Heavy rains in Lilongwe on Tuesday forced government to cancel Human Rights Day commemorations, but hundreds others braved the downpour and participated in a Freedom March organised by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC).
Vice-President Everton Chimulirenji was supposed to preside over the government event at Bingu National Stadium.
The stadium programme had lined up a football match between Silver Strikers and Blue Eagles, live music by Black Missionaries, a comedy and sensitisation talks on democracy targeting the youth.
But rain started early, increasing in intensity hours before 10am when the programme was scheduled to start. As a result, only a handful of people trickled into the stadium. Later, it was not a surprise when it was announced through the public address system that the events were cancelled because of the adverse weather.
Some of the diplomats who turned up at the stadium included Egyptian Ambassador Hassan Shawky, United Nations (UN) resident coordinator Maria Jose Torres and United States Ambassador Robert Scott.
On the other side of Old Town, the HRDC Freedom March started on a poor note as a handful of people gathered at the march’s starting point, Lilongwe Community Centre ground.
But the atmosphere changed dramatically when some seven trucks wheezed in, ferrying singing and cheering people from Msundwe on the outskirts of city.
Although the turnout was boosted by the Msundwe residents, the weather forced HRDC leaders to wait up to around 11am before ordering the crowd to march to Capital Hill through Mchesi Township where a few people, including school children, were seen joining the crowd when it was still drizzling.
In an interview, HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo expressed satisfaction with the patronage, saying it was a reasonable crowd, considering that it rained since morning until midday.
The HRDC organised the Freedom March as one way of commemorating the UN-set Human Rights Day which was celebrated worldwide.
On Monday, Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark Botomani brushed off HRDC’s criticism of poor human rights record, arguing that the government has fulfilled its obligation of promoting people’s rights.
During yesterday’s march it was Malawi Defence Force soldiers who provided security to marchers. Marchers yesterday went about their task peacefully from the Community ground to the Capital Hill gate where they spent some minutes.
At another Human Rights Day event at Maula Prison in Lilongwe yesterday, heavy rains accompanied by winds disrupted what started as a lively function.
Meanwhile, Justice of the Malawi High Court Kenan Manda, who is also chairperson of the Prison Inspectorate, has said the number of remandees in Malawi prisons is scaring.
He was speaking at Maula Prison yesterday during the commemoration of Human Rights day which the Irish Rule of Law organised to interact with prisoners at the facility.