have seen disturbing videos circulating on social media in which some party zealots have declared some districts as their political no-go zones for their political rivals and threatened violence against them. This is unjustifiable, criminal and uncalled for. Creation of political barricades erodes democracy where all political parties should be free to campaign anywhere in Malawi without fear of being attacked.
“Our democracy is built on the foundation of pluralism where all citizens have the right to exercise fundamental human rights enshrined in the Constitution and international covenants, including freedom of association and participation in political parties without boundaries,” Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka emphasize.
They allege that before the attacks on Friday, rumours were rife that money was being distributed to young people in Chiradzulu, Mulanje and Phalombe to disrupt the Tonse Alliance tour.
In Liwonde, reads the statement in part, there were similar reports that young people were being given UTM regalia to disrupt the MCP-UTM rally. We condemn any form of violence in the strongest terms.
“Our democratic society must never condone violence as a means to achieve political ends,” allege Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka.
CHRR and YAS say they are also alarmed with the barbaric attacks by few confessed by operatives from the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its electoral partner, the United Democratic Front (UDF), against journalists covering whistle-stop rallies convened by the Tonse Alliance in Mulanje and Phalombe districts on Friday.
“We condemn this barbarism the same way we abhor retaliatory attacks on UDF/DPP Alliance presidential running mate, Atupele Muluzi on Saturday, 30 May 2020 in Mponela, Dowa. We remind Malawians that violence has no place in our democracy built on principles of pluralism, tolerance, periodic elections and respect of human rights,” they say.
Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka further state that they are deeply worried that no one has been arrested or brought to justice in the despicable series of politically-motivated attacks held in public since February when the Constitutional Court ordered a fresh presidential election.
“CHRR and YAS are deeply horrified that some high-ranking politicians in the governing party, who have consistently been implicated in organising political violence, have never been brought to book for these acts of impunity. We urge the police to act professionally and impartially regardless of the political standing of the perpetrators. Police independence is critical to breaking the cycle of political violence. Unless the perpetrators and their accomplices are promptly brought to justice, violence will become the currency for politics and electioneering in this country,” they say.
The duo cites the burning of a UTM vehicle in Balaka and its office in Lilongwe, the vandalisation of National Registration Bureau (NRB) equipment in Blantyre, the assault on MCP and UTM party monitors in Mulanje and Phalombe as well as the onslaught suffered by DPP’s Regional Governor and some party officials in Dowa during the discontinued voter registration exercise.
According to Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka, it smacks of hypocrisy and cover-up by President Peter Mutharika and state security agencies to merely condemn the violence without doing something to tame it.
CHRR and YAS say they are further disturbed by the declaration of political ‘no-go zones’ to deny political contenders the right to campaign freely in their strongholds.
“We call on the government and security agencies to promptly conduct an impartial investigation into the acts of intolerance creating no-go zones in a political setting where people of a different political creed are supposed to co-exist peacefully, move freely and campaign without fear of brutality. We also appeal to the youths to reject selfish politicians who use them to orchestrate political violence,” they write.
They have further reminded duty-bearers that there is no alternative to criminal prosecutions of those perpetrating the hateful violence, including high-profile politicians consistently linked with sponsoring criminal attacks against their political opponents.
They stress that criminal attacks such as the ones witnessed in Blantyre, Phalombe and Dowa pose a threat to democracy as the country prepares for the forthcoming election ordered by the courts.
“Malawians’ demands for credible, free and fair elections cannot be met under the prevailing circumstances. We appeal to all political parties to uphold their commitments to ensuring peaceful elections,” Kaiyatsa and Kajoloweka say.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :