Perpetrators of atrocities that ensued following disagreements over fee hike by the University of Malawi (Unima) should brace themselves for possible tough times ahead as the Malawi Human Rights Commission has added its weight to have them prosecuted.
Preliminary findings of the commission have noted disagreements between the students and the University authorities over the proposed fee hike in tertiary education.
But in a statement released on Friday afternoon, the commission announced it was carrying out what it called ‘comprehensive investigations into the matter’.
The statement, signed by the chairperson to the Commission Justin Dzonzi, further explained that the findings of the probe will inform the commission’s objective and evidence-based assessment of the situation and the human rights implications thereof. This, adds the statement, would form the basis of recommendations to concerned authorities as well as “put in place remedial or redress”.
The statement says the probe will, among other issues, try to establish the full sequence of events in relation to the applicable laws and probe into the underlying and immediate causative factors of the demonstrations.
Explains the statement: “It [the investigation] will also get to the bottom of the role played by different actors, including the students’ council, the University leadership, and the police in dealing with the event; document the incidences of violence and the consequences thereof; and probe into issues surrounding the use of force by the police in dealing with the situation.”
The statement also touches on several key areas on which it shared its notes, including on human rights, where it seemingly blamed the police for their action in the whole matter; adding the events surrounding the demonstrations raise implications for a number of human rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.
Since the demonstrations in Zomba, social media forums were awash with a leaked video clip showing police officers chasing students within Chancellor College premises as if they were criminals before confronting two seemingly stranded and unarmed young female students.
The police are yet to comment of the leaked video.
While not delving into the issue of merits and demerits of the proposed fee hike, MHRC calls upon government and the concerned University authorities to ensure that the process for adjustments of fees is carried out in a consultative and transparent manner.
On the closure of the Chancellor College, following the violent protests, the commission said while the move was seemingly a plausible temporary measure, it raised serious implications for the right to education, especially if the period becomes unduly prolonged.
Reads the statement in part: “We, therefore, appeal to the authorities to put efforts towards the prompt re-opening of the college while in the interim, students’ representatives and the authorities engage in constructive dialogue and explore lasting solutions to the matter.”
The Chanco students’ demonstrations attracted international headlines after the students-police running battles inconvenienced the United States of America (USA) Second Lady Jill Biden on her way to visit Mtubwi Primary School in Machinga last Tuesday.