Some people in Mzuzu took to the streets Thursday to force the police to release Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) leaders Timothy Mtambo, Gift Trapence and Reverend MacDonald Sembereka from custody.
The trio has since been released on bail after they were arrested for planning to shut down State residences on March 25 in displeasure with President Peter Mutharika’s delay to assent to electoral reform bills and axe Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) commissioners.
Police arrested the trio hours after Mutharika, during a political rally he held on Sunday in Blantyre, had ordered the same.
A coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) organised the protests which started from Katoto Secondary School ground before the protesters presented their petition to the government through Mzuzu City Council offices.
Speaking after presenting the petition, one of the organisers, Charles Kajoloweka, said people from the Northern Region will not allow Mutharika to turn Malawi into a police State.
“We believe that Mutharika and the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party]-led government is creating a police State by arresting human rights activists for political reasons. They are trying to instill fear in Malawians. They are trying to run away from accountability. Therefore, we are here to remind them that this country respects laws and humans rights,” Kajoloweka said.
But DPP spokesperson, Nicholas Dausi, described the demonstrations as a misunderstanding of democracy.
“If someone breaks the law and police do not arrest him, is that the democracy they want?” Dausi said.
In the petition, the protestors have also asked Mutharika to sign the electoral reforms bill and fire Mec commissioners after Public Appointments Committee of parliament found them incompetent to handle the forthcoming fresh presidential election scheduled for May 19 2020.
Malawi Defence Force officers provided security and there were no police personnel throughout the peaceful march.