A dialogue meeting between Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale and Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) was Friday disrupted following a failed attempt by unknown assailants to bomb a vehicle belonging to HRDC Vice-Chairperson Gift Trapence.
The bomb scare came after the venue of the meeting was changed twice as HRDC top brass indicated that they were not comfortable with the scheduled venues.
HRDC Chairperson Timothy Mtambo said government was behind the failed bombing attempt.
“This is not the first time to experience this. If not for our private security guard, our vehicles could have been bombed. Worse still, the incident was happening in the presence of Deputy Inspector General of Police John Nyondo as well as many other police officers. One could ask how safe we are in our own country,” Mtambo said. He said HRDC has since demanded that the next meeting should take place at the United Nations premises or at neutral venue in the presence of Malawi Defence Force soldiers.
However, Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark Botomani said it is not true that government might have been involved in the attempted bombing.
“We are categorically refuting the allegation made by HRDC, government has initiated the dialogue and there is no way it can plan the bombing; in fact, government is happy that the dialogue has stated,” Botomani said.
Nyondo said police will investigate the matter. Initially, the meeting was scheduled to be held at Lilongwe City Council offices but was shifted to Bingu International Convention Centre, before being shifted again to Crossroads Hotel.
The bomb scare came when Kaphale ordered reporters and other people who came to follow the proceedings of the dialogue to walk out of the meeting room so that he could discuss with HRDC lawyer Khwima Mchizi in camera.
The assailant, who was among the people who came to follow the proceedings, alongside a colleague, then started inquiring about who was who in HRDC.
He then headed towards Trapence’s vehicle with what was suspected to be a hand grenade.
However, a member of HRDC security detail smelled danger and followed the suspected assailant who fled for dear life.
When the colleague of the assailant realised that his friend was cornered, he too, fled much to the surprise of journalists who had gathered outside the meeting room.
Ironically, police officers who were at the venue did nothing to apprehend the suspects.
After the incident, the meeting continued without the presence of HRDC leadership who boycotted after AG informed the meeting that journalists were not allowed to attend the meeting until after the discussion.
Mchizi represented the grouping. However, the two parties did not discuss substantial matters since this initial meeting was aimed at setting up the discussion modalities and disclosures.
Kaphale and Mchizi told reporters after meeting for about 30 minutes that they would meet again Wednesday.
“We had our first meeting today and have agreed on modalities, we are expected to meet again next week Wednesday but before our meeting, we have agreed that we should prepare documents in which we will outline what we are expecting to dwell on in our discussion,” Kaphale said.
The meeting followed a 14-day moratorium issued by the Malawi Supreme Court Tuesday night against demonstrations being led by HRDC who want to force Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson Jane Ansah to resign for allegedly mismanaging May 21 presidential election.
The decision by Justice Lovemore Chikopa of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal followed an appeal by Kaphale against HRDC after High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda refused to grant the AG an injunction against the protests.
Reads the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal order: “During the said time, the parties hereto shall hold negotiations to determine a manner in which the respondents’ exercise of their rights in Section 38 of the Constitution can be [carried out] without undue incidents of violence and crime….”
This was after HRDC had planned to hold nationwide demonstrations from Wednesday to Friday this week to force Ansah to resign.
This is not the first time the human rights defenders have survived attacks by unknown people.
Among others, some weeks ago, Mtambo and his family narrowly escaped harm after three petrol bombs were thrown into his compound.
One hit and torched his car while the second was thrown at the gate and the last narrowly missed his house.
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