Human rights activists in the country have described Emmie Chanika as the epitome of activism in the country with most of them saying she was never afraid to put up a gallant fight in her quest to defend people’s interests.
Chanika succumbed to stroke Friday at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH).
A trained registered nurse, Chanika began her activism work in February 1992 when she founded the Civil Liberties Committee (Cilic), which became the first human rights organisation in Malawi.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Tony Kachikondo, a brother to Chanika, said the family has lost a pillar.
“She was a family woman, a pillar of the family as she made sure that people were comfortable whenever problems arose. She was a loving woman who took care of her relatives. She was always serving people and above all else, she was a Christian,” he said.
Presidential Advisor on Civil Society Organisations Martha Kwataine said the country has lost a true human rights fighter who never allowed anybody to stand in her way.
“She was a gallant fighter for human rights. She will be remembered as one of the ladies who stood up for the truth. She never cared what people said, she believed in what she was doing even in the absence of money she was patriotic. She made it known that Malawi was for everyone.
“I have personally lost a friend who was very honest and truthful with me,” Kwataine said.
Former NGO Gender Coordination chairperson Emma Kaliya said Chanika was one of the pillars of democracy who will be remembered as one of the most objective and consistent.
“She fought for the rights of women, the youth and just about everyone in the country. We have lost an icon of democracy.
“We will always remember the work that she laid in the history of activism. She was the library of activism in Malawi. We looked up to her in terms of skills in our work. And we mourn with the family,” she said.
Kaliya said the death of Chanika has devastated some in the human rights community because she was a long-time friend to many of them.
“She was never swept into any kind of confusion. She is one of those ladies who was manhandled in the 2004 election. She was never detached; she remained very fierce. We will miss her,” she said.
Gift Trapence, chairperson of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), said Chanika set the pace of how activism should be.
“Human rights activists are supposed to be strong; they are not supposed to waver at any threat they get. That was Chanika. We have lost an icon where we tapped our wisdom from. She will always be remembered,” he said.
Mabvuto Bamusi said Chanika’s name will go down in history as one of those who loved Malawi and fought for the ordinary person.
Bamusi, former president Peter Mutharika’s advisor on Non-Governmental Organisations, said Chanika was selfless and was not selective in her advocacy.
“She was a very courageous human rights defender who never allowed to be discouraged by political manipulation. She was a woman that never allowed to be sold or be bought,” he said.
Born in 1956, Chanika is survived by four children and will be laid to rest Sunday.