Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Malaŵi: back to a police state?

An open letter to the Malaŵi Acting High Commissioner (I think the real one has been sent home in in a bit of "tit for tat" diplomacy.)
20th February, 2012.

The Acting High Commissioner,
Malaŵi High Commission,
36, John Street,
London,WC1N 2AT

Your Excellency,

As a former VSO who was privileged to work in Malaŵi in the late 80s and early 90s I am disturbed by reports that the country may be reverting to authoritarian rule. Like most of my contemporaries my memories of “the warm heat of Africa” are overwhelmingly positive. I made many friends among some of the friendliest people on earth, and am pleased to remain in touch with several of them.

However, I do remember how young MCP activists would often bully Malaŵi citizens, and particularly young ones, in incidents such as not letting them into markets or making them get off buses if they did not carry an MCP membership card.

I was saddened to note, in the Guardian on Friday 17th February, the claim that
“ ‘thugs ‘were hired by the Malaŵian government to attack (the human rights lawyer Ralph Kasambara) and petrol bomb his office.” I hope this does not signal a return to the strong-arm tactics that were an unfortunate blemish on Malaŵi’s reputation in earlier times.

In an earlier newspaper article President Bingu wa Mutharika was reported as claiming that democratic rights are being preserved, that a free press is encouraged, that criticism of the government is not punished and “there is not a single political prisoner in a Malaŵian jail.”

The President’s comments are encouraging. Malaŵi has many friends in this country and I hope you will advise that government that we are observing the situation with concern, and hoping and praying that your beautiful country and its resourceful but hard-pressed people will be able to enjoy peace, democracy and the protection of the rule of law.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Wrigley.

I urge other friends of Malaŵi to take what action they can (maybe you can think of something more effective than a letter) to try to stop the drift back to the bad old days of Banda.

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