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No march to State House

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By Madalitso Musa & Macdonald Thom:

Lilongwe City Council (LCC) has told the Association of Persons Living with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) and other civil society organisations (CSOs) that they cannot deliver their petition to State House and should instead deliver it to the city’s civic offices.

“Section 103 of the Police Act prohibits assembly or demonstrations within the precincts of State Residents unless authorised by the president. In view of the above provision, the petition shall be delivered to Lilongwe City Council offices at the Civic Centre to the Chief Executive Officer for Lilongwe City Council,” reads a letter which LLC’s acting Chief Executive Officer, Gensher Mbwabwa has signed.

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The letter has been addressed to Apam president Overstone Kondowe, Human Rights Defenders Coalition Chairperson Timothy Mtambo and Nitta Hanjahanja.

Kondowe refused to comment on the development, but, Mtambo insisted that they would proceed with the march and seek the president’s consent on the same.

“Our message to the government is that we are not in the business of their drama. These are serious issues. We maintain our position and we will go on with the vigil at [State House.] They [ council officials] say [State House] is a protected place and that is why we say it is a good place for our brothers and sisters [with albinism].

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“The law says we can go to the State House by authorisation of the President. Let us hear from him. Unless President [Peter]Mutharika does not want his suffering citizens to meet him. We will conclude that he is not serious and does not want to hear our concerns,” Mtambo said.

Mutharika, however, will not be at Kamuzu Palace to receive the petition.

According to a programme which Chief Secretary to the Government Lloyd Muhara released on Friday, Mutharika is today expected to commission Mzimba Integrated Urban Water and Sanitation Project.

In an interview, State House Press Secretary Mgeme Kalilani said Mutharika would be in the Northern Region “for a number of days”.

“As of now, the only confirmed function we have is the commissioning of the Mzimba Integrated Urban Water and Sanitation Project. After the commissioning, the President will proceed to Mzuzu where he will be for a number of days. He will perform a number of activities before he returns to Lilongwe,” he said.

Apam and the CSOs plan to hold vigils at Kamuzu Palace from March 6 to 8.

“The programme of His Excellency the President to the north for the commissioning of the Mzimba water facility is an activity that was planned a long time ago. You can check with various government departments if you wish to. And, in planning, the government did not have anything in mind, or about Apam wanting to deliver a petition or whatever they are calling it. This is a government project. It was there and it is going as planned,” Kalilani said.

Last week, Apam refused to meet Mutharika. However, a splinter group, Poor and Concerned People with Albinism had a meeting with the President on Thursday.

During the meeting, Mutharika said he is committed to protecting people with albinism in the country. He said he had instructed the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs to engage experts to investigate the issue. He also said the government was purchasing 3000 gadgets for people with albinism to use in alerting the police when their lives are in danger.

Mutharika also announced that there would be a reward of K5 million to people who will give information leading to the arrest of people behind the abduction and killing of people with albinism.

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