As Malawi joins the rest of the world in commemorating Human Rights Day today, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) says it will commemorate the day by marching against rights infringements the country has witnessed lately.
HRDC officials said at a press briefing in Lilongwe on Monday that they are holding the Freedom March because the country performed poorly this year in promoting and protecting human rights.
While commending the country for having laws and policies that are aimed at promoting human rights, HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo argued that implementation of the laws and policies to ensure that people’s rights are protected leaves a lot to be desired.
In his remarks, HRDC vice-chairperson Gift Trapence hinted at a number of issues government needs to consider if it is to be seen to be promoting human rights in the country.
He said: “Malawi has made good progress in terms of paperwork on the laws and policies surrounding promotion of human rights. But the implementation is a challenge. There are these challenges because of selective justice…”
Trapence, among other issues, cited the violence women at Msundwe in Lilongwe experienced during a police operation that followed the murder of their colleague, Usumani Imedi.
Commenting on the reason laws and policies are not being implemented to fully support human rights issues, Trapence blamed the process of appointing leaders into institutions of governance such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
But government spokesperson Mark Botomani, who is also the Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology, trashed the accusations in a telephone interview, saying government has lived up to its obligation of promoting human rights in the country since nobody is being denied their rights, including the right to demonstrations.
He said: “Every year government has been reporting on how the country has been faring on issues of human rights. The only challenge is that HRDC is focusing on politics [instead of] defending people’s rights. And I am not surprised with this allegation.
“The fact that HRDC is able to hold demonstrations without being infringed or stopped, that is reason enough to show that government is promoting human rights in the country.”
Asked to comment on whether Malawi Police Service is going to provide security to marchers today, its national spokesperson James Kadadzera could not be drawn to comment further on the matter.
He said: “All I can say is that we always deal with the situation as it is.”
According to HRDC leaders, marchers will gather at Lilongwe Community ground where they will begin walking to City Centre.
They will pass through Zomba Street in Mchesi to Kamuzu Central Hospital Roundabout.
HRDC faced problems to organise demonstrations to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to resign in the aftermath of the May 21 Tripartite Elections for allegedly mismanaging the electoral process, especially the results management.
In Blantyre, HRDC leadership obtained an injunction to restrain Blantyre City Council from blocking them from marching in the city’s streets.
During one of the demonstrations in Lilongwe, police fired tear gas at unarmed and peaceful demonstrators to disperse after the Ministry of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology had issued a statement indicating that demonstrations would not be allowed.