The United Nations (UN) and local church bodies are the latest voices to condemn the spate of political violence in the country.
At a press briefing on Friday, the church bodies warned authorities against letting the country degenerate into a state of lawlessness.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva also issued a statement on the same day, raising concern on political violence and “savage attacks” on people with albinism.
Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM), Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) and Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) observe that the rising cases of political violence are a threat to democracy.
The organisations were represented by MCC general secretary Gilford Matonga, EAM general secretary Francis Mkandawire and ECM secretary general Henry Saindi.
Said Saindi: “We have noted with dismay that despite reports of political violence in several districts, leaders of key political parties allegedly involved in these barbaric acts have either been silent or not acted swiftly to address the situation.
“As we move towards elections, such procrastination to curb political violence can be a catalyst for anarchy in the country.”
He urged citizens to reject political leaders who condone or promote violence by their party members.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville said the UN is “very concerned” about an increase in political violence in Malawi, violence against women and attacks against persons with albinism, as Malawi heads towards elections in May 2019.
“On January 10, member of Parliament, Bon Kalindo was arrested for insulting the President as well as for disorderly conduct. Following his release on bail, on January 16, Mr. Kalindo was violently assaulted, allegedly by members of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) youth wing—commonly referred to as cadets—on the premises of the District Commissioner in the southern town of Mulanje, and required hospital treatment.
“Last Sunday (January 20) Edward Govati, a supporter of opposition Malawi Congress Party, was savagely attacked in Blantyre, also reportedly by DPP cadets. He was badly beaten and also required hospital treatment. Mr. Govati had previously been threatened because of his political activities,” reads the UN statement.
Colville adds that on the same January 20, a male and female supporter of UTM were assaulted—once again allegedly by DPP cadets in Mangochi.
“They were forced to take off their UTM T-shirts, leaving the woman in her underwear and the man half-naked. The man was also reportedly beaten with a beer bottle,” reads the UN statement.
The UN notes that political violence had already been on the increase during the 2018 primary elections, where women candidates in particular faced threats, harassment and intimidation.
“We welcome the fact that, on January 23, President Peter Mutharika condemned political violence, including acts aimed at humiliating women in the political arena.
“However, we are concerned that so far no one has been brought to justice for any of the series of politically motivated attacks that have been taking place since last year,” it reads.
The UN also regretted increased savage attacks on people with albinism, including the killing of Yasin Phiri, 55, in Nkhata Bay.
The UN says: “We call on the authorities to step up their efforts to protect persons with albinism, and to prosecute and punish alleged perpetrators.”
Minister of Information Henry Mussa committed to respond, but when called, he said he was at a political rally and unable to pick calls.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson Pilirani Masanjala, said it was difficult for him to respond being a weekend.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) vice-chairperson Gift Trapence said in an interview yesterday that it was bad for Malawi to be on the globe spotlight for wrong reasons.
He said the problem was that authorities know the real culprits, but look the other way.
“When the UN begins talking about us, that should be a concern,” said Trapence.
Trapence dared the police to arrest governing DPP operatives captured in video clips if they want to restore the public trust in them.
MPS spokesperson James Kadadzera is on record to have claimed they have started arresting people in connection with the political violence justice and that accused persons would be brought to justice. n