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Easy way out: Commissions of inquiry as national sham

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JOLOBALA—We pledge to work with you

Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) National Coordinator Boniface Chibwana is frustrated with the resurgence of attacks on persons with albinism (PWA).

Chibwana is even worried that both the National Technical Committee on Abuse of Persons with Albinism in Malawi and the commissions of enquiry, which former president Peter Mutharika constituted to investigate the cause of the vice have not made their findings public three and two years after they were instituted, respectively.

“There have been studies and yet, up to now, no findings have been submitted to the President. And yet we spend a lot of money on these studies,” he said.

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Chibwana was reacting to the abduction and gruesome murder of 26-year-old PWA Dyton Mussa in Mangochi two weeks ago. Mussa’s dismembered body has since been laid to rest in Kadewere Village, T/A Chowe, in Mangochi Mangochi.

Just last week, a girl with albinism was attacked in the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Kawinga in Machinga District.

Chibwana said that the recent crimes perpetrated against PWA in Mangochi and Machinga have demonstrated that Malawi is far from achieving full protection of PWA’s right to life.

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“CCJP believes in the sanctity of life and that every life matters and it doesn’t matter whose life it is,” he said.

At the height of attacks on PWA people with albinism, including brutal murders, the immediate former president Peter Mutharika instituted an eight-member commission of inquiry on March 5 2019 to investigate the killings and produce a report by April 30 2019.

The appointment of members of the commission, which was headed by retired Supreme Court justice Robert Chinangwa, came amid protests from members of the Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi (Apam), which demanded action from Mutharika on the matter.

Earlier in 2018, the former head of State formed the National Technical Committee on Abuse of Persons with Albinism in Malawi, with Hetherwick Ntaba as chairperson.

Section 89 (1)g of the Republican Constitution, read with Section 2(1) of the Commissions of Inquiry Act (Chapter 18:01 of the Laws of Malawi), vests a sitting president with powers to appoint commissions of inquiry to investigate issues or criminal activities obtaining in the society or the country at large.

Thus, Mutharika tasked commission of inquiry and the committee with responsibility to thoroughly investigate and establish the origins of the vice and suggest solutions to the problem.

A statement from former chief secretary to the government, Lloyd Muhara, explained that the commission was expected to finalise its work and submit a written report to Mutharika by April 30, 2019.

Both institutions are yet to release the report and the government has remained silent on the issue despite Apam issuing several ultimatums.

Chibwana said it is surprising that the Commission of Inquiry and the committee could take years to submit reports on their findings.

“People will be compelled to conclude that these commissions of inquiry are not being set up in good faith. Why is it that this commission of inquiry is failing to produce a comprehensive report that establishes the market for the body parts of persons with albinism?” he queried.

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) was another human rights organisation that piled pressure on the government to release the report last year

The coalition alleged that government inquiries had become a means of silencing serious issues.

“The report was supposed to be ready by April. Then they asked for a two-month extension but the report is not yet out. Apart from the issue being a serious one, they are also using taxpayers’ money. Lives are involved and government cannot continue to take Malawians for granted. We want the report now,” it said.

Member of Parliament (MP) for Machinga East, Esther Jolobala, in whose area a man with albinism, MacDonald Masambuka, was abducted and murdered in 2018, stressed that the delay in dispensing justice in such cases did not reflect well on Malawi on the international scene.

But Jolobala apportioned the blame on MPs for failing to push for increased allocations to criminal justice systems to enable them to prosecute the cases.

“We pledge to work with you in ensuring that rights of persons with albinism are safeguarded,” assured Jolobala.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Social and Community Welfare, Savel Kafwafwa, said the committee would lobby MPs to consider allocating adequate resources to the criminal justice systems in future budgets.

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