Minister of Civic Education and National Unity, Timothy Mtambo, has assured civil society organisations (CSOs) and human rights defenders in the country that the Tonse Alliance led government will create an enabling environment for them to play a critical role towards improving the country’s democratization drive.
The minister made the remarks on Thursday in Lilongwe at the launch of the Human Rights Defenders Risk Assessment Report produced by the Danish Church Aid.
Mtambo — who led the citizens’ challenge of the 2019 presidential poll results which were eventually nullified by the courts—said government will listen to civil society concerns on the NGO Act to ensure that the law speaks to a new democratic Malawi.
“My ministry will take a leading role in ensuring that all human rights defenders in the country are accorded all the civic space. After all, I take myself as an ambassador of all human rights defenders in the country, including the grassroot communities,” he told the gathering which included the delegates from the Ombudsman, Malawi Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC).
Mtambo said the soon-to-be launched National Civic Education Policy will also enable the civil society to contribute towards the culture of transparency and accountability in the country.
He then called upon non-state actors, especially International Non-Governmental Organisations, to consider building the capacity of local NGOs and CBOs as one way of sustaining the culture of transparency and accountability in the country.
Looking back, Mtambo bemoaned the attempts by the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to close the civic space through series of attacks against the human rights defenders in the country, which he said, was not in line with the country’s democratic constitution.
“Such was the scale of concern at attacks on human rights defenders by the DPP government that on 4 September 2018 the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), raised concerns for Malawi’s at attacks on HRDs [Human Rights Dedeners],” he said.
Mtambo said wete it not for the solidarity and support that the HRDs in Malawi received from such groups as Frontline Defenders, Lifeline and Freedom House, the Pan-Africa Human Rights Defenders Network and the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, it is hard to imagine how activists would have survived the onslaught by the DPP government.