“Having soberly reflected on our beloved country’s socio-economic and political context, we note with dismay that while our country continues on a path of peace, Malawi continues to draw global attention for all the wrong reasons”, reads Statement from the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.
Called by our mandate to contribute towards the mission of the Catholic Church in Malawi in the creation of a God-fearing, Just and Peaceful Malawian Society that promote integral development and lasting peace, we, the Justice and Peace Secretaries issue this statement in order to call upon authorities and the general citizenry, to critically examine our country’s state of affairs and be part of the solution. Our message is a call to our leaders in all spheres of life, various oversight entities, religious leaders and citizens at large to do some deep soul searching for the betterment of our beloved country.
As a Justice, Peace and advocacy arm of the Catholic Church, we feel it will be a failure of our duty if we do not highlight these issues. In exercise of our moral duty as defenders of good governance, human rights and rule of law and called by our master Jesus Christ to be light and salt of the world, we would like to bring to the attention of the leadership of this country, religious leaders, development partners and the people of goodwill our concerns in the following areas:
Continued harassment of persons with albinism
We note with great concern the continued harassment, intimidation, abductions and killings on our dear brothers and sisters with albinism. It is disheartening to see our brothers and sisters with albinism being harassed, abused, discriminated against and threatened in a country they have called home for years. We commend Parliament, Judiciary, the Executive, Civil Society, the Media and the Faith Community for strongly condemning the abductions, harassment and killings of persons with albinism in the strongest terms. Whilst we commend the untiring efforts undertaken by various stakeholders, we feel, as a nation we have failed to collectively offer protection and hope to people with albinism as evidenced by continued attacks and harassment. It is disheartening to note that while some perpetrators have been apprehended and in some cases successfully prosecuted, no single market has been established to date. This raises serious fears and questions about our ability as a nation to collectively fight the vice. Our reputation as a nation has been heavily battered globally due to our failure to end the vice.
We call upon the authorities to engage in strategic investigation in order to get to the root cause of the problem. We call upon the Police to adhere to strictest ethical standards by investigating all possible links to the vice irrespective of their level of influence or connectedness politically or otherwise. Instead of being pre-occupied with other matters, the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) should focus its spying energies on getting to the root of the killings and abductions of our brothers and sisters who are at risk of facing extinction if nothing is done. We also appeal to all citizens to join hands to use community structures such as Community Policing to report, repel and apprehend all suspects in their communities and hand them over to relevant authorities for prosecution. Authorities need to start providing the right answers to the questions Malawians have been asking and not just mere assurances. It is now time for action and not mere talk.
Compromised war on Corruption
We note with great concern that despite having anti-corruption laws and the graft busting body, corruption is still the order of the day in the country. The war against corruption has been heavily compromised as ACB’s operational independence continues to be put into question. In the wake of this, CCJP joins other voices of reason in calling upon the Anticorruption Bureau to discharge its duties with highest ethical standards, decorum and professionalism. We call upon the Bureau to investigate and prosecute all cases objectively and fairy irrespective of one’s political connectedness or otherwise. Owing to the fact that ACB is run on taxpayers’ money, CCJP calls upon ACB to desist from selective criminal prosecutions as these may taint the little gains that have been registered in the fight against corruption. While we do appreciate that investigating corruption may take long due to complexity of cases, we still implore on the Bureau to move with speed on all outstanding cases and have them concluded. This, we believe, is a surest path towards restoration of people’s confidence in the Bureau. Our leaders too should demonstrate loyalty to mother Malawi by not shielding anybody suspected of involvement in any corrupt syndicate. We call upon Malawians to join hands in fighting the Mafia type of corrupt syndicates who use unorthodox ways and means to silence those championing the war on corruption.
