Malawian authorities escalate crackdown, arrest human rights activists

by Abdulmumeen S. Yitta

Malawian authorities in a strict crackdown on human right activists ahead of the 19th May general election have arrested two prominent human right activists.

Gift Trapence and Reverend McDonald Sembereka who are linked with the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), a local non-governmental organization, were arrested in Lilongwe following the activists’ threat to take to the street to stage a protest.

The activists are known for mobilizing people and leading national protest against the last year’s election which was consequently nullified by the court.

According to the Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, the arrest of the activists is troubling coming ahead of the forthcoming general election rerun.

“The arrests of Gift Trapence and Reverend McDonald Sembereka are deeply troubling, coming amidst the highly charged political environment ahead of the election rerun. Many human rights defenders have been subjected to threats, including by President Arthur Mutharika and senior leaders of his party,” he said.

In Malawi, authorities have resolve to exercise the crackdown in its strictest sense; they have issued an arrest warrant against Timothy Mtambo, the third activists, who has yet to be arrested. Mtambo is also linked to the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), a local Non-governmental organisation.

In the wake of this arrest which according to Deprose Muchena means “intimidating and harassing activists”, Deprose has called on the Malawian authorities to stop harassing human right defenders and to unconditionally release the detained activists.

“Malawi authorities must immediately and unconditionally release the detained activists. The authorities must stop threatening, harassing and intimidating human rights defenders and allow them to freely exercise their rights,” Deprose Muchena said.

Deprose Muchena has said that the arrest and detainment of the human right activist is just a punishment for exercising their human right.

“The latest arrests are part of a well-orchestrated campaign aimed at intimidating and harassing activists. It sends the chilling message that they will be punished for exercising their human rights,” he said.

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