CONDEMNATION OF POLITICAL VIOLENCE AND A CALL FOR
RESPONSIBLE CONDUCT OF KEY PLAYERS TO CURB POLITICAL VIOLENCE
The Malawi Human Rights Commission (the Commission), has noted with concern the growing trend of political violence in the Country. Violence in any form is unacceptable as it leads to violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Commission in particular, condemns in the strongest terms, the recent incidents of violence that erupted during and after a political rally that the President Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda held on 16th March, 2014, at Goliati in Thyolo District. The Commission
has conducted preliminary investigations on the matter and will carry on the investigations to fully establish the triggers and causes, the perpetrators, and effects of the violence, and make recommendations to appropriate authorities on necessary remedial actions.
The Effects of the Goliati Political Rally-related Violence on Human Rights
So far, the Commission has established and notes with regret the fatal effects of the violence that has claimed lives of two people, and registers deepest sympathy to the respective bereaved families. The Commission observes that these deaths are a serious violation of the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life, guaranteed in section 16 of the Republic of Malawi Constitution. The Commission further notes with concern the significant number of people who have sustained injuries and the destruction of property that has ensued from the violence, affecting a number of human rights guaranteed in the Constitution. The Commission
is also concerned with the emergence of the violent incidents at a time when the country is heading for the 20th May 2014 Tripartite Elections. Violence is detrimental and a hindrance to the participation of citizens in the electoral process, and therefore threatens political rights guaranteed in section 40 of the Constitution and other related rights.
Call on Responsibility on Political Party Leadership and Members and the avoidance of Political Propaganda
In view of the foregoing, the Commission is reiterating the call it has variously made on political party leadership in the country to take full responsibility of the conduct of its political party members. Furthermore, political party leadership should at all times desist from spurring violence by making derogatory remarks of other political players or inflammatory remarks. Such kinds of remarks often have the effect of playing on the feelings of an already charged public who may resort to violence as a defensive mechanism or in retaliation. Politicians must ensure at all times that their messages are issue-based other than aimed at attacking
personalities, castigating, vilifying or demonising others.
The Commission is particularly concerned with the propaganda that has ensued following the Thyolo incident on the part of the ruling People’s Party (PP) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who have used the incident to demonise each other instead of focusing on a self reflection exercise of their role and contribution to the violence, and how to avert future occurrences of similar incidents. In this regard, the Commission is urging the PP and DPP to take full responsibility of the conduct of their political party members and relay clear messages to the members and the public that the party leadership will not sanction any
violent behaviour. Thus, the DPP and PP should focus on identifying those amongst their membership that instigated the violence by actions or omissions and ensuring that appropriate disciplinary measures are put in place and strictly applied.
Call on an Effective Crowd Control Mechanism on the part of the Malawi Police Service
The Commission would also like to call on the Malawi Police Service to ensure effectiveness in rapid response to violent situations including through a heightened sense of alertness in anticipating and defusing tensions. Furthermore, ensuring strict observance of the law on lethal use of firearms, where, the force applied must be proportionate to the situation, and lethal force must be the last resort. The role of the Malawi Police Service to ensure that the general public is guaranteed with maximum security cannot be overemphasised.
Call on Responsibility on the part of the General Public and the Electorate
Members of the general public are strongly urged to be mindful of the fact that any form of political violence is uncalled for and violates people’s rights to participate in public life and other related rights. All people in Malawi have a duty to safeguard the principles of peaceful co-existence, understanding and tolerance as the basic tenets towards free, fair and credible elections.
Conclusion: A Call to Action on all Key Players
The Commission would like to remind all key political players that in the run up to the 20th May 2014 Tripartite Elections, it is important to strictly observe all duties and responsibilities relating to a free, fair and credible electoral process. Political players cannot and should not seek political gain at the expense of people’s lives and human rights. It is imperative that the focus should be on issue-based politics other than politics focusing on attacking personalities, as this is one of the major catalysts of political violence. Furthermore, the Commission reminds all Malawians to uphold the fundamentals of responsible citizenship by desisting to be used by politicians for violence. In particular, the youth should ensure that they do not fall prey to being used as agents for political violence.
Violence in any form is unacceptable. Where such violence breeds loss of life, the situation becomes regrettable and must be condemned in the strongest terms. The PP and DPP should be mindful of the fact that dwelling on apportioning the blame for this regrettable incident will not take this country forward nor will it reverse the regrettable loss of the two lives. The two parties must own up to the incident, take full responsibility and commit in earnest to averting the recurrence of similar incidents. The recent incident of loss of lives due to political violence cannot and should not be condoned at all costs by all political parties as we are gearing towards 20th May 2014 Tripartite Elections.
Commissioner Stephen Nkoka (for Chairperson)
17th March, 2014.