On 2 July last year, Issa Njauju left his office at the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to head home. He never reached his destination. His body was discovered two days later behind Presidential Villas in Lilongwe.
Post-mortem results revealed that Njauju’s body had bullet wounds on the neck and stomach. His official vehicle was later found burnt along Ntandire Road within the city.
Since the day his body was discovered, the government has not shown any interest at all in seriously investigating the murder.
The media reported the day after Njauju’s car was found burnt that the police did not bother to secure the wreckage or to conduct any investigation at all at the crime scene. That this was a human being who had been killed, that this was not just an ordinary human being but the third in command at the ACB, did not seem to matter to our government.
Perhaps to divert people’s attention, there have been a couple of false leads in which two people have been arrested then released. One was rumoured to have been found with Njauju’s phone, which turned out to be untrue, and another, a policeman, was arrested for bragging that he knew who killed Njauju.
The President, Peter Mutharika, was even quizzed about it by J. Reed Kramer, chief executive officer of AllAfrica Global Media, at the Council on Foreign Relations when he visited the United States last year. Here is the excerpt:
KRAMER: And what about corruption? You had—there was two months ago, I guess, the murder of a senior official of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, and there are still a lot of reports about corruption in this—your government, as well as previous ones.
KRAMER: Are you—is there—is there an upward motion against corruption, or is it something you can’t get rid of?
MUTHARIKA: No, we can get rid of it. We can, and we have a very strong—I appointed a very strong director. I fired the previous one. This man worked with Deloitte and Touche for 18 years. He’s an economist, a financial person, and he specializes in money laundering and fraud. So he’s now catching out on people. Many people have been arrested. Many people are being tried. Many people are being imprisoned already. So it’s working well.
With respect to Mr. Njauju, the number-three man in the Anti-Corruption Bureau, it’s a very strange case. Very complicated, because it looked like the killing was very, very clever and very professional. So we’re working on that. There are some leads. We think that there will be a breakthrough.
Mutharika’s response, which showered superlatives on the intelligence of the murderers rather than on what his government was doing to investigate the murder, was telling, to say the least.
Two weeks after Njauju’s murder, the Malawi Police Service told the nation at a press briefing in Lilongwe: “A lot of progress has been made on investigations to uncover the mystery behind the death of Issa Njauju. All possibilities are being pursued to bring to book those involved in the gruesome murder.”
But these words have not really been backed by action.
Which raises questions. Did the government murder Njauju? If so, why? If not, why is it not making serious efforts to investigate his death?
It would be truly unfortunate if President Mutharika’s government murdered Njauju. A government needs to protect its people, not murder them. We kicked out the Malawi Congress Party government in 1994 precisely because of its abuse of human rights. We do not want to return to the days of death and darkness.
Human rights activist, Timothy Mtambo, who is also executive director of Centre for Human Rights and Rehabillitation (CHRR) recently told the media that Njauju murder was politically inspired hence the state has failed to make proper investigations. He said: “It’s sad that justice has not been delivered and I see hide-and-seek games on the case. In Malawi, we have a problem of sitting on things that are wrong, we worship impunity.”
Likewise, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) challenged our government to find the murderers of Njauju. “It is disappointing to see the silence over the investigation,” said the organization’s acting national coordinator Martin Chiphwanya. “We don’t know what is happening to the investigation and this is a blow to justice delivery in the country because those who are involved in fighting corruption in the country now know they are vulnerable, can be attacked with impunity without the impunity being checked or brought to book.”
Taxpayer-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) also weighed in by calling for speedy progress on investigations. MHRC chairperson, Justin Dzonzi, said the commission is following with keen interest all the developments surrounding the case. Dzonzi said: “Cases don’t have to drag for life. This will lead to continued infringement of human rights as the public is entitled to know.”
As long as we make occasional remarks in the media like this, the matter will be ignored forever. The government – if it was indeed behind the killing – will think it is permissible to kill anyone it chooses, with total disrespect to the rule of law.
Let me end with the following wise words of Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie: “Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”