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Government starves Msundwe rapes re-investigation

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Christopher Tukula

A year after the Independent Complaints Commission (ICC) took over to mount fresh investigations involving police officers accused of raping women and girls of Msundwe and M’bwatalika in Lilongwe, the commission has not moved with its investigation.

This is the case because government did not fund its K65 million budget for the probe.

ICC took over the case in September last year when Malawi Police Service (MPS), Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and Women Lawyers Association signed an agreement for a fresh criminal investigation into the matter.

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This was after the previous investigations that police did were found wanting by both courts, MHRC and other stakeholders.

ICC Commissioner Christopher Tukula said the investigations have stalled due to lack of financial support from the government.

Tukula said the commission was at its infancy when it took over the case, with no office space and human personnel and that it needed K65 million from the government to commence the case.

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“Government asked us to submit what we needed in order for us to effectively undertake the Msundwe case investigation. We submitted a budget of K65 million. It involved the procurement of vehicles or hiring some vehicles to go to the site and photocopying of documents, among others,” he said.

He said the commission commenced training of investigators on specific unique issues about the case while waiting for government funding.

“We said we wanted to conduct the investigation within four months and waited for the government to provide funding. The challenge now could be that much of the evidence may be destroyed or forgotten. Nevertheless, in such a situation we may refer to some information from the previous reports,” he said.

The ICC head said the $700,000 (about K721 million) support from the United States of America (USA) in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) given to the commission would help them undergo forensic training, hence the need for government funding.

Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe said he needed time to verify with the Budget Director.

MHRC Executive Secretary Habiba Osman said the commission is happy that ICC is taking the lead in the investigations and that the commission would be happy to partner with it.

“We still want our recommendations back to life because we still stand by them. We will give the necessary support to what they desire. The investigation is really overdue since we signed the agreement,” she said.

Before Malawi Police Service handed over the case to ICC, former Inspector General George Kainja said with the first criminal investigations, the police were unable to identify the suspects, stressing that the fresh investigations were scheduled to parade over 300 police officers who were deployed during the operation.

An MHRC report into the matter showed that the women were, indeed, raped but a Malawi Police Service (MPS) leaked report on the same indicated that the allegations were made up.

It was reported that some police officers allegedly raped women from Msundwe and M’bwatalika in Lilongwe when the police clashed with the locals along Lilongwe-Mchinji road in 2019 in an attempt to stop Democratic Progressive Party supporters from attending a ceremony where former president Peter Mutharika was launching a US-Government funded secondary school construction project.

Following the matter, the Women Lawyers Association took over the case demanding criminal prosecution and government compensations to victims.

The High court in Lilongwe awarded the victims K130 million.

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