Some Civil Society groups, human rights defenders and lawyers working in the realm of human rights and governance in Southern Africa have called for depolitisization of Malawi NGO board.
The grouping made these observations during their submission at Forum on the Participation of NGOs in the 57th ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights currently underway in Banjul, Gambia.
The grouping was represented by Malawi’s Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Governance and Human Rights Advocacy Coordinator, Makhumbo Munthali during a panel discussion where focal points presenters were providing updates about the overview of the status of democracy and human rights in Africa with special focus on the situation of human rights defenders in Africa.
“We have also observed with great concern the recent steps and attempts by the Malawi government to stifle and limit the voice and space of Civil Society using a number of ways,” Munthali said.
He said Malawi government is using the politically-appointed Special Presidential Advisor on NGOs and Civil Society, Mabvuto Bamusi, to destabilize the Civil Society through “divide and rule,” by amongst other things mobilizing and funding some NGOs sympathetic to the ruling party to always rise up and counter any critical voices from the “bonafide” CSOs on human rights violations, poor service delivery, and bad governance.
According to SADC CSOs, this is contrary to Malawi government’s commitment to the African Charter and other international human rights instruments which encourage the state party to provide an enabling and conducive socio, political, economic and legal environment for the activities of the Civil Society and human rights defenders.
The statement further faults the politicization of the Malawi NGO board and the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) as Mutharika’s tools against restricting and suppressing the Civil Society space as well as instilling fear in human rights defenders who are seen as critical of government
“We have observed the use of the NGO board and NGO law to threaten the Civil Society and also restrict the activities of Non-governmental organizations especially those deemed critical of government. A good case is that of the NGO board and the Minister of Gender’s threats that they would deregister those NGOs who did not register with the NGO board despite the fact that registering with the NGO board is not mandatory under Malawi laws. However, the real targets in these baseless threats were some NGOs who had participated in a 13th January 2015 national demonstrations over the crisis state of governance, rule of law, accountability, transparency, human rights and abuse of HIV/AIDs related funds for activities that had nothing to do with HIV/AIDs initiatives,” argued Munthali.
According to Munthali, the SADC CSOs had observed with continued use of the NIB as a political tool to spy on and instil fear in human rights defenders and other critics of the government including the opposition leaders.
He cited NIB’s leaked controversial intelligence report implicating critics of the regime as conspiring to overthrow the government as a typical reminiscent of Malawi’s one-party dictatorial rule.
The CSOs urge the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights to call on Malawi government to depoliticize the NGO board, National Intelligence Bureau and the office of the Special Advisor on NGOs and Civil Society as state agents of suppressing the voice and restricting the space of Civil Society in Malawi.
“We also urge the Commission on Human and Peoples Rights to urge the Malawi government to honour its commitments to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and other international instruments which it is party to by providing protection to human rights defenders and providing a conducive and enabling political, social, economic and legal environment for the work of human rights defenders and civil society in Malawi.”
The statement also condemns human rights violations in Angola, Lesotho, South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland. The statement also calls for the reinstatement of the SADC Tribunal.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :