The Mission to the Republic of Malawi by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) which started on Monday 7 th April 2008, comes to an end today, 11 th April 2008. The delegation comprised Commissioner Mumba Malila, responsible for promotional activities in Malawi and also Special Rapporteur for Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa, and Dr. Robert Eno, Legal Officer at the Secretariat of the African Commission in Banjul, The Gambia. This Promotional Mission, the first ever since the Republic of Malawi ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) in 17 November 1989 was intended to inter alia, promote the African Charter and to exchange views and information on the implementation of the African Charter by the Republic of Malawi. Furthermore, the Mission was intended to raise awareness and visibility of the African Commission and its functions among the relevant government departments and institutions and in the civil society, and generally to encourage a closer relationship between the African Commission and the government and between the African Commission and civil society in Malawi.
Our Mission started with a call on the Representative of the African Union –Southern Africa Office (AU-SARO) in Lilongwe on the 7 th April 2008, where we took time to formally brief His Excellency Prof. Omotayo Olaniyan of the purpose of our mission in Malawi.
On the same day, we also had occasion to meet with the Honourable Attorney General of the Republic of Malawi, Justice Dr Jane Ansah in the company of the learned Solicitor General and Secretary for Justice, Mr. Anthony Kamanga, sc. We had a frank and cordial exchange of views with the two on various human rights issues and how the Government of Malawi is dealing with some of those issues. In particular we were enlightened on the ratification process of international human rights instruments in Malawi and some of the challenges that may have impacted adversely on Malawi’s efforts to remain up to date with its international reporting obligations.
We later in the day had occasion to meet with human rights defender organisations and other members of civil society organisations engaged in human rights work in Malawi under the Council of Non Governmental Organisations of Malawi (CONGOMA) with whom we shared useful ideas and information on many issues. Their experiences and concerns over certain human rights issues in Malawi which they shared with us were eye-opening.
We ended our first day with a meeting with media institutions under the National Media Institute of Southern Africa (NAMISA). Numerous issues germane to freedom of expression, of the press and questions touching on freedom of information in Malawi were brought to the fore.
On the second day on 8 th April, the delegation called on the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon Mrs Joyce Banda MP. The Hon. Minister articulated the position of the Government of the Republic of Malawi on various human rights issues in Malawi, vis a´vis its international obligations under various international human rights instruments including those concluded within the framework of the African Union.
We then met with the Malawi Law Commission led by the Chief Law Officer, Ms. JL Banda. We were given an illuminating brief on the work of the Law Commission as it affects the promotion and protection of human rights in Malawi and the challenges that this important institution faces.
We then proceeded to meet with the Executive Director of the National Aids Commission, Dr. Biziwick Mwale and his team. The Executive Director explained how the right to health for people affected by HIV/AIDS in Malawi is being observed through deliberate policies and programmes designed to address issues of confidential voluntary counselling and testing, access to treatment, stigma and non discrimination and related human rights concerns.
The delegation then met with the Commissioner of Police Mr. Lot Dzonzi and had a frank and candid discussion touching on numerous human rights issues including crime, pre-trial detention, bail, relations with the media, policing methods etc. The Commissioner of Police took the trouble to explain in considerable details the working philosophy of the police service and the challenges faced and myths and misconceptions about the service.
The team then called on the Anti Corruption Bureau and had an enlightening brief on the operations of the Bureau by the Assistant Director, Operations Mr. Victor Charles Banda. This briefing was particularly useful in helping us understand the human rights dimensions of the scourge of corruption in the Republic of Malawi.
My delegation then had the rare privilege of meeting with the Right Honorable Speaker of Parliament in Malawi, the Hon. Louis Chimango MP. We had extremely fruitful exchanges around the broader concept of the role of Parliament in Malawi in the human rights discourse. We discussed a variety of human rights questions excluding of course issues surrounding section 65 which are in the present circumstances, sub judice.
On the 9 th of April, we visited the Malawi Human Rights Commission and met with the Chairperson of the Commission, Commissioner Dorothy Nyansulu in the company of Commissioner John Kapito and staff. The overview of the human rights situation in Malawi provided to us was very insightful and most revealing. The delegation was delightfully exposed to the work of the Malawi Human Rights Commission and its relevance in the human rights awareness creation programme. More importantly, the discussion highlighted the many challenges that are being faced.
We then proceeded to Zomba where on the 10 th April and met with the Dean of the Law Faculty at Chancellor College University of Malawi, Mr. Charles Banda, and discussed various human rights aspects and the areas of possible cooperation in popularising the African Charter.
Ladies and Gentlemen: my delegation also called on the Senior Assistant Commissioner of Prisons and Regional Commanding Officer for Eastern Region, Mr. Ntengano and had an illuminating briefing on human rights position in prisons in Malawi. We thereafter visited and inspected the Zomba Maximum Security Prison and saw for ourselves the conditions of detention and the inmates there.
We then travelled to Blantyre where we met with and held fruitful discussions with the Chairperson Justice Anastasia Msosa sc and her team. We discussed various issues to do with elections and human rights.
My delegation was also received in audience by the Acting Chief Justice of the Republic of Malawi. A number of issues were discussed including the independence of the Judiciary and the role of the Judiciary in Malawi in the protection of human rights provided for in the African Charter.
Owing to limitation of time, certain very important persons and institutions could not be visited, but you will no doubt agree with me that from the people spoken with and the places visited, my delegation has a fairly good understanding of many aspects of human rights in Malawi today.
My delegation wishes to thank the Government of Malawi for acceding to the African Commission’s request to undertake this promotional mission. We also thank the people of Malawi for their very warm reception and hospitality during our mission. The African Commission is truly grateful to the Government of Malawi for the facilities and services placed at its disposal during this mission. We wish to single out for special praise, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the excellent arrangements which enabled my delegation to meet a cross section of the Malawian society in order to have a fairly representative view of the human rights situation in Malawi.
Without in any way pre-empting the contents of the report to be prepared following this mission, my delegation wishes to note the efforts that Malawi is making in fighting corruption and all the steps in the direction of realising for its people, the rights enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The democratic space created by the introduction of multiparty politics, the creation of institutions of good governance such as the Malawi Human Rights Commission, the Anti Corruption Bureau, the Malawi Electoral Commission and a free and vibrant press are all pointers in the right direction and the Government should be encouraged to strengthen these institutions. A lot of course remains to be done. Independent governance institutions and a vibrant civil society are essential pillar for genuine democracy good governance, respect for the rule of law and the protection of human rights.
The African Commission wishes to encourage the civil society in Malawi to take an interest in the Government’s reporting process under the African Charter and to familiarise itself with the mandate of the African Commission and what role civil society can play in the work of the African Commission. We invite NGOs in Malawi to apply for observer status with the African Commission.
Done in Lilongwe, Malawi, on 11 th April 2008.
For further information, please contact:
The Secretariat of the African Commission