On the police, ICC and MSB


Recently, police shot dead four robbery suspects in Limbe. These men were killed as they were trying to flee. The Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation has raised a hue and cry about the bloody incident.

If the police did not shoot and kill, would the suspects have escaped? The police on the spot are best qualified to answer this. Suppose the suspects escaped, would they go and try to rob someone elsewhere? Most likely.

Robbers being humans have human rights which circumstances permitting must be respected. The police being humans also have human rights by no means inferior to those of criminal suspects. In what circumstances must the human rights of the robbers give way to those of the police and vice-versa?


One of the natural rights of all humans is self-preservation. A newly born child in the hands of its mother clasps what is nearest to it when it senses that it is going to fall. If you bring something close to its eye, it blinks. It does all this to protect itself from danger.

We live in an age when several non-governmental bodies exit to champion human rights. It must be emphasised at the same time that circumstances determine which of the many rights must prevail. Imperfections are in life more common than ideals. The verdict we give as to whether police action was unjustified must be modified by the phrase used in economics ceteris paribus, other things being equal.

Those who like me have lived for a long time can remember the time one never heard a robber killing a police officer. Such incidents have become too common these days. When I visited Beijing, China in the year 2009, I was surprised to see the police patrolling without bearing arms. In places like Blantyre and Lilongwe, one often sees two or three officers patrolling together one of whom has a gun. It is the worsening of violent crimes that has brought about this scenario. Too many criminals seem to have easy access to the notorious AK47 gun and they use it on the person they rob and the one who wants to arrest them.


Inspector General Lexten Kachama has been quoted as ordering police officers to use weapons in proportion to the gravity of the offence and not soft weapons. I do not see anything objectionable in this. Many years ago at a religious gathering, an Englishman told me that during World War II, he had killed several enemies. “This I did in situations where if I did not kill the enemy, he was going to kill me,” said the man, now embracing religion.

The ancient Ngoni warriors in Mzimba had a custom called beka phansi (lay down the weapons). When they came close to an enemy, if they threw down the weapons and raised their hands, they did not kill them but just captured them. If they shouted that they had surrendered but did not throw down their weapons, they did not believe so and so they killed them.

There is need to advise members of the public especially those inclined to robbery what they should do when they do not the police so shoot them. They should, for example, not try to run away. If they have weapons, they should throw them down and put their hands on the head. Their lives will be spared.

By and large, a police officer has the inalienable right to prefer his survival to the survival of the suspect. The police officer on the spot is best qualified to judge whether their life is in danger or not. Where the shooting has taken place, an inquest should follow to find out if there was justification. The recent shooting in Limbe should be subjected to an inquest. There is need to prevent the trigger-happy police to shoot at random.

The decision by the Republic of South Africa to withdraw its membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has surprised more people than the decisions of Burundi and The Gambia. The general justification of withdrawing given by some African leaders is that the ICC seems to exclusively target Africans and is seen as an instrument of neo-colonialisation in Africa. Perhaps it is but it must not be forgotten that civil wars are more frequent in Africa than in any other continent, hence Africa tends to produce more criminals against humanity than other continents.

At the beginning of independence, most African intellectuals supported those in power in denouncing multiparty politics as alien to African traditions. One-party regime sprouted everywhere on the continent accompanied by dictatorships and loss of freedoms.

We should not reject systems of justice merely because it has its root outside Africa. During World War II, atrocities against humanity were perpetrated on both sides of the war divide. The victorious aliens tried Nazi leaders in Nuremberg, Germany. They were accused among of having killed six million unarmed Jews. The ICC has its predecessor.

African nations comprise tribes which are still struggling to integrate. Here and there are found people who are pathologically tribalistic and regionalistic. In the history of multiparty politics, it is not rare for extremists to attract most votes. When such people form governments, persecutions of minorities follow. The existence of bodies like the ICC is a safeguard against such misanthropes.

Those who were negotiating the purchase of the Malawi Savings Bank (MSB) apparently forgot the Latin phrase caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. There was so much panic during the negotiation as the governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi threatened closure of the MSB.

While the two sides enter into negotiations, they must not trample on the rights of the third parties, the people whose taxes formed the initial capital of the MSB.

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