By Mandy Pondani
Inspector General of Police George Kainja has conceded that the Malawi Police Service (MPS) is facing problems in identifying the actual culprits in the Nsundwe rape case, in which police officers were implicated.
Kainja said this when asked on the progress on their part of bringing the police perpetrators to book, few days after the High Court in Lilongwe awarded monetary compensation to women and girl survivors of rape and sexual assault from Nsundwe, M’bwatalika, Mpingu and surrounding areas in Lilongwe.
An investigation by Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) established that during an operation in October 2019, 17 police officers allegedly raped 13 women, defiled one girl and sexually assaulted three teenagers. But Kainja said the MPS is at this point unable to conclusively hold any of its officers accountable, adding that they have left their doors open to further investigations.
He even disclosed that they have been in talks with the United Nations for another round of investigations hoping to finally get the perpetrators arrested and dragged to court.
“We are looking at closure in this case from two angles. First of which is by way of compensating the victims which we learn the courts have granted and on the other hand in terms of whoever police officer did this should be taken to court of law and punished. Talking of investigation, our challenge has been to pinpoint the officers who did the heinous act out of the 56 or 57 police officers. What we have done is we are touching base with our colleagues from the UN side, so that they assist us in terms of investigations, so we can pursue the matter further,” Kainja said.
According to Kainja the UN through resident coordinator Maria Jose Torres has committed to finding an expert who will join an investigation team from police to identify the actual culprit cops. Reacting to Kainja women rights activist Beatrice Mateyu accused police of lack of commitment to ensuring justice on the matter, adding the men in uniform want to keep shielding each other.
She added that the UN sanctioned investigation may just be a waste of time.
“The UN investigation will just be a waste of time and resources because as an institution police has all the capacity to pin perpetrators of various forms of crime. “As a nation let us press the police until they reveal the names of their own officers who committed the crime and hold them accountable accordingly,” said Mateyu.
But National Coordinator for the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Luke Tembo differed with Mateyu saying, the independent investigation is needed to bring to book possible suspects.
“The fact that the victims have been compensated, it means someone committed a crime. For us what is more viable is to have this independent investigation, because we believe the police investigation team that time was not independent enough and might not have had the capacity,” he said.
Further to the legal redress pursued by the Women Lawyers Association which has seen the Nsundwe women getting a compensation order, Vice-President Saulos Chilima early last year reported the Nsundwe sexual assault matter, to the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing the then police boss Duncan Mwapasa of failing to deal with it.