Pressure is mounting on Malawi Police Service (MPS) to name, shame and prosecute its officers who allegedly raped women in and around Msundwe area along the Lilongwe-Mchinji Road in October last year.
Following a news conference addressed by Deputy Inspector General (Administration) John Nyondo which fell short of giving a clear picture on a police probe, Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) says police should thoroughly investigate the matter and arrest suspects.
On the other hand, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has vowed to proceed with its planned demonstrations this Thursday to push for the arrest of the suspects who perpetrated sexual violence.
During the news conference at National Police Headquarters in Lilongwe, Nyondo said an internal police probe report was submitted to Acting IG Duncan Mwapasa and that a fresh probe is underway.
The second police probe, rolled out on December 31 2019, follows an MHRC investigation which established that some police officers raped and sexually abused 17 women on October 9 last year at Mpingu and M’bwatalika trading centres around Msundwe in Lilongwe.
Nyondo pleaded for public patience to allow police more time for the investigations.
But he appeared to be at pains in providing answers on why the report was only released for the eyes of Mwapasa when the matter was of public interest and has dented the image of the police.
Said Nyondo: “The inquiry submitted findings to the acting Inspector General. But the findings were presented internally and they were not made public because we are doing further investigations. Management is keen to see that investigations are done to the logical conclusion.”
Hours after the police briefing, HRDC officials said they would proceed with demonstrations tomorrow to protest the police officers’ suspected rape and other criminal acts in the area.
HRDC national chairperson Timothy Mtambo, whose organisation has held a series of mass demonstrations over the conduct of the May 21 Tripartite Elections, said tomorrow’s demonstrations will be called off only if the police arrest and start prosecuting the suspects.
He said: “Our women experienced trauma which has never happened on earth. We are saying that if those police officers are not going to be arrested by tomorrow [today] and if they are not going to be interdicted, we are moving on with planned demonstrations tomorrow.”
Mtambo blamed police for not producing public reports on circumstances that led to the deaths of suspects such as Buleya Lule in police cell, as he was being tried in a case involving a person with albinism; third year Polytechnic engineering student and political activist Robert Chasowa and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director of corporate services Issah Njaunju, among other cases.
In a separate interview, MHRC executive secretary David Nungu, whose commission established that some police officers peretrated sexual violence against civilians, said police should conduct thorough investigations into the matter before arresting culprits.
He said: “Our investigations were on human rights violations. We should give police the benefit of doubt that they will conclude investigations. No one should be arrested without proper investigations.”
In its report, MHRC said it established that police officers raped 13 women, defiled one girl and sexually-assaulted three under-18 girls during their October 8 2019 operation around the area.
The MHRC report opened a can of worms with government officials, notably Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark Botomani, dismissing it on the basis that MHRC had no commissioners in place. However, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma, an MHRC ex-offio commissioner, dismissed the minister’s assertions, arguing that Section 130 of the Constitution mandates her office and the Law Commissioner to operate as commissioners in the absence of a full commission. The European Union on December 26 also demanded “swift and decisive” reaction from authorities on police officers accused of perpetrating sexual violence in the affected area.