Increased cases of Human Trafficking
We note with sadness an increase in cases of human trafficking involving our young men and women. Reported cases of our people getting destitute in foreign countries continue to make headlines. We heed Pope Francis’ call on universal declaration against slavery encouraging us ”to do all in our power, within our faith communities and beyond, to work together for the freedom of all those who are enslaved and trafficked so that their future may be restored.” We call upon authorities to prosecute all perpetrators of human trafficking and sentence them accordingly in accordance with the law. We do realize that the Government alone cannot succeed in eradicating human trafficking. We believe that combating human trafficking is of relevance in helping to uphold human dignity. We, therefore, call upon the faith community, media, civil society and the citizenry to join the battle in order to effectively combat human trafficking. Collectively, we need to direct our efforts towards prevention, protection and prosecution so that the battle can be won.
While we do acknowledge the fact that migration has been a human phenomenon since time immemorial, we call upon the authorities to enforce necessary laws and procedures to ensure maximum protection of our people both at home and abroad. We urge authorities to thoroughly screen all firms that recruit people from Malawi to work in other countries before being allowed to operate in the country. In cases where it is discovered that they have negligently made their clients become destitute or exposed to any form of indecent or inhuman experience, efforts should be undertaken to prosecute them.
We also call upon the Government as a primary duty bearer to work towards creating a favorable environment for investment in order to woo investors who will help grow our economy. People generally become victims of human trafficking due to poverty. It is only a vibrant economy that can comprehensively address the problem of human trafficking. The youth will be forced to stay in Malawi if the economic prospects are better.
Continued Looting of Public Resources
We note with dismay the continued shrinking of our country’s resource envelope due to the plunder of taxpayers’ money. While the infamous cash-gate saga was largely reported at Capital Hill, it is sad to note that our local councils have also become new plunder havens. Locally generated resources in councils have become a new area of plunder. Ordinarily, Malawians had hoped that the coming in of councilors in our local councils would bring order and sanity in the way our councils operate. Sadly, due to collusion with some council staff and limited capacity to understand certain aspects, our councilors have done little to ensure protection of public funds. We, therefore, call upon our councilors to be vigilant enough to ensure that our local councils do not become a fertile ground for looting. We also call upon the ACB, Police, FIU and other oversight bodies to play their rightful and meaningful role in curbing this malpractice by acting decisively on these matters in line with their given mandates. Our country can only develop and earn good reputation if we exercise discipline and put in place tight fiscal control mechanisms. We also appeal to citizens, media, religious leaders and civil society to be active in demanding accountability from officials by demanding explanations, reporting irregularities, exposing and whistle-blowing all credible cases of financial mismanagement.
Lack of Tolerance and Intra-Party Democracy
We are baffled with continued manifestation of lack of tolerance and genuine intra-party democracy in all major political parties in the country. It is displeasing to note that instead of focusing on strategic and policy issues that have a bearing on our country’s governance structures, our political parties waste time with internal squabbles and bickering. We note with great concern failure by political parties to handle differences amicably. We fear that this may weaken our country’s political parties thereby impacting negatively on our young democracy. Countries with strong political parties have strong governance structures and democracies. We believe that any political party that treats alternative views from its members negatively cannot play its rightful role in a democratic dispensation. We call upon all Political Party leaders to show transformative leadership by creating conducive environment for different views to be heard within their rank and file. We also appeal to political party followers to respect different views within parties without recourse to violence. We believe that political parties that are able to resolve differences amicably are likely to earn the confidence and trust of followers.
Inconsistencies and lack of communication on important matters
We note with great concern the lack of properly coordinated communication system within the Government on matters of national importance. The issue surrounding the Head of State’s health created unnecessary tension and panic due to failure by authorities to give the nation a timely update about other engagements the President was undertaking while in the United States of America. We noted with dismay lack of coordination between State House Press office and Ministry of Information. This fueled serious speculation and panic at all levels in our society. We call upon the authorities to put in place an efficient communication system that will provide updates as and when they are needed.
We highlight these issues so that we can together as bona fide citizens of this country reflect upon them and work out solutions in order to take our beloved country to greater heights. The problems that we face today can only be a story of the past if we show genuine patriotism by being part of the solution. Just like President Barak Obama said, ”…we are the change that we have been waiting for.” We have talked enough; time for action has now come. We affirm our commitment towards preferential option for the poor, the vulnerable, the downtrodden and the marginalized in order to make Malawi a better place for all.
Long live Malawi! Long Live Genuine Democracy!