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Grace Chiumia under fire

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Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Grace Chiumia, continues to come under heavy criticism for her remarks towards Karonga-based youth activist Steven Simsokwe.

After a meeting to convince people in the district on the pending refugee camp at Katili, Chiumia is reported to have told Simsokwe over the telephone that she will meet him on the streets should he organise any anti-project protests.

The remarks have not gone down well with some chiefs, civil society organisations (CSO’s) and Member of Parliament for Karonga Central Constituency Frank Mwenifumbo, who are demanding for an apology from the minister.

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But Chiumia said in a recent interview that some people are politicising the matter by quoting her out of context.

“My words were directed at Steve[Simsokwe] and not everyone else, and I meant that my police officers will definitely be on the streets to protect people. We won’t sit and watch people lose lives because someone does not want to work with the government,” Chiumia explained.

Ironically, Chiumia’s remarks bear semblance to those that former president the late Bingu Wa Mutharika said in August 2011 to rights activists who were organising mass anti-government protests, where he said he would meet them on the street and smoke them out.

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On his part, Simsokwe said he is not intimidated by Chiumia: “I speak for the people, more especially the youth who bear the brunt of today’s mistakes.”

In his comment, legislature Mwenifumbo accused Chiumia of being defensive and further wondered why she is separating politics from the matter.

Mwenifumbo argued that in a democratic dispensation, every development decision is political in nature because it is championed by politicians, such that drawing a thick line between the two, he said, is a mistake.

“We are in an era of politics of representation, politicians, activists and many more do speak on behalf of the majority who are the ultimate beneficiaries of our decisions,” he said.

“In that meeting, no one spoke in favour of the refugee camp, and those speakers represent the will of the people,” he added.

People of Karonga through various forums like the Chitipa-Karonga Heritage group, have in recent months been protesting the pending refugee camp project at Katili citing security risks as one of the reasons.

Meanwhile, government is arranging a trip for some chiefs and concerned citizens from Karonga to Zambia or Uganda where similar projects have been implemented in recent years.

But Mwenifumbo said the demographic needs of Malawi cannot be compared to the two countries, such that the trip will just be a waste of resources.

Early 2016, government failed to successfully move the Dzaleka Refugee Camp from Dowa to Kasama in Chitipa, before finding favour from some chiefs in Karonga.

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