Police Inspector General (IG) Rodney Jose has asked officers-in-charge (OICs) of the Malawi Police Service (MPS) to take action without fear of any political party when incidences of political violence occur.
The IG has come under fire from various stakeholders for acting slowly in arresting and prosecuting perpetrators of political violence largely believed to be from the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The police have arrested several perpetrators of violence but some civil society activists remain unconvinced about their seriousness to prosecute them.
Speaking at the opening of a training of OICs on electoral support management in Lilongwe yesterday, Jose told the officers that failure to act on political violence would be blamed on the police not political parties if negative consequences occurred.
“As officers-in-charge, you should not tolerate this. Let us not become spectators of political violence in our area. Let the law take action against perpetrators without fear or favour,” he said.
Jose emphasised that the police will not shield anyone perpetrating political violence regardless of which party one belongs.
He added: “Recent events appear to strongly suggest that this year’s elections will pose a serious challenge to the democratic landscape of our country. If the political violence is properly handled, the pockets of conflict could stir unrest in the country as such it is the role of police officers to ensure this is controlled at the early stage.”
The training was organised with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which has also trained specialised units such as investigators and prosecutors on electoral related offences and public order management.
UN resident coordinator Maria Jose Torres said the police have an essential role in ensuring that the electoral environment encourages eligible voters to exercise their democratic right at the ballot.
She said such a training would ensure the different command levels of the police use soft measures to contain potential trouble during the election period.
Torres concurred with Jose that the 2019 election might possibly be the most contested and the nerves and skills of the police would be tested.
“Political violence is not just about the potential immediate loss of life, injury and damage to property. It is also about foreign investment and donor contributions being diverted elsewhere if Malawi is not seen as such a safe partner country after all. That is something the country can ill-afford at this time of multiple development challenges,” she warned.