Democratic community policing, crime and gun control are areas I have tirelessly worked upon for years as a resource to government and Malawi Police. Therefore I cannot turn a blind eye on current concerns on gun violence and crime.
When dealing with public security we refer to combating and prevention of violence. Some believe we need to deal with violence at its roots, looking at social exclusions, poor income distribution, unemployment etc. While others urges for adoption of efficient public security policies which take into account the need for profound reforms of the whole criminal justice system.
Living in poverty can mean living in fear without adequate means of protection. Safety and the right to live without fear is important to citizens. The fear of violent crime is a key threat to public safety and a challenge for both the public and law enforcers.
As we talk of gun violence, it is no secret our country is facing challenges. The problem could be attributed to a number of factors, one being the effects of arms proliferation within the Southern Africa region due to civil war in Mozambique, porous borders which have increased internal traffic of goods and people and use of legal guns hired to criminals for crime.
But we cannot shy away from talking about the demotivation of our police, their pathetic housing, low salaries which cannot make them meet their daily basic needs. The end result is we attack them to be corrupt through mounting of numerous road blocks or speed traps as if every citizen is suspect.
Of course road blocks contributes to improving our national security but we need effective and sustainable means of public safety and security.
Note our police has been going through reforms since 1995, these reforms aim at systematic transforming the policing style, standard and culture to ensure meeting the safety and security needs of the citizens. Change from police force with no human rights values to a police service with professional and citizen centered.
The current public outcry on crime and gun violence increase therefore must be a basis of the nation in encouraging public police partnership to ensure safety and security of citizens. With public support the police can effectively combat gun crime and improve safety and security which creates conditions for development to take place.
Sustainability of this partnership can only be cemented if our police are accountable in regard to respect for human rights, rule of law and understanding public security from a human rights based policing and as a prerequisite for sustainable peace and development.
We must continue strengthening efforts of effective interventions such as awareness, gun collection and destruction programmes, equal distribution of opportunities including looking at the welfare of our police.
We may replace Inspector Generals or Ministers of Internal Security but if we don’t come up with effective strategies for national public security or create conducive environment for every Malawian to be productive and responsible, we will still be moving in circles.
For God and my country!
- Undule Mwakasungula, the former director of Center for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and now a human rights columnist on Nyasa Times