Human rights bodies have written presidential candidates in the forthcoming election, outlining 10 human rights issues for the candidates to speak out on during the campaign period and prioritise after the poll.
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) acting executive director Michael Kaiyatsa and Youth and Society (YAS) executive director Charles Kajoloweka presented the issues to the media in Mzuzu on Thursday before officially submitting the letter to the concerned parties.
In the letter, the two organisations are concerned with the parties’ lack of commitment in addressing attacks on persons with albinism, unlawful or politically motivated killings, rape and degrading treatment of women and minors at Msundwe in Lilongwe and attacks linked to witchcraft accusations and bloodsucking allegations.
Reads the letter in part: “The fresh presidential election ordered by the Constitutional Court, and upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeal, holds the potential to usher in changes in the way government addresses human rights and governance issues in the country.
“We, therefore, urge you as a presidential candidate and your running mate to seize the moment and publicly commit to concrete changes to promote human rights and good governance in Malawi and to end the prevailing culture of impunity for human rights violations.”
In an interview, Kajoloweka said the two organisations expect political parties to develop comprehensive human rights policies that would bring to an end long-standing human rights challenges facing the country.
On his part, Kaiyatsa expressed disappointment with the parties, saying so far they have not spoken much on these human rights and governance issues during campaign rallies.
In a telephone interview, governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Nicholas Dausi, whose party has formed an alliance with the United Democratic Front (UDF), claimed that the party already observes human rights as outlined in the letter.
“If there is a party that observes human rights then it’s the DPP. If we didn’t observe the human rights, this country would have been on fire by now. But we have been able to tolerate divergent views and opinions,” he said.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) spokesperson Maurice Munthali, whose party is leading the Tonse Alliance with UTM Party and seven other parties, said the parties have consolidated their manifesto to speak with one voice, including on issues of human rights.
“So, all those issues outlined by the civil society organisations are embedded in our promise that Malawians will enjoy various freedoms, human rights and security when we form the next government,” he said.
President Peter Mutharika and Lazarus Chakwera are expected to lead the DPP-UDF Alliance and the Tonse Alliance, respectively, while Peter Kuwani will lead Mbakuwaku Movement for Development in the court-sanctioned fresh presidential election.