By Rebecca Chimjeka
Malawi Human rights defenders have raised alarm on the country’s deteriorating record on the civil and political rights.
The human rights activists said this in the communiqué released on Tuesday at the end of the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the African Charter on human and people’s rights under the theme, “the role of human rights defenders in democracy.”
“We are concerned with the rapid deterioration of the Civil and Political Rights as underlined by among others things oppression of the media, suppression of the academic freedom, obstruction of the freedom of assembly and association, disregard of the court rulings with impunity, trivializing and disregarding of the minority rights and promulgation of retrogressive pieces of legislation.
“Worried with the drastic shrinking of political space and the deliberative public sphere as evidenced by the failure to hold local government elections for almost 10 years as provided for in the Republican Constitution and the increasing state sponsored violence towards human rights defenders and the general citizenry,” reads part of the communiqué.
The defenders said they have noted that failure by the State to abide by international and regional treaties such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as illustrated by non-submission of State Party reports and lack of greater efforts to domesticate various core international human rights instruments.
“Malawi is party to observing limited commitment to the protection and fulfillment of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as demonstrated by the State’s inability to undertake reforms and investments to improve social services which has culminated into among other things adoption of discriminatory policies such as the University Quota Selection Policy, acute shortage of drugs leading to unnecessary loss of lives, and dwindling standards of living.
“Disturbed with alarming levels of nepotism, patronage, clientelism, and institutionalized and systemic corruption in the management of the national economy, development and the public service,” say the defenders in their statement.
There has been worsening economic situation in Malawi and the apparent failure of the government to find lasting solutions to the problems of forex, fuel and erratic electricity and water supplies.
There has also been strained bilateral and multilateral relations underlined among other things by the expulsion of the British Envoy, derogatory remarks against development partners and the consequent suspension of budgetary support and other aid mechanisms with negative effects on the provision of the basic social services.
The defenders therefore call upon the country’s leadership to respect the role of human rights defenders in promotion and protection of human rights respect, protect and fulfill all rights as enshrined in Malawi’s Republican Constitution at all times and desist from executive arrogance.
“We also want the promotion of efforts to domesticate the core international human rights instruments such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, ensure that Malawi fulfills its obligation to regularly submit State Party reports, promote legislation based on human rights principles as a way of strengthening a human rights culture.
“Uphold the rule of law that entrenches a culture of constitutionalism by respecting court orders and separation of powers, repeal and desist from enacting laws that are inconsistent with the Constitution and the spirit of human rights, democracy and good governance commit itself to the right to development to ensure that it provides basic minimum standards for dignified livelihood and ensure proper management of the national economy and the public service in the interest of greater common good,” says the communiqué.
Speaking at the same forum, African Union special rapture her Excellency Reine Alapin- Gansou says human rights defenders are a key to any democratic government in Africa.
African governments should stop taking human rights defenders as opponents as you are the voice for the voiceless and it is only through you that these nations can benefit a lot in both development and following the treaties they have been following all along,” she said.
The communiqué was signed by Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC), Council for Non-Governmental Organizations in Malawi (CONGOMA), Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC), Malawi Law Society (MLS), Public Affairs Committee (PAC), National Elections Systems Trust (NEST), Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC), Church and Society Programme and CCAP Synod of Livingstonia among others.