Reject, stand up against autocratic rule, Malawians urged

Free Ralph Kasambara campaign frenzy

Malawians of concern to their country have been asked to collectively stand up, resist and fight recent advances by President Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration which signify a blatant abuse and total disregard of human rights and the rule of law that are steadily taking the country back to the dark days of autocratic rule.

The call has been made by the Youth Association for Democracy (YADEMA) following the arrest and continued detention without trial of the country’s prominent lawyer, human rights activist and politician, Ralph Kasambara.

In a statement issued to Nyasa Times, YADEMA says it is shocked and horrified with the arrest and subsequent detention without trial of Kasambara, despite being granted bail by the court.

“It is a well known legal phenomenon that every person is innocent until proven otherwise by a legitimate court of law. We, therefore, find it totally unacceptable in a democracy that a suspect can be detained in solitary confinement at the dreaded Zomba Maximum Prison before being convicted and being found guilty of any offence in a court of law,” states the statement signed by YADEMA Vice President, Alexander Mkandawire.

The youth group observes that ‘detention without trial’  has no place in democracy.

The statement adds: “We all know church leaders, civil society activists, donors and journalists have continuously been subjected to castigation and name-calling at political podium by leadership of this country and his party cohorts. In recent months we have seen, for first time since attainment of multiparty democracy, an onslaught on civil liberties, culminating in such hideous acts as torching of homes and offices of leading human rights activists.”

Stand-up

YADEMA calls upon the youth, and all Malawians of good will to stand up, reject, oppose and fight these trends and ensure that our beloved country does not return to dark days of autocratic rule.

The democracy and human rights advocate group says it is high time Malawians stood and made it known to police that Malawians are watching them.

YADEMA says police have to choose either to be with the people and stop being the law unto themselves or be against the people by continuously fighting other people’s political battles “in which case they need to be prepared reap the rewards of their brutality when the people’s time comes.”

The organisation says Malawians must also stand up against some chiefs who, despite the fact that they are never elected, have taken it upon themselves to be agents for promotion of dictatorship by worshiping the President Mutharika and conferring upon him titles that make him arrogant and feel like the most important person in the country when he is the servant of the people.

“It is our considered view that the president must hold only those powers conferred on him by the Malawi Constitution which is the supreme law of the land and that he must always act to uphold the constitution in ensuring the protection and enjoyment of rights by all citizens, including those he may consider to be his critics. Failure to do so puts him on collision course with the people when that happens, he can never win. All persons standing in the way of people’s enjoyment of their human rights need to be held accountable,” it says.

The youth grouping also reminds authorities that memories are still fresh of the curtailment of academic freedom through the detention of a University lecturer and his subsequent dismissal alongside three others, the unexplained death of Robert Chasowa, university student political activist and passage of several draconian pieces of legislation which include empowering a minister to close down newspapers and allow police to search homes without a warrant.

YADEMA also demands the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) to continue taking a serious view in all matters pertaining to protection of people’s rights, including the protection of human rights defenders like Kasambara.

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