Malawi Police in the northern border district of Karonga on Wednesday detained the fearless youth activist Steven Simsokwe for campaigning against the relocation of a refugee camp from Dzaleka in Dowa to Katili in Traditional Authority (T/A) Kyungu in Karonga.
According to the police, the development comes after Simsokwe organized a massive sensitization campaign against the relocation of the refugees to Katili.
Police were angered to hear that Simsokwe mobilised the youths to block theUnited Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) officials from going to Katili on Wednesday.
“He organized number of the youths to block UNHCRofficials after hearing that they were planning to go to Katili,” said our source.
Some police officers told Nyasa Times that Paramount Chief Kyungu was behind the move after seeing that Simsokwe gained the trust of the community.
“It was Kyungu who ordered the officer in charge to arrest the youth activist after seeing that he is popular and has a lot fans,” they added.
The police also accused their officer in charge for violating his power to intimidate Simsokwe as part of silencing him.
“This is because our officer in charge was part of the delegates that received huge amount of allowances to Dzaleka and their aim is to make sure that they make the UNHCR happy not the community,” they disclosed.
However, the development angered the community and some youths who planned to storm the police station to force the release of their leader.
The angry youths who carried the banner said they were ready to sacrifice their lives for their leader.
“Why is the UNHCR forcing us to accept the refugees camp? Why Karonga and the north?” Wondered the youths.
The police, however, released Simsokwe after some five hours discussions in the officer incharge’s office in fear that the community may destroy the station.
Simsokwe said he will not be intimidated and will continue to campaign against the relocation of refugees.
Meanwhile, Kyungu through his aides has accused Simsokwe for being disrespectful to the most powerful and senior chief.
Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security Grace Chiumia said the decision to relocate the refugee camp follows a concern by government that the camp at Dzaleka was near Lilongwe, the capital city, a development that compromises the country’s security.
“Malawi is one of a few countries in Africa that has a refugee camp close to the capital city, a development that raised fear on the security of the nation. Government decided to relocate the camp to a border district where most of the refugees pass through,” she said.
Chiumia assured the people of Karonga that the process is beneficial because water points and school blocks will be constructed and Katili Health Centre rehabilitated.
UNHCR representative Monique Ekoko said 27 000 refugees will be transferred from Dzaleka to Katili.
Paramount Chief Kyungu asked UNHCR to ensure that communities in Karonga are given job opportunities during the construction of the refugee camp.
Katili lies north west of Karonga, about 15 kilometres away from the boma.
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