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Taming gun violence


MIKUWA—The gun is with the police

Gun use by private individuals is gaining prominence in the country, where some people have alleged that they were shot at when they posed no threat to those that pulled the trigger. THOMAS KACHERE sheds light on the extent of the problem and how to nip it in the bud.

July 31 2022 will remain etched in 24-year-old Dave Tsogolera’s memory as it is the day he was allegedly shot at by his Lebanese boss Rabiah Akar.

“I lost a lot of blood, which oozed from the gunshot wounds,” says Tsogolera, who comes from Namala Village, Traditional Authority Nkalo, in Chiradzulu District.

He claims to have gone to his boss’ house, situated in BCA Hills, where he sometimes worked as guard, to check on him after the boss had reportedly failed to show up at a warehouse in Limbe.

Tsogolera claims that he and welders he was tasked to identify to fix faulty locks had waited for the boss for some time.

He says, upon arrival at Akar’s house, he was instructed by his boss to board a car and, when he did that, he was told that he would be taken to Limbe Police Station because Akar suspected him to be one of the people who were allegedly planning to break into the warehouse.

“I did not believe what he was saying until I saw him taking his gun and pointing it at me. I jumped out of the vehicle and that is when I heard gunshots from behind. Later I felt something in my right lower leg. I knew I had been shot at,” Tsogolera says.

He reported the issue to Bangwe Police, who referred him to Limbe Police Station, where he was held despite being in pain emanating from the alleged gunshot wounds.

He says he does not understand why he was shot at despite being unarmed.

South-West Region Police Deputy Public Relations Officer Beatrice Mikuwa said they were aware of the issue.

She further indicated that the gun had been confiscated.

“I can confirm that the police received a report of the case involving a Lebanese who allegedly shot at his worker on suspicion that he was one of the people who tried to break into his warehouse. As we are talking, the gun is with the police,” Mikuwa said.

She urged people who have licensed guns to tread carefully, saying those with the weapons have to know that one can still commit an offence with a gun that is registered.

“You do not fire [at someone] just because someone has angered you; the weapon must be used in self-defence,” Mikuwa said.

She said Akar appeared in court, where he was granted bail on the charge that he failed to report an incident, namely the alleged shooting.

This is just one of the cases involving the alleged shooting of an unarmed individual, putting pressure on the State to fulfil its obligation of protecting human rights, lest some people lose lives due to gun use.

People’s Federation for National Peace and Development Executive Director Edward Chaka said gun violence was gaining prominence in Malawi, such that stakeholders had to do the needful to put the situation in check.

“The challenge is that the media and civil society organisations do not take gun-use issues seriously. We, actually, went to Limbe Police Station to learn circumstances surrounding the case,” Chaka said.

He blamed the perception that Malawi is a peaceful country on the proliferation of gun use cases in the country.

“The truth is that Malawi is no longer as peaceful as it used to be, more so because issues of gun violence started to increase during the time of the Mozambique civil war.

“Some of the firearms that were used in the Mozambican civil war found a fertile ground in Malawi, which used to be a wholly peaceful country. As such, from the early 1990s, gun violence issues became a point of concern,” Chaka said.

Gun-related violence is a contemporary global human rights issue which threatens one of the most fundamental human rights, namely the right to life.

Around the world, more than 500 people die every day because of violence committed with firearms.

Sometimes, the mere presence of firearms can make people feel threatened and fearful for their lives, with severe and long-term psychological effects on individuals and whole communities.

Easy access to firearms, whether legal or illegal, is another main driver of gun violence.

Amnesty International campaigns for governments to use common-sense gun reform to stop gun violence and protect people’s right to life. States also have a duty to establish measures they can use to intervene at community level to reduce and prevent gun violence in people’s daily lives.

Recently, Control Arms stressed the need for the government to domesticate international laws and treaties that are meant to control the trade of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.

The organisation also urged the government to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that Malawi signed recently and domesticate treaties such as the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

Control Arms is a network of civil society organisations that implement small arms and light weapons initiatives, one of their roles being to build the capacity of governments and civil societies in ratifying the ATT.

On August 5 2022, the network held a key stakeholders’ meeting in Salima District, drawing participants from the Malawi Defence Force and Malawi Police Service.

Arms Control Coordinator for the Southern African Development Community, who happens to be Chaka, indicated that, just like other countries, Malawi faces a threat posed through arms’ use, hence the need for governments and civil society organisations to map the way forward on how to promote security.

“One of the steps towards protecting our citizens is making sure that our instruments are in order; as such, we have to make sure that we domesticate relevant international laws and treaties,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson John Kabaghe said nuclear weapons are, indeed, a global threat to peace and humanity.

He, therefore, said Malawi was committed to the promotion of world peace.

“On domestication, there are so many plans in the pipeline. However, depending on the business of members of Parliament, this issue may be considered in the future,” Kabaghe said.

It is the aspiration of the African Union agenda to have a peaceful continent by silencing the guns, a flagship initiative of the AU Agenda 2063 that aspires to end all wars, conflict and gender-based violence and prevent genocide.

Malawi ratified TPNW on June 2022; as such, it will be legally bound by it from September 27 2022.

Before September 27, however, it faces an imminent problem it has to address now; the use of guns, whether licensed or not.

now; the use of guns, whether licensed or not.

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