Some Civil Society groups, human rights defenders and lawyers working in the realm of human rights and governance in Southern Africa have challenged Malawi government to end the “culture of impunity” and expedite pursuit of justice on the murder of Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director late Issa Njauja as well as other cases including the Robert Chasowa and the July 20, 2011 killings.
They have also spoken against claims of threats to human rights defenders, journalists and ACB boss Lucas Kondowe by condemning and instituting and concluding investigations into the same.
The grouping made these observations during their submission at Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 57th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights currently underway in Banjul, Gambia.
The grouping was represented by Malawi’s Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Governance and Human Rights Advocacy Coordinator Makhumbo Munthali during a panel discussion where focal points presenters from Central Africa, Southern Africa, Eastern Africa, Northern Africa and Western Africa were providing updates about the overview of the status of democracy and human rights in Africa with special focus on the situation of human rights defenders in Africa.
Munthali in his presentation on behalf of Southern Africa accused the Mutharika administration of “growing intolerance “regime to criticism not only from the Civil Society and the opposition leaders but also from the media.
He said Malawi government has embarked on “a high-level propaganda” against critics who are merely demanding accountability .
“The very same period has also witnessed the rise of death threats by anonymous groups –believed to be agents of Mutharika’s ruling party – against human rights defenders like Timothy Mtambo of Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation and Gift Trapence of Centre for Development of People who alongside other reputable activists like Charles Kajoloweka, Billy Mayaya, Moses Mkandawire, Benedicto Kondowe and Kiko Mapunda have been in fore-front in demanding answers from Mutharika over the bloated UN delegation as well as the prevailing leadership and governance challenges in the country.
“However, instead of condemning these threats as well as instituting investigations into the same, Mutharika’s regime has just easily dismissed such claims, further putting the concerned human rights defenders at risk,” argued Munthali.
According to SADC CSOs, all this is coming against a similar recent background of alleged death threats against Civil Rights activist Billy Mayaya, Malawi’s opposition Malawi Congress Party spokesperson Jessie Kabwila and Nation Publications Limited Journalist Rebecca Chimjeka, and added “this does not reflect well about the current political climate which, if not checked from its very nascent stage, may render human rights defenders, opposition politicians and journalists vulnerable.”
He said adding more fears amongst Malawians into the alleged threats is “the culture of impunity” which has characterized the 2011-2012 threats and attacks against human rights defenders, opposition politicians and the media and also the July 20, 2011 killings and murder of student activist Robert Chasowa.
“Despite continued calls by CSOs to investigate these 2011-2012 instances of threats and attacks, the government has demonstrated no political will to positively responding to such calls by either ignoring such calls or merely making some political statements that something was being done just to relieve itself of the growing public pressure and pursuit of justice,” Munthali said.
The rights group add that this has in the long run created the impression the Malawi government has no regard of its international obligations of protecting human rights defenders and also providing a conducive political, social and legal environment for the activities of human rights defenders in the country.
The SADC CSOs then urged the NGO Forum to pass a resolution for Malawi urging the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights to call on Malawi government to condemn all the recent threats to human rights defenders, ACB boss, politicians and journalists and also take a step further by instituting investigations into these threats as well as those concerning the arbitrary arrests, death threats and arson of the homes of human rights defenders, some media houses, and politicians between 2011 and 2012.
Amongst the other issues in the region, the SADC CSOs observed the growing concerns of state’s interference and intimidation of the Civil Society in Angola with the specific case of the recent arrests of 15+2 activists and called on the NGO Forum to pass a resolution in support of the recent UN resolution which called on Angola to release the activists and drop all the charges against them. The statement further calls for the reinstatement of the SADC tribunal which was suspended in 2010 by SADC heads of states.
Forum on the Participation of NGOs, popularly known as NGO Forum, precedes the ordinary sessions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and provides the opportunity for Civil Society groups in the region to identify key issues affecting the region for presentation and address during the ordinary session of the Commission.
This NGO Forum run between 31st October 2015 to 2nd November 2015 in Banjul and attracted participation of NGOs, lawyers and Civil Society groups across the continent.
The 57th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights is scheduled to start from 4th November to 18th November 2015Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :