With eight days to go before the new year, Centre for Human Right and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) has said 2015 will be remembered as a year when leadership went to bed in as far as matching rhetoric [on good governance and human rights] with concrete action is concerned.

The two leading NGOs said this in a joint statement released on Monday signed by Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence made available to FaceofMalawi.

CHRR and Cedep in a statement said 2015 was characterised by lack of leadership on critical issues of national concern, a scenario that often raised more questions than answers as to whether President Mutharika was in control.

“Under the pretext of practicing “Servant leadership” (leading from behind), Mutharika was silent on critical issues requiring his decisive leadership with the notable ones being the NACGATE, MSB sale, Judicial strike and many others.

“In the midst of such “silence” there were contradicting messages emanating from the Cabinet and Mutharika’s “village of advisers”, and in some cases contradicting his own position. Due to such “absence” of leadership in 2015 it can be said beyond reasonable doubt that Malawi was running on auto-pilot,” reads in part the statement.

The two NGOs have also said 2015 was also a year when the leadership was characterized by some vestiges of intolerance to dissent views with critics of the regime either subjected to verbal threats by Mutharika and his cronies or banned from issuing ultimatums.

“It was in 2015 when Mutharika labelled the media, CSOs as “unpatriotic” hell-bent on tarnishing the “good” image of the current leadership simply for holding him accountable on how he was managing the public pulse. Academicians and experts who comment on issues of governance were accused of concentrating on trivia rather than devoting to research when, in actual fact, commenting on such issues is part of their contribution to their society within the broader mandate of “outreach roles”, added the statement.

The two NGOs have also faulted the government for its attempt, using the NGO Board, Minister of Gender, CONGOMA and NGO law, to threaten and restrict the activities of Civil Society Organisations especially those deemed critical of government with the notable ones being some of those who had participated in a 13th January 2015 national demonstrations over the crisis state of governance, rule of law, accountability, transparency, human rights and abuse of HIV/AIDs related funds for activities that had nothing to do with HIV/AIDs initiatives.

CHRR and Cedep has faulted Mutharika’s village of advisers for employing “divide and rule” strategies under the guise of dialogue to the extent of bankrolling [using the tax payers money] parallel demonstrations and NGO meetings to counter “bonafide” ones organized by aggrieved citizens over deteriorating public service delivery.

Although this was the case, the two NGOs have commended Mutharika’s regime for its swift response of condemnation of the brutal attacks leveled against people living with Albinism.

“We also commend Mutharika’s for taking lead in government’s response to the floods situation by amongst other things effectively coordinating the national and international response to the crisis in the best interest of the victims. 2015 also witnessed some notable progress in court’s hearing and prosecution of cashgate cases with notable convictions on the same,” reads in part the statement.

The NGOs have however, urged the government to show total commitment to the allegedly K577 billion cashgate as well.
“There are public concerns, in a case of selective justice, that government has so far not demonstrated any political will in ensuring that the alleged k577 billion cashgate is dealt with once and for all. Justice should not only be seen to be done but also manifestly be done on both issues.

“Malawi government’s “renewed” commitment – through the statements by the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and the Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation that Malawi had no intentions to withdraw from ICC – to the Rome statute of International Criminal Court (ICC) which it signed and ratified on 3rd March 1999 and 19th September 2002 respectively was another positive step worthy commending,” said Mtambo and Trapence

However, Malawi needs to take a step further to domesticate the Rome statute in order to capacitate our domestic courts to investigate and prosecute “serious crimes” under international law within the jurisdiction of the statute. Besides, the constitution (section 211 [1]) of republic of Malawi provides for domestication of international instruments which the country is party to.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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