Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has expressed worry over government’s failure to compensate over 19,000 people who suffered under the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) regime.
CHRR Acting Executive Director Michael Kaiyatsa said this in a statement on Thursday as the country commemorated Kamuzu Day.
The organization noted that National Compensation Tribunal was created by Section 137 of the 1994 Constitution and was mandated to compensate people who suffered or lost property during the one party rule of the MCP before the dawn of democracy in 1994.
However, a report by the Ombudsman, titled ‘Malawi’s Unhealed Wounds’, released in October 2017, showed that politicians had abused the Tribunal by influencing prioritisation and payments to politically-connected individuals at the expense of thousands of victims who remained unattended.
The report noted that there were discrepancies in terms of beneficiary politicians with connections to the then governing United Democratic Front (UDF) between 1994 to 2004.
The report further revealed that there was a hurry to pay prominent politicians with some political figures of that era paid by government even before the Tribunal was set up.
In the report, the Ombudsman ordered government to settle about 15,000 of claims unsettled by the Tribunal, which was shut down in 2006. The Ombudsman also asked the office of the Attorney General (AG) to immediately start negotiations with the claimants’ representatives through a process overseen by a mediator agreed upon by both sides before January 31 2018.
The Ombudsman further ordered government, through the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), to issue an apology to members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were exiled and lost property after becoming a banned organisation during the one-party era.
Furthermore, the Ombudsman ordered government to construct a Community Centre and a monument in Moto Village in Mangochi where the whole community of villagers was arrested up to two years following the Henry Masauko Chipembere uprising of 1971.
“CHRR is deeply saddened to note that none of these recommendations has been complied with by the government or the Office of the Attorney General. CHRR appeals to the government and all responsible authorities to comply with these recommendations as a matter of urgency,” the organization said in its statement.
“[President Peter] Mutharika has the power to right the wrongs of the previous administrations. His government can no longer continue to deny these complainants their constitutional right to justice!”
CHRR in its statement also expressed concern over MCP’s complete silence on the matter, saying the party should be explaining to Malawians how it would address this issue when it gets into power.
The organization urged MCP President, Lazarus Chakwera, to rise to the occasion and demonstrate leadership on this matter.
According to CHRR, Malawians need to hear from the MCP leadership on how the party will address this issue once it gets to power.
“MCP cannot bury its head in the sand and hope the problem will go away. The 19, 000 plus people demanding justice and their families will still be there. If nothing is done, this issue will haunt them later,” said CHRR in its statement.