Malawi’s Supreme Court Makes ‘U-turn’ on Death Penalty Ban

BLANTRYE, MALAWI – Malawi’s Supreme Court of Appeal says the death penalty remains constitutional in the southern African country.  The decision reverses a ruling from just four months ago, when the same court abolished the death penalty.  Rights campaigners say the development is disappointing.

The ruling in April stemmed from the petition of a convicted murderer, who wanted the Supreme Court to re-hear his case.

In his judgment, Justice Dunstan Mwaungulu, now retired, said Malawi’s constitution respects the right to life – and said the death penalty negates that right.

He emphasized the sanctity of life, saying without the right to life, other rights do not exist.

Justice Mwaungulu also ordered the re-sentencing of all cases where the death penalty was handed down.

However, in a document released this week, the other Supreme Court justices say Mwaungulu’s ruling only expressed his personal opinion.

Justice Anaclet Chipeta said he dissociates himself from the judgment because it did not reflect the views of the majority of the appeal court justices.

Another justice, Rezine Mzikamanda, said the issue of the constitutionality of the death penalty was not part of the case they were handling.

Peter Dimba is chairperson of the legal committee of Malawi’s parliament.

“The views of the majority of the judges on the panel would have carried the day because that’s what it means. So as it stands, it means death penalty still stands,” Dimba said.

Michael Kaiyatsa is executive director for the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation in Malawi.

He says although the justices have valid reasons for not backing Mwaungulu’s opinion, the Malawi government needs to move quickly to formally abolish the death penalty.

“We think Malawi has an obligation under international human rights law to ensure that it complies with that resolution,” Kayiyatsa said. “But also we know that Malawi has not executed anybody since the 1990s. So the country needs to continue on that path. But we need a lasting solution. That’s why we think that a way should be found to repeal this death penalty”

The death penalty has long been mandatory in Malawi for those convicted of murder or treason, and optional for rape.

Court records show that 27 people are under a death sentence in Malawi.

However, according to Amnesty International, Malawi last carried out an execution in 1992 when 12 people were hanged.

Lawmaker Dimba noted that many countries are abolishing death penalty.

He said his parliamentary committee would opt for abolishing the death penalty if the proposal came to parliament in the form of a bill.

“This is an issue that was supposed to be done by the government,” Dimba said. “If they see to it, they actually bring an amendment bill to parliament and I don’t think parliament would have problems in abolishing the death penalty.”

However, some critics say abolishing the death penalty may lead to an increase in acts of mob justice.

In December 2020, a mob killed a 47-year-old man in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, who had allegedly killed another man suspected to have raped his daughter.


Source: Voice of America

Afghan Refugees Expected in Uganda

KAMPALA – Ugandan officials have confirmed the country will be receiving 145 evacuees from Afghanistan on Sunday.

After days of discussion, Uganda has confirmed it will receive evacuees from Afghanistan Sunday.

The latest developments come a day after evacuations in Kabul were temporarily halted due to overcrowding at an evacuee receiving center in Qatar.

Esther Anyakun, Uganda’s deputy minister for disaster preparedness and refugees, spoke to VOA.

“IRC (International Red Cross) and other development partners have been working with U.S. government also to see the people who we are going to evacuate by tomorrow. Just 145,” said Anyakun.

Earlier this week, Anyakun said Uganda would accept up to 2,000 Afghan refugees, but other officials said at that time the matter was still under discussion.

On whether all the evacuees will be Afghans or Ugandans, Anyakun had this to say.

“You cannot tell whether it is a Ugandan. Because people are just like, trying to fight through those walls in Afghanistan to get into the plane,” said Anyakun. “So, they can’t even categorize and say that we are taking probably diplomats, or Ugandans alone. So, the moment you manage to succeeded to penetrate and you get there then you will be lucky. I think when they’ve already reached here is when we shall now categorize.”

Appearing on a local radio show Saturday morning, Uganda’s Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Hillary Onek, explained that those arriving from Afghanistan are mainly women and children.

He said they won’t stay in Uganda forever, adding that the East African country will be used as a transit point before they are taken to the United States.

Minister Onek said officials have already booked hotels in the city of Entebbe, where the 145 evacuees will stay.


