The autopsy report is clear, he was killed. But who killed him? The public is set to get the answer as the Malawi Police Service (MPS) has instituted a task force to investigate circumstances surrounding the death of Buleya Lule.
Lule, who was murdered while in police custody weeks ago, was a suspect in the abduction and killing of a boy with albinism in Dedza.
But human rights activists have questioned police’s intention to investigate the matter, which the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) is already investigating.
In a public notice issued yesterday, MPS announced the formation of a task force to investigate Lule’s death.
“Police would like to inform Malawians that the autopsy report of the late Buleya Lule was officially presented to the office of the Inspector General by Apam [Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi]. In response to the report, the IG has put in place a special task team to inquire into the circumstances that led to the death of Lule.
“The task team is being headed by Dr. George Kainja, director of research, planning and reforms unit in the Malawi Police Service (MPS). The IG has also extended invitation to the Malawi Law Society and Apam to provide a member each to be included in the task team”.
This is a second inquiry on the matter, as MHRC launched another a few weeks ago and, according to Commissioner Martha Chizuma, the report on their findings will be presented by May 8 2019.
Reacting to the development, Apam national coordinator Overstone Kondowe welcomed the move, saying it was a positive step.
Kondowe, who confirmed that Apam will join the task force, said they will demand that the inquiry be done within 20 days and have the report presented to the public.
But rights activist Gift Trapence, who is vice-chairperson for Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has questioned police’s move, saying it was a duplication of efforts as MHRC was rightly placed to inquire on the matter.
“MHRC is an independent body which is better placed to investigate the matter. How can we have the police investigating itself? If anything, the police should wait for the MHRC report and act on recommendations,” he said.
Trapence said there was need to establish the independent Police Complaints Commission as required by the law, to avoid a situation where MPS is investigating itself.
Trapence added: “We have a record of how the police cannot investigate itself. The issue about Robert Chasowa, Issa Njauju make some of us doubt if indeed the police is committed to investigating such cases where either they are directly implicated or the regime is implicated. For this, we cannot trust them to do a fair inquiry on Lule,” he added.
Another rights activist and social commentator Makhumbo Munthali described the police task force as a mere cover-up to delay justice.
“Do we really need to conduct circumstances that led to the death of Lule? Is police doubting the autopsy report? Why not just bring forward the police officers that were involved in the killing and identify an external independent investigator to establish the motive for killing Lule?” he queried. another investigation to establish
But, in a telephone interview, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera allayed the fears, saying they have extended invitations to Apam and MLS to cast out any doubt on the professionalism of the task force.
Asked why they have instituted an inquiry on top of another inquiry, Kadadzera said police were responding to Apam’s call for an investigation, after it shared a report with them.
Lule was one of the suspects in the abduction of 14-year-old Goodson Makanjira, a boy with albinism from Dedza. Lule died in the hands of police in Lilongwe after he appeared in court once, where he denied the charge.
In a seven-paged report, pathologist Charles Dzamalala, who was commissioned by MHRC to conduct the autopsy, stated that Lule was assaulted and electrocuted.
Reads the report in part: “While electrocution is the primary cause of death in this instance, it was abundantly clear that the deceased was also assaulted with different types of implements, including but not limited to a cylindrical object inflicting trauma to the head and probably also a hot iron or similar object placed on a cloth over the skin rather than directly onto the skin around the left buttock.”
This report contradicted an earlier version of the police, which stated that Lule had died of natural causes.
Lule is not the first, connected to cases of attacks of people with albinism, to die in police hands. Two others— Donald Msafiri, a suspect in the abduction of 18-month-old Eunice Nkhonjera, a PWA in Karonga and Joseph Andiwotchi, a suspect in the abduction of Ibra Pilo, a two-year-old PWA in Machinga—mysteriously committed suicide.