October 8 2019. Superintendent Usumani Imedi wakes up. Takes a bath. Dresses up in his police mobile service fatigues and a beret to match. Has breakfast with his wife and children. Bids his family ‘bye and see you later’.
Just hours later, the same Usumani Imedi, the same superintendent, beret off, fatigues fully intact but drenched in thick human blood and face puffed up, lies motionless on the tarmac. Stones, the weapons of death used to crush the superintendent to death lay around his head. A few watchers, mostly young and barefoot, surround the now late superintendent. And WhatsApp and other social media ‘photojournalists’ snap the dead Imedi and circulate the pictures, captioned: ‘cop killed’.
The police officer who had been deployed to keep the peace had been lynched by the very people he was meant to keep at peace.
In small groups, Malawians start discussing and questioning the motive behind the lynching of a police officer. What the groups did not immediately discuss and reflect on is that Superintendent Usumani Imedi was a police officer, a public servant, who obeyed his superior’s orders and commands relating to deployment.
Even if he was equally irked by the outcome of the May 21 2019 presidential elections, Superintendent Imedi had to do his work. He had to keep the public order and peace. Like all responsible adults and family men and women, Imedi worked to feed and clothe his family.
Yes, the Msundwe lynch mob killed a police officer with national responsibilities of keeping us, civilians, safe in the deep of the night, during the day, on and off the roads, and everywhere you can think of.
Some police officers may be bad and immoral, but so are the teachers, members of Parliament, lawyers, nurses, physicians, physicists, journalists, soldiers and politicians. But that does not warrant us rebelling against our very protection service. We cannot have a country without police security. There is a lot that we gain as civilians from the police service. If the police withdrew from patrolling the townships, streets and villages or regulating traffic, theft, crime and road accidents would escalate immediately.
Yet, the Msundwe mob also killed a family man with huge direct responsibilities for his wife, children and members of his extended family. Imedi was a family man. We should always remember that each time we attack a police officer or soldier we are attacking somebody’s husband, wife, father, mother, uncle, niece, nephew, sister or brother.
The police, too, should be reminded that each time they unleash their physical and emotional terror on errant people, they are doing that to a family person.
The sad part of the Msundwe story is the silence from politicians. We, civilians, expected all political leaders in Malawi to have been united in condemning the lynching of Usumani Imedia, a public servant deployed to execute his terms of reference. Even sadder is the fact so far we have heard nothing from faith leaders, chiefs and CSO leaders. We are waiting for political across-aisle condemnation of Usumani Imedi lynching and proposed solutions. Without serious across-the-board condemnation of Imedi’s heinous murder, more officers will be killed.
Superintendent Imedi is dead and buried. But, may his death be the last. We appeal to the police service to devise strategies that will endear themselves to the public once more. People should not feel intimidated each time they see a police officer. People should not always associate the police with a political party. People should not always associate the police with bribes and corruption. The public should welcome the police in the same manner they welcome soldiers. n