Civil society organisations under the banner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) have faulted President Peter Mutharika for making unpresidential” and “insensitive” remarks to influence a commission of enquiry into attacks, abductions and killings of persons with albinism (PWAs).
During the swearing-in ceremony of the probe team at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe on Monday, the President advised the team to “watch out for people who may be paid and manipulated in order to provide misleading information.”
The Malawi leader claimed there is a precedent that people were paid to provide misleading information in previous presidential commission of inquiry, citing one that former president Joyce Banda has set to probe into the death of a fourth-year Polytechnic student Robert Chasowa who was found dead at the campus in Blantyre
Mutharika said in the Commission of Inquiry on the death of Chasowa which was led by Justice Andrew Nyirenda, “a police officer was paid money in order to implicate some people.”
He said: “I don’t want anything like that happening in this Inquiry. Don’t allow anyone to manipulate the process.”
President Mutharika added: “Therefore, we expect you to critically interrogate every informer in order to sift myth from reality, and truth from lies. In the end, Malawians expect nothing and nothing but the truth from you.”
However, human rights defenders have faulted Mutharika for what they call interfering in the work of a commission of inquiry.
“We fear that such subjective remarks will influence the commission to look away from such allegations that implicate President Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party officials,” reads a statement made available to Nyasa Times by the CSOs.
It adds : “The expectation of the public was that President Mutharika would stick to giving the commission terms of reference and reporting procedures and deadlines. Telling the commission what to do and what to look for is outrageous. As HRDC, we strongly hold that the commission should be left to do its work— without any executive or whatever interference—independently and professionally.”
The CSOs also fault Mutharika for attacking Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, State Vice President Saulos Chilima, Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) president Overtone Kondowe, Timothy Mtambo and Charles Kajoloweka for their stance against the killing and abduction of persons with albinism.
“Mtambo and [Charles] Kajoloweka abandoned people with albinism. They left them without food and water. People with albinism are human beings and they have to be treated as humans. They should not live with fear in their own country,” said Mutharika.
But HRDC statement said the individuals and their respective associations and coalitions are now the object of Head of State’s wrath “ simply for waking up President Mutharika from slumber to act decisively on the continued barbaric attacks on persons with albinism.”
The human rights defender argued that if President Mutharika really cared about the plight of persons with albinism, he would have not only cancelled his eleventh hour trip to Mzuzu inorder to receive a petition from APAM–an entitle duly recognised in the National Action Plan as a representative of persons with albinism –but also fired his Minister Nicholas Dausi for‘acting suspiciously’ in his statement that the killings of persons with albinism had not reached the level warranting a vigil.
Mutharika appointed eight members to the inquiry on March 5 this year, which includes retired Supreme Court judge Robert Chinangwa who is the chairperson, Abgail Dzimadzi, Paramount Chief Kawinga, Rexa Chalera, Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) executive director George Jobe and Brenda Vokhiwa-Kapenda as the secretary.
Other are the Reverend Timothy Nyasulu and Grace Massa.
But Apam leader Kondowe, writing on his Facebook page, also faulted Mutharika’s commission of inquiry, saying it does not comprise of people who can ably do the job.
“The membership of the commission is far from the expectations of Malawians with albinism. Where are the experts in the team… pathologist, criminal investigator, legal specialist, human rights expert, an academic, member of traditional healers? Worse more, two members of the commission are from the same organisation. Whom do we want to protect, I wonder?” Kondowe said.
State House Press Secretary, Mgeme Kalilani said there is nothing wrong with the President advising commissioners during a swearing in ceremony.
He said the appointment of the commission is one of the measures government is taking to ensure that abductions and killings of PWAs is brought to an end.
The swearing-in ceremony marks the beginning of investigations into root causes of killings and abductions of PWAs. The enquiry is also one of Apam’s demands.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :