More arrests for anti-Mutharika critics looming

The Malawi government has secretly drawn a list of human rights activist and critics of President Bingu wa Mutharika for arbitrary arrests and even causing physical harm this year, Nyasa Times sources have disclosed.

Topping the list  are vocal human rights defenders; Undule Mwakasungula, Unandi Banda, Benedicto Kondowe, Reverend Macdonald Sembereka, Voice Mhone and Rafik Hajat.

Journalists,  lawyers and opposition politicians have also been targeted.

“But those that come from the northern region will be priority as they are deemed arrogant and boisterous,” the source warned.

The case of jailed anti-Mutharika Lawyer Ralph Kasambala is one instance, our source said.

Chibambo: Aware of the secret plot

Private practice lawyer and president of tiny Peoples Transformation Party (Petra), Kamuzu Chibambo, said he is aware of the secret plot.

Chibambo said a meeting of Paramount Chiefs, Senior Chiefs and T/As’  took place at Sanjika Palace on Sunday 12th February which was  addressed by President Mutharika  at which Traditional Leaders were apparently informed about the alleged objective of 20th July, 2011 demonstrations, namely to force a regime change.

“We have information that the President in very clear terms told the Senior Traditional leaders that he will begin to arrest such persons that are hampering his economic recovery interventions,” Chibambo said in a statement made available to Nyasa Times.

Chibambo said the arrest of Kasambara “coming as it does hot at the heels of the 12th February meeting at Sanjika cannot be separated from the threat made by the statement President at the said meeting.”

He said Kasambara’s arrest is “politically motivated”

Chibambo said Mutharika has targeted his critics and political opponents, warning that private sector too may not be spared.

“We are informed more arrests are on the way,” he said, vehemently condemning attempts by the Mutharika regime to silence its critics.

“Such abuses of power and office cannot be condoned.”

Malawi has seen a total breakdown of trust between Mutharika, and civil society groups and the media.

A coalition of churches, civil society and rights groups has also condemned the arrest of Kasambara. It issued a statement “noting the deliberate ploy by the government to arrest human rights defenders on flimsy and politically motivated charges with the view to instil fear among Malawians”.

The group said it was “astonished by revelations that government has hired private security staff from Zimbabwe to effect these attacks against human rights defenders and individuals critical of government and the DPP [Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive party]”.

It was also “perturbed by the pace at which current regime is rapid in evolving into a police state”.

Mutharika has however denied accusations of authoritarianism, insisting: “From 2004 until now, there is no single political prisoner in a Malawian jail.”

On Thursday his spokesman, Hetherwick Ntaba, said others have heavily criticised the president but not been arrested.

“Why only Kasambara? Also how can a victim of an attempted arson attack be arrested? Does that not show that there is something missing in the equation?

“The police are investigating. They have a reason for the arrest. Please withhold judgment until the police process finishes.”— (Additional reporting The Guardian –UK)

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