Malawi Police Service (MPS) has responded to international organisations’ query on attacks and threats against human rights defenders and the opposition in the country, admitting failure that its investigations have so far yielded nothing.
On October 9 2018, 14 international organisations including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International penned Inspector General (IG) of Police Rodney Jose demanding urgent and thorough investigations into attacks and threats against human rights defenders and opposition party members.
“As Malawians enter the campaign period ahead of national elections expected in May next year, the police should do more to curb incidents of harassment and political violence. Decisive police action to thoroughly investigate and arrest those responsible would help to end impunity for these crimes and send a clear message of zero tolerance for political violence and related abuses,” state the organisations.
In its response dated October 16 2018, MPS admits lack of progress in investigations on all acts queried by the organisations, including the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) offices arson, death threats to Youth and Society (YAS) director Charles Kajoloweka and the torching of a vehicle in Mangochi belonging to Agness Nyalonje, Mzimba North legislator of the United Transformation Movement (UTM).
In the response, MPS through deputy IG responsible for operations Duncan Mwapasa said investigations were ongoing on all cases and assured that the police were working hard to conclude them.
Asked yesterday on perceptions that MPS is partisan in its handling of political violence cases, Mwapasa dismissed the assertions.
He said: “Malawi Police Service is there for everyone in dealing with crime. If we have delayed in concluding a matter, it doesn’t mean that we have ignored such issues, but because we have difficulties in getting information from people that have clues on the issues at hand.
“In the eyes of any sane person, it is not true that we are partisan in doing our work. We work for everybody.”
In a written response, HRW Southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga has since urged MPS to take action with results and not just words.
He said: “We note the response from the Malawi Police and urge swift action to implement their promises to protect all citizens. They should now walk the talk and build credibility founded on solid action with results and not just on words.”
According to HRW, the attack [at CHRR] has generated concern across Africa and beyond among international and regional organisations that partner with CHRR in its work.
But MPS argued they have been investigating the CHRR and other cases with commitment and diligence.
But a research conducted recently by our sister newspaper Weekend Nation based on serious violent cases published in Weekend Nation, The Nation and Nation on Sunday indicated that out of 15 incidents of violence that occurred between 2014 and 2018, police only acted swiftly on one.
According to the findings, the case acted on involved opposition parties, while those linked to supporters of the governing Democratic Progressive Party are largely ignored.
Meanwhile, Mtambo has questioned MPS commitment in concluding investigations on various threats and attacks, especially those against rights defenders and opposition parties.
“When you look at statistics of the issues that are being investigated, years have passed without getting to the logical conclusion of these matters.
“We want the police to get to the root of these issues. We can’t just be talking about investigations forever,” he said.
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 not apprehended or charged, with victims receiving little or no redress.