Civil society organisations (CSO) have declared that they will not be intimidated by government through Solicitor General Janet Banda that they reported human rights abuses to the United Nations (UN) to please donors.
A letter from the UN rapporteur on human rights angered Solicitor General after it contained information that police and government officials harassed CSO leaders in the run up to the January 15 2015 demonstrations which took place across the country.
Banda accused the CSOs who submitted reports, saying they ambushed government with issues which were not raised at country level with her government.
In both the media interview and during her opening speech at the working session of Malawi’s taskforce on Convention against torture (CAT) at Lilongwe hotel on 15th April 2015, the Solicitor General took a swipe to label the CSOs who “frequent” Geneva as unpatriotic who are only hell-bent at portraying a bad picture of government while neglecting the remarkable progress made by government in human rights realm.
The Secretary to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs further alleged that the CSOs were just trying to sustain their own donor funding.
Reacting to the accusations, two of the CSOs who have consistently reported human rights violations to rights bodies—Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for Development of People (Cedep)— told Nyasa Times that they not surprised with the “unpatriotic” accusations considering the fact that some other prominent government politicians including the Minister of Gender Patricia Kaliati, Minister of Information Kondwani Nankhumwa and Minister of Health Jean Kalilani have of the recent past made similar rants especially following the joint anti-‘NACGATE’ [abuses at National Aids Commission] advocacy with the climax of it being the 13th January 2015 demonstrations against bad governance and political abuse and interference.
“Coming from another highly ranked government official is no surprise but rather confirms the existing collective philosophy in the current [Peter Mutharika’s] regime that any actor/stakeholder who decides to expose the current regime gaffes, especially on the international scene, is unpatriotic. Patriotism, according to [Mutharika] regime’s dictionary is merely singing praise of the current regime in the midst of shortfalls requiring urgent national and international response to remedy the same,” reads the statement signed by CHRR executive director Timothy Mambo and Cedep executive director Gift Trapence.
The two groups argued that the government, by virtue of being party to the various UN mechanisms and treaty bodies like Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCCPR), but also African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) gives CSOs their mandate to present their reports.
“However, what is surprising to us on the other hand is to hear such ill-advised comments being echoed by a respected professional but also well conversant with the international reporting mechanisms including Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and other UN mechanisms.
“This is retrogressive in as far as the government’s committed efforts towards protection and promotion of human rights for all in line with the international human rights instruments to which it is party to are concerned,” the two groups said.
Mtambo and Trapence have vowed that they will “never be part of the docile citizenry that tacitly supports mediocrity in the name of patriotism.”
Reads the statement: “ As human rights defenders, we will never sacrifice the social accountability movement, both locally and internationally, at the altar of a professed patriotism. We will never be part of those hand clappers who entertain mediocrity under the guise of patriotism. Malawians of good will are the best judges of who a true patriot is.”
They argue that Instead of suppressing the CSOs voice in international human rights mechanisms, the government should put its house in order and address the concerns.
The groups said it is “misleading” on the part of government to suggest that CSOs only dwell on the “negatives” while deliberately ignoring the “positives” registered by government.
They said government and the general republic can be referred to all the shadow reports and statements they have presented to appreciate the blend of “positives” so far registered and areas requiring improvement.
“ However, it is imperative to point out that while some positives have been registered there is still more work, even outweighing the positives, in human rights realm that needs government’s attention, and it would be suicidal on our part as a country (government and civil society included) to dwell on singing praise on a few registered successes to the extent of turning a blind eye to areas that require our urgent attention.
The CSOs have vowed that they will not be stampeded from fulfilling their human rights and governance obligations as human rights defenders.
“No dictatorial sentiment, let alone political threats, shall succeed in wooing us to depart from the path of reason. We remain charged up for the noble service in the best interest of human rights for all. We are, and shall remain human rights servants,” concluded the statement.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :