President Peter Mutharika will not be in Lilongwe when the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) will be marching to Kamuzu Palace and holding vigils from March 6 to 8 2019.
Mutharika, will instead be in the Northern Region, where he is expected to carry out a number of tasks, starting on Tuesday, March 5 2019 when he will commission the Mzimba Integrated Urban Water and Sanitation Project.
Apart from the Mzimba engagement, other unconfirmed reports indicate that the President will also commission the Karonga-Songwe Road, as well as the start of the Nkhata Bay Water Project.
In fact, presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani has said Mutharika already met persons with albinism (PWAs) last Thursday, and he will simply go ahead to implement what was agreed.
“The President invited Apam and other stakeholders, but they refused. Others came and there were very fruitful discussions that led to a number of commitments that government will now be implementing.
“The trip to the North was planned long time ago. The President’s development agenda manoeuvres, disguised as albino rights advocacy. Those who wanted to meet thecannot be disturbed by political
President came, and they discussed, it’s now time to implement what was discussed,” he said.
During the Thursday meeting attended by about 50 PWAs mostly drawn from the Southern Region under the banner of Poor and Concerned People with Albinism (Pacpwa), the President responded to demands of PWAs and directed Treasury to immediately start disbursing the K3.1 billion budgeted for the 2018-2022 National Action Plan on the killing and abduction of PWAs in the country.
The decision to snub the vigils has not amused Apam president Overstone Kondowe who insisted yesterday that they will go ahead with their plans.
Said Kondowe: “Whether he [Mutharika] is available at State House or not, we will not change our stand. We will go ahead with our plan, and nothing will change!”
In a statement dated March 2 2019 jointly issued by Apam, Human Rights Defenders Coalition and Fedoma, the grouping said Apam will relentlessly engage authorities until the necessary measures are taken to ensure the safety of all PWAs.
“We have noted the recent commitments made by the government. However, as has been the case, these and other similar commitments have been made before. However, these have not been implemented.
“There have been no tangible developments apart from such commitments. We have thus been convinced that it is high time Government moved beyond making verbal and written commitments to taking concrete action. Indeed, it is time for action; hence the resolve to go ahead with the vigils,” he said.
Should the planned vigils not be fruitful or if they yield Apam said they have already made arrangements with foreign missions to Malawi to open their doors for asylum support.unsatisfactory concrete results,
“This will only be suspended upon the realisation of our goals which will be evidenced by government’s concrete action as opposed to verbal or written rhetoric and commitment,” further stated the statement.
This will not be the first time that Mutharika has missed protests, or indeed face protesters.
Last year, September, Mutharika defied a court order compelling him to receive a petition from civil society organisations (CSOs) which organised peaceful protests in the country’s four cities.
High Court Judge Charles Mkandawire had specifically ordered Mutharika to receive the petition at Capital Hill, but the then Lilongwe chief executive officer Moza Zeleza received instead, saying he had been delegated by the President.
Meanwhile, HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo has said Mutharika’s decision is an indication of a leader who does not respect the plight of the citizenry.
“This is not the first time that he has snubbed facing the citizens during protests. He did that last year, and for all I know, he has never faced protesters. What is he afraid of?” wondered Mtambo.
Malawi is experiencing a resurgence of attacks against persons with albinism, with two fatalities and three abductions since 31 December 2018. Two of those who were abducted were later rescued by community members, one remains missing.
Since November 2014, the number of reported crimes against people with albinism in Malawi has risen to 152 cases, including 25 murders and more than 10 people missing, according to Apam.