The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has committed 2020 to mass protests against Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah and other human rights violations people are facing.
The coalition leaders said this on Sunday in Salima where they held a citizen assembly to sensitise people to their rights so that they are able to demand accountability when there are violations.
Addressing the gathering at Nsalula Secondary School ground, HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo said the human rights body had planned three demonstrations in January to continue with their demand for Ansah’s resignation as MEC chairperson, protest police alleged rape of Msundwe women and the stealing of minerals in Chitipa.
He said: “There have been many rights abuses in the past year. We want to assure Malawians that 2020 is a year of answers. God is listening to us. We will have mass demonstrations beginning from January when we will also have a two million march against Ansah. We will continue holding demonstrations until she resigns.”
According to him, the first demonstration against the Malawi Police Service (MPS) will be held on January 9.
“We will petition the Acting Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa for not coming decisively to arrest and prosecute police officers who allegedly raped women in M’bwatalika and Mpingu in October this year,” said Mtambo.
Another protest is scheduled for January 16 to force Ansah to step down while the third one will be held on January 27 in Chitipa to force government to act against illegal foreign miners in Itulo.
The demonstrations will fall within the period the High Court, sitting as a Constitutional Court hearing the elections case, is expected to pass judgement on the contentious case in which first petitioner Saulos Chilima and second petitioner Lazarus Chakwera are seeking nullification of the May 21 2019 presidential results.
The five-judge panel announced on December 20 that the ruling will be announced within 45 days.
HRDC embarked on holding citizen assemblies following Ansah’s refusal to resign despite a number of demonstrations conducted nationwide. They held the first one in Karonga and the second was held in Mzuzu.
The third was held in M’bwatalika and Mpingu where alleged police rape victims reside. Some social media commentators faulted the leadership for taking the new initiative saying that they have digressed from the core issue of holding demonstrations against Ansah.
But in an interview, HRDC vice chairperson Gift Trapence argued that the citizen assembly is another strategy of speaking out against human rights abuses because citizens at grassroots level are given the platform to say what they think.
A local resident Mustafa Sosola, who was given a platform to speak, commended HRDC for holding the citizen assembly in the district. He said many people have been facing a number of human rights infringements that included being arrested for expressing dissenting views.
In an earlier interview, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera refused to comment on HRDC’s plans to hold demonstration against the law enforcing agency saying that it was only relevant for the police to comment on the report which Malawi Human Rights Commission released.
Although HRDC will hold demos against Ansah, she has refused to resign until the court rules that she should do so.