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Civil Society Organisations condemn Neno murders

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Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have reacted angrily to mob justice exacted on four elderly people murdered in cold blood on Monday on suspicion that they ‘killed’ their 17-year-old granddaughter with a lightning bolt.

The four— Eliza Kanjete, 86; Elenafa Kanjete, 76; Byson Kanjete, 73, and; Idesi Kanjete, 69— were buried in Group Village Headman Chimbalanga’s area in Traditional Authority Dambe in Neno.

The Malawi Law Society (MLS), in a statement signed by president John Suzi Banda and Honorary Secretary Khumbo Bonzoe Soko, has called on the Malawi Police Service to hunt the suspected murderers down.

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In the statement, MLS also volunteers to help the government prosecute the suspects for free.

“The Society hopes that the Malawi Police Service will relentlessly pursue those who were responsible for the murder of the Neno four so that they can account for their actions in a competent court of law. Should these cases be successfully investigated and the wrongdoers apprehended, the society offers to the government of Malawi the services of its members for their prosecution, on a pro bono [free] basis,” MLS says in the statement.

MLS further describes the action of the villagers as “senseless and heinous”, observing that “such kind of barbaric acts stain our collective conscience and have got absolutely no place in a civilised society”.

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Leaders of 11 other CSOs have also condemned the Neno incident, calling on the government to invest in mass sensitisation exercises in a bid to enlighten the country’s citizens.

The statement, titled ‘Civil Society Statement on the Brutal Killings of Four Elderly People and Escaping Prisoner’, has been signed by Timothy Mtambo of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Masauko Thawe of Young Advocates, George Thindwa of Association for Secular Humanism, Gift Trapence of Centre for the Development of People, Robert Mkwezalamba of the Human Rights Consultative Committee.

Others are Victor Mhango of Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance, Mtende Msindama of Lawyers for Human Rights, Charles Kajoloweka of Youth and Society, Darlingtion Harawa of Passion for Women and Children, human rights activist Billy Mayaya and human rights lawyer Chrispine Sibande.

“We categorically and unequivocally condemn these barbaric killings and call upon the law enforcers to accord the utmost urgency [sic] the issue deserves so that those responsible whoever they are and wherever they are should be hunted down, arrested and be held accountable for this crime that gravely violate [sic] human dignity and human rights,” reads part of the statement, in reference to the killing of the four elderly persons in Neno and mob killing of a prisoner who escaped from Chichiri Prison.

In Blantyre on Sunday, an angry mob beat to death a 30-year-old Madison John and severely injured another inmate in a botched escape-attempt by the deceased and the surviving inmate, John Emmanuel.

Regarding the Neno murders, the CSOs argue that the Malawi Witchcraft Act forbids any trial by ordeal that involves “poison, fire, boiling water, or any ordeal which is likely to directly or indirectly result in death or bodily injury to any person”.

They add that the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women also “brands witchcraft accusations and brutal killings of the accused particularly elderly women as [sic] a form of violence against women and has urged many states including Malawi to take action against witchcraft accusations by challenging the “traditional view” about elderly women being witches through investigating torture and killing of suspected witches and prosecute the perpetrators”.

In a 2009 report, The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial or arbitrary executions, called upon states to ensure that all killings of alleged witches are treated as murder, and that such cases are investigated, prosecuted and punished accordingly.

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