Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, who jets into the country Sunday for a royal visit, will be petitioned by relatives of 33 peaceful protesters massacred by British colonial forces in Malawi on March 3 1959 who are seeking British Government compensation.
The relatives of the victims led by traditional leaders in Nkhata Bay will petition Prince Harry through the British High Commission in Lilongwe on Monday.
Inspired by the example of Kenya, where victims of the suppression of the Mau Mau uprising received £20m compensation from the UK in 2013, the victims have been pressing for compensation through relevant government ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Attorney General’s (AG) office, but have not been successful.
Traditional Authority (T/A) Timbiri, one of the signatories to the petition, said they will take advantage of Prince Harry’s visit o to present their grievenaces, saying he is “a figurehead in the royal family and in a position more likely to deliver our message to Her Majesty, the Queen, or to senior government officials in Britain.”
The Malawian claim dates back to the time when Britain, which ruled what was then Nyasaland, imposed a state of emergency to stop violent protests by political activists of the Nyasaland African Congress, led by Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who were fighting for self-rule.
The 33 unarmed people, including three pregnant women, were protesting against the detention of freedom fighters on a passenger ship moored on the shores of Lake Malawi when they were gunned down. They are buried in a mass grave at the beach at Nkhata Bay.
Ever since independence in 1964, the 33 have been solemnly remembered as martyrs on 3 March with a low-key ceremony in which wreaths are laid at a cenotaph at the site.
“We bring it to the attention of His Royal Highness Prince Harry the claims for compensation being made by the families of the said victims against the said British government.
“The petitioners respectfully request that His Royal Highness Prince Harry to take cognisance and cause to be known to the British government of the unlawful deaths and/or injuries that the said government occasioned on the innocent people of Malawi [Nyasaland then],” reads the petition in part signed by other traditional authorities such as Mkumbira and Mankhambira.
The petitioners argue that the massacred Malawians were agitating for freedom of their political leaders.
“The victims were gunned down through Her Majesty’s order that flew Rhodesian and South African Police Service personnel to Nkhata Bay on March 2 1959, after the House of Commons had declared the State of Emergency in London,” reads the petition dated September 26 2019.
Her Majesty’s Government was in breach of the treaty signed in 1881 between Her Majesty’s Government and Tonga chiefs, which promised protection for each others’ citizens.
Raphael Mhone, a lawyer representing the victims’ families, said: “The families of the 33 deceased are mourning year in and year out. The killings created a lot of challenges to families, because some of those killed were breadwinners.
“It should also be borne in mind that apart from creating economic and social challenges to such families, the mere fact that they were innocently killed warrants compensation from those responsible.”
Mhone ssaid as Britain’s protectorate, Malawi was supposed to be protected by the Queen, hence London’s liability for the massacres.
After independence from Britain in 1964, Kamuzu Banda ruled Malawi for three decades. He was accused of human rights violations and autocratic rule, banning all political parties and proclaiming himself “life president” until he was vanquished in the country’s first multi-party poll in 1994 which was won by Bakili Muluzi.
Muluzi, who governed Malawi from 1994 to 2004, created a national compensation tribunal, which compensated hundreds of victims of Banda’s atrocities. The tribunal closed without paying all victims.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :