from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
LILONGWE, (CAJ News) – RENEWED tensions have gripped Malawi ahead of the Southern African country holding fresh general elections.
New elections are set for May 19 after the Constitutional Court annulled last year’s outcome over rigging and post-poll violence concerns.
Two prominent human rights activists have been arrested as authorities mount a crackdown on dissent ahead of the rescheduled election.
Activists Gift Trapence and Reverend McDonald Sembereka have been in police custody since the weekend for threatening to march to the State House to demand election reforms prior to the poll.
An arrest warrant has been issued against another activist, Timothy Mtambo. In August 2019, Mtambo narrowly escaped harm after three petrol bombs were thrown into his compound.
The activists are linked with a local non-governmental organization, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC).
President Arthur Mutharika, whose election the courts invalidated last month, is one of key figures accused of subjecting human rights defenders to threats.
This past weekend, Mutharika warned the activists, whom he mentioned by names, that they would be “dealt with” if they marched to the State House.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, demanded the release of the activists.
“The authorities must stop threatening, harassing and intimidating human rights defenders and allow them to freely exercise their rights,” Muchena said.
Mutharika (79) has been in power since 2014.
He narrowly won the 2019 poll with 38,57 of the vote. Closest rival Lazarus Chakwera secured 35,41 percent. Mutharika’s deputy and now rival, Saulos Chilima, garnered 20,24 percent.
It is the first time polls in the former Nyasaland, that gained independence from Britain in 1964, were annulled.
– CAJ News