Human rights activist and chairperson for the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Timothy Mtambo claims he survived a gun attack from unknown people who were trailing him on Friday night with six bullets hitting his car, but remained unhurt.
The police have since said they will investigate the incident and assured the HRDC leader, who has been at the centre of anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations and his colleagues, of police protection.
Speaking to Nation on Sunday on Saturday, Mtambo alleged the incident happened around 11pm along the 49 Road near Mtandire on his way home. He said he was being trailed by a car from where his alleged attackers were firing.
The Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has since condemned the attack, saying such incidences affect peace and reconciliation efforts.
The activist suspects the attack to be the work of people who are not happy with the work of human rights defenders are doing.
Mtambo claimed it was interesting that his attack came just few hours after government issued a press statement which alleged that HRDC was conniving with opposition political parties to cause anarchy.
“This is part of their continued effort to suppress us. But I am not an enemy of anyone. We do not hate anyone to be hunted like this. We do what we do in the interest of justice, not because we hate someone. It is unfortunate that we are now targeted,” he said.
Mtambo said he would report to police as a matter of formality through human rights defenders have lost trust in the system.
He said the law enforcers did not seem willing to help activists when issues have been reported to them. He cited the petrol bomb at his house and another incident at Crossroads Hotel where there was an alleged attempt to bomb a car of one of the activists.
“We have lost confidence in the police. We have reported to them so many issues but they do not act. The Billy Mayaya incident was reported to them, but nothing has happened. I will also report but trust me, nothing will happen,” he said.
In an interview, MHRC executive secretary David Nungu, who said his office has received a report on the incident, appealed to government to provide maximum protection to rights activists, especially at the time the country continues to witness incidences of political violence.
Nungu said such attacks will affect efforts to bring peace and reconciliation, appealing to all concerned parties to exercise restraint.
“We appeal to the citizenry to use reason, and not violence. We condemn these criminal incidences which are counterproductive to peace and reconciliation efforts. As MHRC, we will always ensure that every citizen is protected and enjoys their human rights without fear of violence,” he said
In a telephone interview on Saturday, National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera confirmed receiving a report on Mtambo’s attack and said “as police we will do everything possible to investigate the issue”.
Kadadzera assured HRDC that the police is committed to protecting human rights activists just like the rest of the public.
Minister of Information Mark Bottomani, who on Friday, issued a statement alleging that government was aware of a plot between HRDC and opposition political parties to cause anarchy, said government is equally concerned and shocked with Mtambo’s attack and that it will investigate the matter.
On accusations that the attacks are masterminded by the system due to Mtambo’s call for the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah, Bottomani said: “That is a very unfortunate statement that he has lost trust with the police. Police is there to protect people, it is there for national security”.
Bottomani said his statement issued last Friday has nothing to do with the attack on Mtambo. He said government will ensure that all persons be it members of the opposition and HRDC are protected from attacks. n