A leading human rights activist Timothy Mtambo has told UK newspaper, The Guardian that Malawi was mired in inequality, nepotism, poverty and injustice, which is why people were ready to take part in the demonstrations.
Mtambo, the chairman of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), and the executive director of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRC) has been at the forefront of protests following elections in May, which the opposition says were rigged. The results are being contested in the constitutional court.
The HRDC is calling for the resignation of the chair of Malawi Electoral Commission, Jane Ansah. over the alleged mismanagement of the May election, which saw President Peter Mutharika re-elected.
Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, has dismissed calls for her to resign, saying she would only step down if the court hearing an elections petition case found her leadership to have failed to discharge its duties.
The grouping, backed by the opposition, plan to shut down airports and borders from August 26 to 30.
Speaking about the petrol bomb which was thrown at his house believed to be a deliberate and targeted move to stop airport shutdown, Mtambo told The Guardian: “ We believe that the attacks had been deliberately orchestrated to instil fear in us. They are making a mistake,” adding: “Malawi is our country and we have the responsibility to say if things are going wrong.”
Threatening the organisers will not work, he said. “It will make the situation worse.”
Members of HRDC said they suspected the petro-bomb attackers had links to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
“This cowardly and malicious attack on Timothy Mtambo’s property is a clear act of intimidation, designed to deter him from carrying out his human rights work,” said Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for southern Africa, Muleya Mwananyanda, in a statement.
“There must be no stone left unturned in pursuit of those who are behind this attack. The authorities must launch a prompt, impartial and effective investigation and ensure that suspected perpetrators are brought to justice in fair trials,” he said.
An office belonging to the vice president of the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Sidik Mia has also been petrol bombed in recent weeks.
Malawian political scientist Michael Jana, who lectures at South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand, said the attacks were “to intimidate and silence the people”.
“It is very unfortunate because this is suppression of dissenting voices which should not be condoned in a democracy,” he said according to quotes reported by French news agency AFP.
Meanwhile, HRDC has embarked on citizen rallies aimed at sensitising communities of the need for peaceful demonstrations and getting concerns from the citizenry with the first rally scheduled to take place in Karonga District Thursday.
“We would want to raise awareness to make sure that we emphasise to the citizens within the borders that they should be peaceful as they exercise their rights. Secondly, as HRDC, we are developing a citizen manifesto comprising key issues that citizens would want their government to address. So, these issues would be articulated at this engagement,” he told Times Radio.
Mtambo said their target was to reach out to all border districts of Chitipa, Karonga, Mchinji, Dedza, Mwanza and Mulanje with the message of peace ahead of the demonstrations.
“We have been doing activities such as community awareness campaigns, public awareness meetings sensitisation meetings. The rally is not something new or strange. We have started a bit late but, time permitting, we will reach the other border districts,” he said.
Since May 27 this year when the MEC chairperson Ansah declared Mutharika of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) winner of the presidential race in the May 21 Tripartite Elections, HRDC has been organising demonstrating demanding that Ansah resign for presiding over allegedly fraudulent elections.
The next demonstrations have been scheduled from August 26 to 30, to be followed by a “two million march” organised in the four cities of Mzuzu, Zomba, Lilongwe and Blantyre on September 5 this year.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :