A legal commentator Justin Dzonzi has faulted the Malawi police for giving bail to a rearrested homicide suspect, Emanuel Sekanawo, a Rwadan national.
Sekanao together with Dezire Bintuari are answering attempted grievous harm and wounding charges for allegedly shooting a businessperson Vincent Niyongira in Salima on July 10 last year.
However, despite being on bail, police arrested Sekanawo on a charge of conspiring to commit felony contrary to section 404 of the penal code.
It was suspected that the suspect and other people were conspiring to kill Niyongira as he was travelling between Lilongwe and Salima.
Niyongira is a naturalized Malawian of Rwandan origin.
“As much as every person has a right to bail, it is highly irregular and suspicious for the police to give bail to a suspect who is answering a serious offense. Conspiring to commit felony is a very serious offense.
“When giving bail, the court take into consideration various factors. It is a condition when granting bail that the security of the accused and the victim are taken into consideration,” Dzonzi told the local radio, MIJ FM.
However, Central Region Police publicist Norriet Chihana insists that the law enforcers were right to give Sekanawo bail because the two cases are not related even though on both scenarios, he was targeting the same person.
In the fist case, Niyongira’s lawyer Lugano Mwabutwa is applied to the office of Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to prosecute the case and change the charges from attempted murder so that it should be heard at the lower court for speedy trial, an application which the office granted.
Standing in the witness box, a Nkhotakota based agro-dealer Gift Mwale told Lilongwe Senior Resident Magistrate Violet Chipawo that Paseli, also an agro-dealer, called him to a meeting in Salima to discuss some business.
“When I arrived in Salima, I met Paseli and Bintuari who told me to find a hit man to kill a certain businessman. I was promised K500 000 for the job and K1 million for the hit man once the mission has been completed.
“I couldn’t believe this because it was not what I was expecting to be the agenda of the topic. It’s something that I had never done before. I left for Blantyre for business, whilst there, I received a call from Paseli informing me that a certain businessman, a Mr Vincent has been shot in Salima. So he wanted to find out if I was part of the mission which I denied. I immediately called Salima police that I have some information on the shooting,” said Mwale who told the court during cross examination that he has never been on the wrong side of the law before.
Both the second, third and fourth witnesses, Niyongira’s guard Moffat Gondwe, Niyongira’s daughter Pemphero and son Elisha respectively identified Sekanawo as someone who was involved in the shooting.
The court also heard that Sekanawo was also identified by the witnesses during a parade at Salima Police Station.
Gondwe said he wrestled with Sekanawo as he was about to close the gate when his boss was retiring from business as the other two unknown assailants followed the minibus in which Niyongira was driving as he entered into the compound.
“I argued with the suspects for a few minutes before I heard a gunshot. We both let go of the gate as I rushed to where my boss was parking the vehicle as the assailants run away. There is no way I can forget him because although it was partially dark, the security lights were on and we were just below one of the bulbs,” said Gondwe.
Pamela told the court that they found Sekanawo at the gate 30 minutes before the shooting.
“I greater him thinking he is one of the many people who come home either looking for work or financial assistance from dad,” She told the court.
Elisha identified Sekanawo as a person who peeped thrice into the shop earlier during the day before he saw him at the gate almost 30 minutes before the shooting.
Senior Resident Magistrate Chipawo is expected to continue hearing the case on November 1 when the state will parade more witnesses.
According to media reports, some refugees who live outside their designated camps, are committing serious crimes such as homicide.
Senior State Advocate Pilirani Masanjala, who is also Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson told the press that at least 20 refugees are answering homicide-related cases committed outside their designated areas.
Masanjala said the figure could be higher taking into account crimes being prosecuted by the police. Statistics show that in 2012, the country had recorded at least 279 murder cases down from 900 in 2001.
He said: “Most of the time, you find that two or three refugees have committed a crime together with Malawians. Our records show that there are at least 15 to 20 refugees answering homicide related charges.”
A convention relating to the status of refugees, which Malawi adopted in 1951, in respect of article 26 reads: “The Government of the Republic of Malawi reserves its right to designate the place or places of residence of the refugees and to restrict their movements whenever considerations of national security or public order so require”
The officers also disclosed that one of the suspects is a habitual offender and was arrested on a number of occasions by law enforcers in Nambuma area in Lilongwe where he claims his parents reside.
It is also not clear how the suspects acquired the gun which they used in the alleged shooting, and both the police and officers from the DPP are keeping a tight lid on the matter.
But human rights defenders have faulted the authorities for their laxity and failure to enforce existing laws to keep refugees in designated camps.
Executive director of Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Timothy Mtambo said: “As refugees they are not free to do whatever they want. These people need to respect the laws of this country and abide by them. There is too much laxity by State authorities.”
Parliament is also calling upon the Executive to pull up its socks by ensuring that citizens in the country are protected from any external forces.
Chairperson for parliamentary committee on International Relations Alex Major pushed the blame on the executive for dragging its feet to act.
“Much as Malawi is a signatory to a number of treaties and protocols, the leadership must always strive to prioritise what is best for the country and its citizens. The involvement of refugees in violent crimes in the country should be a wake-up call to the authorities that something is not right.”
Private practice lawyer Michael Goba Chipeta observed that immigration laws and the Refugee Act are clear on what is expected of foreign nationals residing in the country as refugees or asylum seekers.
Dzaleka Camp built to accommodate 9 000 people is now home to 28 000 refugees mostly from Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :