President Peter Mutharika yesterday commissioned the $50 million (about K36 billion) World Bank-funded Kamuzu Barrage and bridge and used the occasion to hit at critics of his administration’s alleged failure to protect persons with albinism.
The President accused the critics he did not name of manipulating facts purportedly to gain political mileage.
However, it was clear the President was reacting to sentiments by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera and civil society organisations under the banner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) who recently challenged him to put to an end to the killings and abductions of people with albinism.
In his statement last week, Chakwera said his administration would end the attacks, abductions and killings of persons with albinism if voted into government during the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
But a visibly charged Mutharika said by not providing the solution now, his critics have no solution.
He said: “The issue of abduction and killings of persons with albinism is complex and is disheartening. When such reports started, I sent the Inspector General of Police to Rwanda and Tanzania to learn how our colleagues have managed to contain the problem. They came up with a National Action Plan which, among others, recommended that police units be constructed in all areas to increase security.
“It is sad that someone is saying I am a coward and that I am doing nothing to deal with the issue. Let me warn you, do not politicise this issue.”
Since November 2014, the number of reported crimes against people with albinism in Malawi has risen to 152 cases, including 25 murders and more than 10 people missing, according to Association of People with Albinism in Malawi.
On the commissioning of the upgraded Kamuzu Barrage, Mutharika described the project as one of his government’s flagship projects that will improve regulation of water flow in Shire River to sustain hydro electricity generation downstream.
He said the 1965 barrage had outlived its lifespan and posed a risk to people’s lives.
The project was ranked as the highest priority in the National Water Resources Investment Strategy study carried out by government in 2011.
Josses Mugabi, specialist in water and sanitation at the World Bank, said the upgrading was timely as it will boost Shire Valley Irrigation Project and Mpatamanga Hydro Electricity Plant projects besides controlling flooding of the river.
The deadline for the rehabilitation of the project,which started five years ago, has been extended seven times pushing the cost by $8million (from $36.5million to $44.1million).