Uncertainty surrounds completion of police investigations into the alleged rape, defilement and sexual abuse of women and girls by some Malawi Police Service (MPS) officers late last year in Lilongwe.
MPS is also yet to release findings of a commission of inquiry over police officers suspected to have murdered Buleya Lule, a suspect in the disappearance of Goodson Makanjira, a 14-year-old boy with albinism in Dedza District in February 2019.
In the latest probe, MPS spokesperson, James Kadadzera, Sunday claimed that some of the 17 victims of the Lilongwe abuse are not being cooperative with the police team that is carrying out the investigations.
The investigations were expected to end after 14 days from December 31 2019, but Kadadzera said some of the victims are contributing to the delay of the investigations.
“Some of the survivors of the incident are not coming forth when we ask to get more information from them. The progress of the investigations will depend on the information that we will get from them,” he said.
Kadadzera dismissed social media reports suggesting that some of the victims are not cooperative because they are being threatened during interrogation.
“We need their cooperation because we want to have a strong case before the court against those that will be found to be on a wrong path. We have not given ourselves specific days because we really wanted to conclude this investigation in two weeks as indicated earlier,” he said.
Police deployed a team of six senior police investigators from across the country paying due attention to the report by Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and other reports.
MHRC Commissioner, Martha Chizuma, said the commission did not face hurdles when doing its investigations except in identifying the victims.
Chizuma while, not speculating why the police are facing challenges in the probe, urged MPS to use Women Lawyers Association who are now legal counsels for the victims.
“The police did contact us to assist them to approach the survivors. We cooperated of course then there were those allegations that the police harassed the survivors during the interviews. We also took up the matter with the police. In meantime, the Lawyers Association took up the matter and are now representing the women,” she said.
NGO Gender Coordination Network and Human Rights Defenders Coalition, among other organisations, this month demanded immediate arrest of all police officers that were deployed to the Lilongwe areas.
The suspected police officers are alleged to have abused the women in retaliation after a mob from Msundwe stoned to death Mobile Police Service officer, Usumani Imedi, when he led a team of officers who tried to quell protests against a rally which Peter Mutharika was to address in a different area in Lilongwe.
The police have also done nothing on MHRC recommendation that some police officers should be investigated to determine the role they played in the death of Lule.
The police arrested Lule on February 18 2019 and held him for interrogation, to determine the role they played, if at all, leading to the death of Makanjira. A postmortem report revealed that Lule was tortured to death.
MHRC report implicated acting Commissioner for Central Region Police Headquarters Evalista Chisale, Superintendent Paul Chipole, Sub-Inspector Ikram Malata, Inspector Ronnex Kapesa and Station Criminal Investigations Officer for Dedza Police Station Inspector Mervin Gama.
MHRC also mentioned four mobile police service officers from C Division who escorted the suspect from Lilongwe Principal Magistrate Court to Lilongwe Police Station after Lule had appeared in court.
In April 2019, MPS started the probe on the matter hoping to bring those who murdered Lule to book but up to now there is no progress.
In a public notice issued last year, MPS announced the formation of a task force to investigate Lule’s death.
“Police would like to inform Malawians that the autopsy report of the late Buleya Lule was officially presented to the office of the Inspector General by Apam [Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi]. In response to the report, the IG has put in place a special task team to inquire into the circumstances that led to the death of Lule.
“The task team is being headed by Dr. George Kainja, director of research, planning and reforms unit in MPS. The IG has also extended invitation to the Malawi Law Society and Apam to provide a member each to be included in the task team”.