Police Under-fire in MHRC Latest Report
Latest reports by the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) on investigations into a police operation at Msundwe on the outskirts of Lilongwe city suggests that ill-prepared riot police went wild raping women including defiling girls as young as 12.
Some of the police officers deployed on the day were over-powered by angry mobs that resulted in the death by stoning of team leader Superintendent Usumani Imedi. The fracas also led to the loss of business and property through fire, looting and physical damage in October, 2019.
In its investigations report on the circumstances that led to the death Superintendent Imedi the Commission has found that police officers deployed to quell the situation at Msundwe, were not prepared for the assignment as they were few in number and had no protective gear.
This according to the report caused the law enforcers to succumb to pressure from the angry mob subsequently leading to the stoning to death of Superintendent Imedi.
The report says two teams comprising 20 police officers from the Mobile Service C Division were deployed to control the situation and clear the Lilongwe-Mchinji road. The two teams of 10 officers each led by Superintendent Imedi and Superintendent Kulinji using a Toyota Land cruiser and an armoured vehicle managed to clear illegal road blocks at Chitedze and Mpingu, thereafter proceeded to Msundwe where they met great resistance from the community.
Noticing that they were surrounded by protesters, the officers agreed to split into two groups. They tried to disband the protestors using an element of surprise.
The report reads in part, “About six police officers left the vehicle and walked on foot to disperse the crowd by surprise. The deceased was part of this team of six police officers. When they approached the crowd, they noticed that it was too big, estimated to be 200 protesters. After initial hesitation, they proceeded and engaged in firing teargas at the crowd.”
Late Superintendent Imedi ordered the officers to tactfully withdraw after noticing that the crowd was too strong for them at the same time called for backup from the team that was left to guard the vehicle.
The crowd saw an opportunity to attack thinking the police officers had run out of teargas. One officer sub Inspector Chirombo was left behind as he tried to pick his beret which had dropped and managed to take cover in a toilet.
Sub inspector Chirombo is the one who used his personal mobile phone in his hiding place to call for backup after Superintended Imedi was killed.
The Commission recommends that police must conclude investigations into the death of Superintended Imedi and bring suspects to book, strengthen its intelligence collection service which will help improve operational deployment and strengthen framework policy for provision of protective gear to any officer deployed to manage demonstrations.
Religious, political and community leaders in affected areas should initiate dialogue with Malawi Police Service and all relevant stakeholders with the aim of bringing lasting peace.
In the report MHRC has described the action by community members as criminal and recommends legal action. It has further advised the public to desist from taking the law into their own hands.
The other two reports released also blame the police for misconduct.
MHRC has established that police officers raped women and defiled minor girls at Mpingu, Mbwatalika and Kadziyo. According to the investigation report, 17 women and minor girls were sexually assaulted on the day. The report however says one woman was 2 months pregnant at the time she was raped.
The other report, accuses the men in uniform of theft through looting of shops and destroying property through fire. It recommends among others that the officers be disciplined.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera told us they will comment later.
“We may not respond immediately, we will wait to have the report with us and after going through it we will respond accordingly,” Kadadzra said.
The police is also conducting own investigations into rape allegations by officers and other events related to the same.
MHRC says will be making quarterly follow up on recommendations in its reports.
On 8 October, angry community members closed the Lilongwe-Mchinji road at Msundwe, M’bwatalika and Mpingu with the aim of preventing people traveling from Mchinji to a presidential function in Lilongwe.