Non-Governmental Organisation Gender Coordinating Network (NGO-GCN) says it is concerned with the slow pace at which a commission of inquiry instituted by Malawi Police Service (MPS) is taking to investigate police officers alleged to have raped women in Msundwe, Lilongwe.
NGO-GCN chairperson Barbara Banda said in an interview yesterday that MPS has not yet appraised them on the progress of investigations the commission is carrying against officers who allegedly raped women in Msundwe on the outskirts of Lilongwe City.
She said the activists have not even heard that the Acting Inspector General of Police Duncan Mwapasa suspending police officers suspected to have raped women and defiled girls in Msundwe and its surrounding areas.
Said Banda: “Our expectation was that investigations were going to be concluded timely. But we are worried with the slow speed at which investigations are being conducted. We expected that the suspects would be suspended but we have not heard anything on that.”
But in an interview yesterday National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said the commission, which he earlier said comprises professionals, is working to ensure every allegation is carried out to its logical conclusion.
He said: “The commission of inquiry put in place by the IG is doing its work. When it is through, it will lay bare its findings and recommendations. All we need is to give them time and space for thorough investigations.”
On October 17 this year, the MPS instituted an inquiry headed by Commissioner Arlene Baluwa to investigate defilement, rape, torture and theft allegations against police officers in and around Msundwe, M’bwatalika and Mpingu trading centres in Lilongwe.
The commission was instituted following a statement by the NGO-GCN which stated that some police officers dispatched to the areas on October 9 this year harassed women, defiled self-boarding girl students, tortured people and looted private property.
In March this year, Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee (PAC) Chairperson Lingson Belekenyama faulted the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) for not submitting names of people to be considered for appointment into the Independent Complaints Commission which the Police Act established to investigate public complaints.
Section 128 of the Police Act established the Independent Complaints Commission to receive and investigate complaints by the public against police officers and the service in general.
During demonstrations organised by NGO-GCN, the European Union Ambassador Sandra Paesen called for speedy investigations into the matter and any other abuse women faced during police operations in the communities.
Police held a series of operations in the communities following the death of superintendent Usumani Imedi who was stoned to death while on duty to calm an adverse situation which emanated from angry residents against President Peter Mutharika’s decision to hold a function in Lilongwe.
In its statement, the NGO-GCN demanded Mutharika, as Commander-in-Chief of the MPS, to ensure the police initiate thorough investigations and punish all culprits, adding that no one is above the law and the rule of law must be respected. Meanwhile, Banda says a group of women activists will meet to discuss the next course of action they need to take following the delay.