Worrisome; Human Rights Watch foresee violents ahead Malawi’s 2019 elections

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned authorities in Malawi that failure to thoroughly investigate and punish perpetrators of violence against human rights defenders and the opposition will ruin the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.

In an interview, HRW Southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga feared that the failure would also lead to more brazen violence, thereby creating animosity in the country.

HRW is among the 14 international organisations that have petitioned Inspector General of Police Rodney Jose, demanding urgent and thorough investigations into attacks and threats against human rights defenders and the opposition in the country.

The October 9 letter comes just a month after United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern over increasing number of such cases in the country.

The groups are coancerned with delays in investigations into the incident at Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) offices in Lilongwe where a security guard was beaten before a futile attempt to petrol-bomb the premises.

They have also queried death threats to Youth and Society executive director Charles Kajoloweka and the torching of a vehicle belonging to opposition legislator Agness Nyalonje of the United Transformation Movement (UTM) in Mangochi.

Said Mavhinga: “We feel that the Malawi Police need to act impartially and professionally to thoroughly investigate all cases of abuses, especially politically motivated violence ahead of elections next year. Failure to act on abuses will likely breed a culture of impunity.”

Earlier, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chief elections officer Sam Alfandika also expressed worry at the recent incidences of politically-motivated violent acts, saying they may paralyse the electoral process.

He said that the electoral body has already started engaging multiparty liaison committees in various districts, but hoped that authorities such as police and councils who are currently managing the space will work to eliminate this vice.

A 2016 study on Electoral Conflict and Violence in Malawi: Patterns, Nature and Mitigation Measures by governance specialist Henry Chingaipe observes that in many cases, perpetrators of violence are neither arrested nor charged, with victims receiving little or no redress.

Mwai Kalua, the MPS Service administrion officer, confirmed receipt of the letter.

MPS national spokesperson James Kadadzera earlier said police were doing everything to contain the situation.

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