Civil society organisations (CSOs) working on human rights issues have described 2016 as a bad year in terms of socio-economic challenges Malawians faced.
The CSOs say the socio-economic challenges made it impossible for Malawians to enjoy their rights to economic activity, health and education, among other rights.
In an e-mailed response to a questionnaire, Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) executive director Gift Trapence said persistent water shortages, electricity blackouts, critical food shortages and unavailability of subsidised fertilisers, high levels of corruption, extra-judicial killings and suppression of press and media freedom by government were some of the factors that hindered Malawians from enjoying their rights during the past year.
“The rampant corruption, electricity blackouts and shortage of water have made Malawians suffer in 2016. This is the year in which we have seen patients dying in hospitals due to electricity blackouts. The intermittent power supply has turned out to be a violation of right to life, which is contrary to Section16 of the Constitution of Malawi and other international instruments the country is party to.
“The corruption in procurement of maize by Admarc [Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation] to support poor Malawians facing hunger is an attack to the right to food and right to life of many Malawians. 2016 has also been disturbing at the lack of commitment by the government on extra-judicial killing cases of Issa Njaunju and Robert Chasowa,” said Trapence.
However, he congratulated the opposition for ensuring Parliament passed the Access to Information Bill despite resistance from government side. He expressed hope that President Peter Mutharika will not delay in assenting to the Bill.
Commenting on the issue, Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), a network of 90 CSOs and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), cited the slow domestication and implementation of international obligations, low popularisation of such obligations and government secrecy on public information as some of the setbacks in 2016.
Other observations by HRCC include poor coordination mechanism within line ministries and across CSOs and stakeholders, archaic and outdated laws infringing on rights of people, high cases of lawlessness and arbitrary arrests of people and politicians.
HRCC chairperson Robert Mkwezalamba said, among others, freedom to economically earn a livelihood through business was challenged under the disguise of city by-laws; business and work environment were challenged by electricity blackouts and water shortages; access to education remained a nightmare following closure of universities, high university fees and lack of space in the institutions of higher learning.
“Access to health remains a far-fetched dream as there are no medicine in public hospitals, there are limited hospital spaces resulting in patients sharing beds and persons with disabilities and albinism continued to lack essential necessities and support. Also, inequalities remained huge while high cases of corruption, theft and abuse of public resources affected social growth.
“On political rights, there is no intra-party politics as dissent views are abruptly being silenced; use of public [broadcasters] to attack opponents; political violence in Mzuzu and low prosecution rate; lack of political discipline; non-implementation of Section 64 of the Constitution and political suppression and division of institutions of governance such as CSOs and political parties,” said Mkwezalamba.
Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (Chreaa), in its assessment, said the state of human rights in 2016 was in dire condition as the country has a lot of areas where human rights were neglected purposely or violated by those in power because the country lacks transparent checks and balances.
“The lack of a proper diet and the congestion issues are a direct violation of the constitutional right to not suffer inhumane/degrading treatment. They also contravene the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which Malawi is a party to,” said Chreaa executive director Victor Mhango. n