Activist’s home bombed in suspected attempt to stop Malawi’s mass protests

The home of a leading human rights activist in Malawi has been petrol bombed in what is believed to be a deliberate and targeted move to stop mass demonstrations planned for next week.

Three bombs were thrown at the car and home of Timothy Mtambo, the chairman of Malawi’s Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), and the executive director of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRC).

Mtambo has been at the forefront of protests following elections in May, which the opposition says were rigged.

HRDC has been organising mass protests to force the resignation of the head of the country’s electoral body over the alleged mismanagement of the general election, which saw the incumbent Peter Mutharika returned to office. The results are being contested in the constitutional court.

The attack last week saw a car belonging to the activist destroyed. The second bomb was thrown inside the compound of the house. No injuries have been reported.

“It’s an unprecedented situation in the country,” Mtambo told the Guardian.

“We believe that the attacks had been deliberately orchestrated to instil fear in us. They are making a mistake,” he said, adding: “Malawi is our country and we have the responsibility to say if things are going wrong.”

Mtambo said Malawi was mired in inequality, nepotism, poverty and injustice, which is why people were ready to take part in the demonstrations.

Threatening the organisers will not work, he said. “It will make the situation worse.”

Members of HRDC said they suspected the attackers had links to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

“This cowardly and malicious attack on Timothy Mtambo’s property is a clear act of intimidation, designed to deter him from carrying out his human rights work,” said Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for southern Africa, Muleya Mwananyanda, in a statement.

“There must be no stone left unturned in pursuit of those who are behind this attack. The authorities must launch a prompt, impartial and effective investigation and ensure that suspected perpetrators are brought to justice in fair trials,” he said.

The HRDC is calling for the resignation of the chair of Malawi’s electoral commission, Jane Ansah.

An office belonging to the vice president of the opposition party has also been petrol bombed in recent weeks.

Police are investigating the attacks.

“We are waiting for the investigators to conclude their work and if people are arrested, they will explain in court as to what motivated these attacks,” a police spokesman, James Kadadzera, told AFP.

Malawian political scientist Michael Jana, who lectures at South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand, said the attacks were “to intimidate and silence the people”.

“It is very unfortunate because this is suppression of dissenting voices which should not be condoned in a democracy,” he told AFP.

Since May, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets across Malawi to demonstrate against the management of the election. The government has accused the protesters of damaging property and looting and has sought court injunctions to stop the demonstrations.

Recently, the minister of Homeland Security said property worth millions of dollars had been damaged by protesters, adding that organisers of the demonstrations should bear the cost.

Next week, protesters, backed by the opposition, plan to shut down airports and borders.

source: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/aug/21/activist-home-bombed-suspected-attempt-to-stop-malawi-mass-protests-timothy-mtambo

Related posts

Leave a Comment