Youths in Malawi’s northern border district of Karonga whose notification to hold pro-federalism demonstrations was turned down by the District Commissioner, Rosemary Moyo, last Friday are challenging to go a head with the protests scheduled for September 28.
Moyo downplayed the letter by the Karonga Youth for Justice and Development and other civil society organizations notifying her of the planned demonstrations on 28th September arguing the reasons for the demonstrations were invalid.
Apart from influencing government to adopt federalism, the demonstrations are also aimed to force government to remove quota system which they feel is depriving northern region students’ right to tertiary education. They also want Karonga to be upgraded to a municipality.
Chairperson for the demonstrations organizing committee who is also Executive Director for Karonga Youth for Justice and Development, Steve Simsokwe told Nyasa Times on Thursday that preparations for the protests are at an advanced stage despite being rebuffed by the District Authorities.
“I can confirm that all is set for the protests regardless of the DCs blow. Police have told us that they will arrest those who will engage in violence and I can assure you that as concerned youths we will be very peaceful during the event because our aim is not to destroy things but let government know and act on our grievances,” said Simsokwe.
He said youths in the district want federalism to end regionalism and nepotism which he said is resulting people from the north fail to be recruited in various governments departments.
“You may agree with me that quota system was imposed to deal with northerners and we are tired of this hence we need federalism so that we can focus on establishing our own universities and employment opportunities to rescue our young people from abuses of nepotism and regionalism.
“At the same time let me accuse chiefs for being hypocritical instead of fighting for their subjects, they are telling government that they are against federalism without consulting their subjects and because they get bribes from the government officials”, he said, adding “This time we shall not allow them stop us because they are biased.
However, he denied disclosing a plan for the demonstrations, claiming that would preempt the arrangements.
Both the District officer and Police authorities have not yet issued a comment on the challenge but a Mzuzu based legal expert has warned government against banning the demonstration, claiming it is one of the fundamentals for democracy.
“Our constitution gives its citizens powers to express their views to concerned parties through Demonstrations hence denying them to hold the demonstrations would attract legal action such as injunction”, said the legal expert.
Meanwhile, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilations (CHRR) has said Grecian Mbewe, the watchdog’s Karonga district coordinator remarks which were viewed as being anit-demonstrations were taken out of context.
“CHRR respects the freedom of assembly, freedom of expression as enshrined in both the constitution of Republic of Malawi and the Universal Declaration on human rights and other international covenants like International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. As such, CHRR can and will never be part of any attempts bent at curtailing such fundamental rights and freedoms, ” explained Makhumbo R Munthali CHRR Human Rights Advocacy Coordinator,
CHRR warned President Peter Mutharika government and its officials against taking any step that are bent on infringing the citizens’ freedom of expression, demonstration or assembly as enshrined in the constitution and other international protocols.
“Such primitive tactics have no room in the current democratic dispensation, and must be condemned in the strongest terms as is in the recent Karonga saga,” said Munthali.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :