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CHRR tells off chiefs

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The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has condemned chiefs in the country for being too quick to comment and make allegations on matters they have no knowledge about.

CHRR Executive Director, Timothy Mtambo, said this on Friday in reaction to sentiments by some chiefs from Mzimba District, who argued that human rights activists are responsible for the continuous moral decay in the country.

The traditional leaders said messages by the activists on human freedoms have led young people in the country astray.

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Speaking during a family planning and sexual reproductive health interface meeting in Mzuzu last week, Group Village Head (GVH) Mauza Jere faulted organisations working in the rights’ sector for bypassing local structures when advocating issues.

He said non-governmental organisations (NGOs) barely emphasize on responsibilities that go with rights such that young people today engage in all sorts of immorality such as sexual indiscipline in the name of exercising the said freedoms.

“These NGOs have brought a lot of chaos in our communities; issues of right to access to information, freedom of dressing and association have been blown

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way too out of context. Making matters worse is the fact that the rights’ advocates think they know it all and they ignore community leadership in their endeavors which is misleading young people,” explained Jere.

In his remarks, Inkosazana Mpherembe said it is high time rights’ bodies appreciated the role of traditions and customs in the upbringing of young people.

But commenting on the issue, Mtambo described the chiefs’ views as fallacious, lacking basis and originating from a place of inadequate knowledge.

“What the chiefs are saying has no basis and it is fallacious. It sounds to me as though they are just trying to run away from the responsibility of ensuring moral uprightness in their communities and they want to push the blame to human rights groups,” said Mtambo.

He added: “With all due respect, traditional leaders need to educate themselves and desist from commenting on issues that they have no evidence about.”

Mtambo further warned against confusing issues of rights and morality, saying human rights groups are at liberty to hold local leaders accountable on whatever they say in the public domain.

He also said it is a matter of principle for human rights’ bodies such as CHRR to work with local leaders in upholding ideals of the Constitution and ensure the utilisation of basic rights for all citizens.

However, reproductive health activist Timothy Bonyonga said it is everybody’s responsibility to raise a safe and responsible generation such that coordination is the only way to achieve that.

“Each and every one of us has a role to play; all we need is cooperation and understanding because we share a common goal. We want a Malawi free of sexually transmitted infections (STIs); [we want] financially empowered families and a nation with people who are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities,” said Bonyonga.

He further asked traditional leaders and NGOs to complement government’s efforts in promoting safer sexual practices among young people.

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