Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition solidarity statement with the people of Malawi
"If there is anything that we must learn from the upheavals going on in the northern part of our continent, it is that the legitimate expectations of the citizens of our countries cannot be taken for granted. We must, therefore, continue at the SADC level to consolidate democracy through the establishment of institutions that uphold the tenets of good government, respect for human rights and the rule of law."
Zambian President, Ruppiah Banda
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (The Coalition) stands in solidarity with human rights activists, students, churches and the people of Malawi in their quest for the establishment of democratic institutions, good governance and poverty reduction in their country. Citizens of Malawi have been protesting since the 20th of July against rising poverty levels, lack of basic social services particularly water and electricity, mismanaging of the economy by the government and trampling of democratic freedoms.
The Coalition is concerned with the death of at least 19 innocent civilians during the protests, the firing of live ammunition at peaceful protesters by the police, deployment of military personnel to quell the protests, arrests of 275 people and utterances by the President of Malawi, Bingu waMutharika threatening to 'smoke out' organisers of the protests. This is not the first time that President Bingu waMutharika and his government have disrespected the rights of Malawian citizens. In 2009, his government arrested and later sentenced a gay couple to 14 years imprisonment under unclear homosexual charges. The couple was later granted pardon after the intervention of the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon.
The Malawian government should remember that it has a constitutional mandate to defend its people and their liberties. The continued abuse of power by the police and military and utterances by the President show the evident intolerance for civic freedoms by the Malawian government. It is important that the Malawian government bears in mind the fact that citizens have a legitimate right to protest against oppression and government excesses.
It is important that the Malawian government takes heed of the wise counsel from President Ruppiah Banda at the SADC Troika meeting held in Zambia in April 2011 that the demands and expectations of citizens should be respected. The Coalition further upholds the statement made by the Public Affairs Committee, one of the progressive forces in Malawi which said in a statement, 'Bullets and tear gas have never triumphed over the will of the people'.
The Coalition thus calls upon the government of Malawi to;
1. Respect and uphold the rights of the citizens to show dissatisfaction with their government by staging non- violent protests
2. Desist from stifling the freedoms of its citizens by violently quashing the protests and threatening the organisers
3. Address the concerns of its citizens by taking measures towards proper management of government finances, poverty reduction and respect of fundamental freedoms particularly press and academic freedoms
4. Investigate and bring to book murderers of the fallen 19
5. Release the 275 people unjustly arrested and detained since the 20th of July 2011.