Honor July 20 Heroes, Malawi’s Joyce Banda Urged

 Nkosi also asked government to consider constructing a memorial pillar for the victims.

Voice Mhone, one of the organisers of the July 20 events, concurred with Nkosi, saying: “It is our expectation that those who sacrificed their lives that day will be accorded the recognition and respect deserving of national heroes.”

Mhone said July 20 should be declared a holiday to honour the victims and remind those in authority of their duties.

“July 20 should constantly serve as a reminder to your administration that adherence to the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights and freedom is not a matter of choice but a matter of principle,” he said. “This is a prerequisite for the sustenance of democracy in our beloved country.”

At 19 people were gunned down by police on July 20, 2011 after police used live ammunition to break up unprecedented nationwide demonstrations protesting against the worsening economic, political and human rights situation under the administration of Pres Bingu wa Mutharika.

Joyce Banda, then Mutharika’s estranged Vice-President, supported the demonstrations and urged her boss “to allow your people to freely express themselves”.

On Friday, Banda, now president, said a commission of inquiry set up by the late Mutharika makes many recommendations.

“I believe (these recommendations) will go a long way in healing the festering wounds in the hearts of the deceased relatives, a foundation for closure and moving forward in reconciliation,” she said.

Banda, who ascended to power to become Africa’s second female president after Liberia’s Ellen Johnston Sirleaf following Mutharika’s sudden death on April 5, re-iterated the need to prosecute those involved in the killings.

“That I believe is the only way as a nation we can begin to soothe and heal the wounds of the relatives of the deceased as well as making the souls of the deceased rest in peace,” she said. “My government will ensure that justice prevails and that justice is seen to prevail.”

Banda said: “This is not vengeance and this is not witch-hunting and this is not lack of forgiveness.” She said prosecuting those involved “is about drawing lessons that we can learn from, it is about how we can manage the future.”

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