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Human Rights Commission hails peaceful protests

Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) has commended the police, the government and demonstrators for ensuring that the January 17 anti-government protests over the rising cost of living were peaceful.

The Commission said the peaceful demonstrations represent a right step towards the respect for diversity of opinions and free expression of the same which is the hallmark of democracy.

“The demonstrations saw the participation of significantly sizeable crowds that were observably unarmed and non-violent.

“Generally, [the] government demonstrated its commitment to upholding the right to peaceful assembly by making it clear that it welcomed the peaceful demonstrations,” says MHRC hairperson Sophie Kalinde in a statement released on Monday.

On police conduct, the Commission said the law enforcers worked within the “ambit of the law” as there was no excessive force.

“They [police] exercised great restraint even in the face of provocative chants directed at them by some of the demonstrators. It is also reassuring to learn that there were no reports of any arbitrary arrests in connection with the demonstrations,” says Kalinde in part.

The Commission also commended the demonstrators and the organisers for sticking to the rules of peaceful and non-violent demonstrations.

“Notably, there was a good relationship between the organisers, the police and the District Commissioners/ Chief Executive Officers as evidenced by their cordial discussions at the points of petition delivery.

“The media, on their part, responsibly and extensively covered the demonstrations, and the public broadcasters carried news footage of the demonstrations,” says Kalinde in part.

The Commission’s stand echoes the government, the police and the organisers’ remarks that these peaceful protests took concerted efforts of several players.

Prior to the day, the Commission asked for peaceful demonstrations and warned the government against thwarting this constitutional right after rumours were rife about blackmail and bribery to block the protests.

Meanwhile, former spokesperson for the demonstrations organising committee, Kingsley Mabalani, has said his late withdrawal from the organising committee has damaged his reputation as he is seen as a corrupt person.

Mabalani, who resigned just six days before the demonstrations day, said this yesterday in an interview in Blantyre.

“That reputation and respect I used to enjoy as a person from my surrounding community— and perhaps from the general public— has been eroded as people believe I was bribed.,” he said.

He further said his involvement in the organisation of the demonstrations also endangered his life going by the anonymous threatening phone calls he received.

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