Human rights observers in Malawi have condemned the act by the minister of home affairs and internal security, Grace Chiumi who ordered the Malawi police in the northern region to arrest National ID’s registration officers.
The Minister who is popularly known as Grace Obama Chiumia on September 17, 2017 ordered the police in Mzuzu City to arrest employees for National Registration Bureau (NRB) for discussing matters affecting their work conditions.
The Minister was tipped about the meeting and secretly went to the place where the meeting was being held. The minister then left after she noticed that she had been discovered.
She however returned with vehicles of armed police officers and arrested 14 youths who were among the attendees at the meeting at Shoprite Complex in the city.
The officers discuss was about arrears NRB has with them and also demanded to know issues surrounding ghost workers account which they say exists.
The 14, who were charged with unlawful assembly and conspiracy to commit a crime, were granted police bail after spending a night in cell at Mzuzu Police Station.
Speaking to The Nation Newspaper, Northern Region Police spokesperson Peter Kalaya said they could not still keep the suspecs in custody because there were issues the police still needed to investigate.
He said police bail is also a constitutional right and the police granted it to the suspects in line with the Constitution.
“They have been formally charged and they were told here at police what offences they were charged with. Since they have been formally charged, we decided to release them on bail because it is their constitutional right,” said Kalaya.
To his position NRB spokesperson Norman Fulatira said the bureau was heavily affected by the arrests and some senior officers from the bureau were on the ground pushing for the release of the 14 to normalize the situation. “Definitely, we have been affected, said Fulatira”
Mzuzu-based youth rights activist Charles Kajoloweka, who faulted Chiumia on Sunday for the arrests of the NRB officials, said the minister was too excited with her ministerial position.
He said the minister should be held accountable for the arrests which are a direct attack on democracy. “She is abusing the police. The arrests were senseless and baseless. Instead of hearing out the youth, she was there victimising them.”
He also called on police to act independently saying if they keep following such orders, people will lose confidence in them.
Another organisation putting Chiumia at fault is Forum for National Development (FND). The forum has urged the 14 arrested NRB workers to drag to court the minister for her role in their detention.
The Forum has also called upon the Malawi Government to distance itself from Chiumia’s action, condemn, discipline and take action on the Minister for her awful actions which the Forum says have disgraced the Government.
In a statement signed by three leaders of the FND National Coordinator Fryson Chonzi, Chairperson Bright Kampaundi and Board Member Chikumbutso Mtumodzi, the Forum also urged the Minister to stop using the name Obama that is revered by many and is a symbol of democratic Excellency and free speech worldwide.
“FND would like to call upon the 14 youths and their parents to take legal actions on the Minister, the Police and the Government for this wrongful arrest. There is a need to set a precedence and ensure that no any other Minister will act above the law and that the Police would become professional and don’t just take malicious orders. “It is time as a country we need to stop this impunity. As a Forum we commit our support to the 14 youth if needed to help with the legal process.” partly reads the FND statement.
UNDP representative in Mzuzu official is on record to have assured registration officers that his organisation already paid areas to responsible department some months ago.
Malawi Government through the National Registration Bureau under the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security with the financial support from the United Nations Development Programme is conducting a national registration of all citizens from 16 years above by December 2017. The activity started in June 2017.
Story sent by MACDONALD NYIRENDA, News Correspondent.
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