Malawi rights groups demand political reform

Two of Malawi’s leading Human Rights organisations, Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for Development of the People (CEDEP) are  demanding that President Bingu wa Mutharika and his government must put in place political reforms that will be in line with good governance, respect for the rule of law, freedom of expression and press, political tolerance and protection of human rights.

CHRR and CEDEP in a joint statement signed by vocal human rights defenders, Undule Mwakasungula and Gift Trapence, advocates that Malawi must be governed on the foundation of rule of law, democracy and promotion of human rights arguing that these must be the underlining benchmarks for the country’s political, economic prosperity and national unity.

“CHRR and CEDEP applaud the state president, Bingu wa Mutharika for opening of chancellor College, but there is need for urgent political reforms, political torelance and protection of human rights, defending of rights and freedoms as enshrined in the republican constitution,” read in part the statement.

Undule: Reforms

The two rights groups, however emphasises that as human rights defenders they will not stand aside and look people’s rights and freedoms be trampled upon by the Mutharika administration saying they will fight for justice and human rights to prevail.

“As human rights campaigners we will not stand on the touchlines and simply watch the political situation deteriorate.  We stay vigilant to salvage our democratic values and continue to fight for peace and justice in a quest to make our country a better place for all of us,” further read the statement.

Appeal

The two civil society organisations is asking Bingu wa Mutharika to not only reinstate the fired lecturers back to work but also ensure that academic freedom is restored in the country’s education echelons.

“Our appeal therefore is for the State President to honour his promise in guaranteeing academic freedom as enshrined in the supreme law of the land, the Malawi constitution,”pleaded the two organisations in their proclamation.

CHRR and CEDEP further appealed to president Mutharika and his government to stop use of threats and violence to the opposition leaders, the civil society, journalists and all other citizens who have alternative views adding that democracy means that people are free to choose and hold their opinions freely.

International relations

CHRR and CEDEP says that they are happy with Mutharika’s efforts to normalise international relations and diplomatic ties with age-old bilateral donor and colonial masters United Kingdom and neighbouring Zambia emphasizing that such a move is a step in a right direction although it was made half-heartedly.

But the two organisations says despite that the issuance of the letters is a stride in righting the wrong Malawi will still have long way to go to completely normalize international relation with London because of the way the government handles the issue.

“Unless we address the human rights and governance concerns that were raised in the leaked cable, the letters that we issued will just remain yet another window dressing. We need to translate our commitment to safeguarding rule of law and democracy and protection and promotion of human rights at all cost,” Mwakasungula and Trapence says in the statement.

Attacks

CHRR and CEDEP also appeals to Mutharika and his government to stop human rights abuses, threats and arbitrary arrests of Human Rights defenders and Journalists insisting that for the country’s leadership to regain peoples confidence Mutharika and his troops must sanitise the political backdrop.

“Suppressing dissent through castigation, propaganda, threats and attacks is not only unacceptable, but it is also politically retrogressive. We have noted in recent months, human rights defenders and media practitioners have been singled out for attacks and threats simply for expressing dissenting views,” states the communiqué.

Of late Malawi has seen several of its human rights activists and journalists been receiving anonymous death threats through phone calls and text messages.

Recently five human rights campaigners; Billy Mayaya, of the CCAP Nkhoma Synod, and Habiba Osman, a lawyer with the development NGO Norwegian Church Aid, as well as Brian Nyasulu and Comfort Chitseko and political activist and former Malawi Diaspora Forum member, Ben Chiza Mkandawire were arrested in Lilongwe and detained in prison for demonstrating against ‘bad governance’.

Commenting on the arrests of the five rights campaigners Amnesty International condemned the Malawian government saying there is nothing wrong in people exercising their constitutional rights to demonstrate freely.

Of late several journalists from private owned media houses have been receiving death threats forcing National Media Institute o Southern Africa, Malawi Chapter to issue a statement to plead with government to act with urgency.

Impunity

CHRR and CEDEP urges the police to expedite investigations into reports of threats and violence against human rights defenders and journalists and bring the offenders to book.

“It is sad to note that there have been no arrests made so far in connection with any of the reported death threats and burning against/of human rights defenders offices and houses in the infamous ‘smoke out’ trail including threats against journalists.”

The two civil society organisations argues that it gives a wrong impression that those who perpetrate such vile acts are beyond reach of the arm of law, wondering why they are allowed to play with peoples lives of regime critics and get away with it.

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