Human Rights Defenders Forum (HRDF) has decried the love of money by some leaders of civil society organisations (CSOs) as one the factors weakening the sector.
The result, according to HRDF chairperson Timothy Mtambo, has been infighting within the sector and the citizenry’s loss of trust because these leaders no longer act on their behalf, but to fill their potbellies.
Speaking yesterday in Mzuzu during the launch of the HRDF chapter in the Northern Region, Mtambo said there is serious political infiltration in the civil society.
He said: “Government feels threatened by the civil society; hence, the efforts to divide the sector. My fear is that at the rate we are going, where civil society institutions are fighting each other and defending things that are not supposed to be defended, instead of being considered as a civil society, we will be considered as an evil society.
“So, we hope that the Human Rights Defenders Forum will ignite the energy to be effective change agents and provide checks and balances in the government system without fear or favour, and be genuine development partners with government.”
Mtambo noted that some players in civil society have been a frustration to the nation, especially due to lack of values required in executing their duties.
HRDF vice-chairperson Gift Trapence, whose institution—Centre for the Development of People (Cedep)—funded the meeting, said civil society leaders continue to live in fear due to threats.
“Whenever you are confronting an issue, human rights defenders face threats. They get intimidated because of their work. So, the forum is trying to find solutions to what must happen when a member faces threats,” he said.
Trapence also hinted on the need for the sector to regain people’s trust.
In an earlier interview, Chancellor College-based political analyst Ernest Thindwa urged the CSOs to start engaging the masses more on issues of national importance.
At least 20 CSO leaders from Mzimba, Chitipa, Karonga, Rumphi and Nkhata Bay attended the meeting, where a number of issues were discussed.
HRDF was established in 2016 as a space to provide enjoyment of rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly by the civil society. n