Karonga civil right organizations, vendors decries police mistreatment

Civil rights organizations and vendors in Malawi’s northern district of Karonga have given District Council’s authorities 14 days to respond to letters addressed to them in which they complained about what they call mistreatment they get from Karonga police.

In letter which Nyasa Times possesses Karonga Civil Society Network is accusing the police of bashing and discrediting the civil society in different forums.

“We have noted with great concern that the Officer in Charge is not respecting our right of expression on things that are going wrong in the district because whenever we note the wrong doings practiced in the district he is always on our neck saying we are not the watch dogs on what is happing in the district and he frightens to arrest us,” reads the letter.

It adds that defending and speaking for the voiceless is taken as illegal in the district.

Vendors recently marched to Karonga DC offices.-Photo by Tiwonge Kumwenda, Nyasa Times
Vendors recently marched to Karonga DC offices.-Photo by Tiwonge Kumwenda, Nyasa Times

“It is unfortunate that defending and speaking for the powerless and oppressed people is viewed as illegal by the agents of democratic state and an agent of government that should promote human rights, justice, transparency and accountability”.

The civil society is also requesting the office of DC to allocate alternative place where vendors should be trading their goods and that the council should let people have access to see where they kept goods they seized. They are also asking the council to apologize to the vendors for accusing them that they are promoting prostitution in the district.

In their separate letter to the Officer in Charge, the vendors under Karonga Market Craft Centre are complaining about mistreatment they get from police and armed forces.

“On 19 July we were very surprised seeing 19 police men at our trading center guiding us on how we are conducting our activities with no reason and frightening us with their guns. We now appreciate what our forefather was saying that democracy is war. We thought we will be exercising our freedom of expression but this does not exist in Karonga,” reads the letter.

However, Karonga Officer in Charge Foster Mangani has defended the police action saying they only act when there is security threat and that every police officer undergoes training on how to work with the society.

“Nobody can teach us human rights and democracy here because we undergo training of trainers on human rights and on top of that police is the custodian of people’s rights. The only problem is that people forget that every right has its responsibility. I repeat I will not stop controlling if something is going wrong,” said Mangani.

Mangani also said if members of the civil society want to brining chaos in the district by using vendors they should forget, saying the police will work 24 hours to arrest everyone who intend to bring chaos in the district.

“We know that these vendors are making trouble here because they are being sent to do so forgetting that people who are sending them do not belong here, they just want to destroy and  off they go,” he said.

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