Source: Voice of America

Malawi Struggles to End Attacks on People With Albinism

BLANTRYE, MALAWI – Police said the death of 21-year-old Ian Muhama in the Kachere area of Blantyre brings the number of albino attacks this year to four — a drop from past years, but still disconcerting.

Three victims, including Muhama, have been killed, while another, a baby girl, is missing.

James Kadadzera is a spokesperson for the Malawi Police Service.

“The first incident this year in Mangochi (district), the suspects were arrested and the body was also found,” Kadadzera said. “Another incident in Chikwawa [district] where a 20-month-old baby was abducted, we are on ground and we are sure of finding the suspected and we are sure of finding the whereabouts of the abducted baby.”

Kadadzera also said police are investigating the death of Muhama.

Statistics show that since 2014, more than 170 albinos have been attacked in Malawi because of false beliefs that concoctions mixed with their body parts bring luck and wealth.

In some cases, grave robbers have exhumed corpses to retrieve albinos’ bodies.

Observers say efforts to end the attacks haven’t helped much.

In 2018 the government and the United Nations developed the National Action Plan on Persons with Albinism. The plan is designed to discourage attacks and provide albinos with greater protection, in part by giving out security alarms.

Maria Jose Torres is the U.N. national coordinator in Malawi. She said full implementation of the plan could help end the attacks.

“The United Nations is calling upon the authorities to continue implementing that National Action Plan on Persons with Albinism to ensure that the criminal practice of attacking persons with albinism is fully eliminated in Malawi,” Torres said.

Boniface Massa is chairperson for the Disability and Elderly Rights Directorate at the Malawi Human Rights Commission, a key stakeholder in the action plans.

Massa said the plan, for its promises, is falling short.

“We have so far highlighted serious gaps in terms of the actual protection pillar under the National Action Plan,” Massa said. “So overall what we noted from our findings that we are still analyzing is that there hasn’t been direct impact on the life of people with albinism.”

In a statement this week, Amnesty International said the recent attack is the “latest reminder that Malawi remains a dangerous place for persons with albinism.”

Some rights activists believe the attacks could end only if police mount a crackdown on markets for the albino body parts.

But police spokesperson Kadadzera says there is no such market.

“There are a lot of people that we have arrested with bones,” Kadadzera said. “And they don’t have anywhere to sell the bones so that’s why I am saying this is just a mystery; this is just a belief that is unfounded.”

He said in the meantime, police, chiefs and religious leaders are trying to educate people to stop believing in the myths that perpetuate the attacks.


Source: Voice of America

Liquid Oxygen Needed for COVID-19 Patients, Not Carsa

The city of Orlando, Florida has asked its residents to cut back on its use of water for several weeks because of a shortage of liquid oxygen, which is used to purify the water supply. The oxygen shortage is another consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 patients need the oxygen to help them breathe and the demand for it is high.

The city uses the oxygen in the drinking water supply to stop discoloration and a rotten-egg smell.

The Orlando Sentinel newspaper reports on its website that the city has already stopped watering its parks and ballfields to conserve water.

The Orlando Utilities Commission usually receives 10 weekly tanker truck deliveries of oxygen, but deliveries have now been reduced to five to seven.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer asked residents to stop washing their cars, watering their lawns, and using pressure washers for two to three weeks.

In Australia, police clashed with COVID-19 lockdown protesters in the city of Melbourne Saturday.  Police say more than 4,000 people attended the demonstration.  Six police officers were taken to the hospital for injuries and more than 200 protesters were arrested.  A much smaller protest was held in Sydney, drawing about 250 demonstrators, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.  Forty-seven people were arrested at the Sydney rally.

Authorities in India have approved emergency use of a second locally developed vaccine, while British drugmaker AstraZeneca unveiled a new antibody therapy to fight COVID-19.

India’s latest vaccine, developed by Indian pharmaceutical firm Zydus Cadila, is the world’s first DNA-based inoculation against the coronavirus. The vaccine uses a section of genetic material from the virus to instruct cells to make a specific protein to which the immune system can respond.

The three-dose vaccine has been approved for use in adults as well as children 12 and older. It is the sixth vaccine to be approved in India, including another locally developed vaccine by Indian firm Bharat Biotech.

Also Friday, drugmaker AstraZeneca released data from a late-stage trial for a new antibody therapy, showing it reduced the risk of people developing any COVID-19 symptoms by 77%. The company said the therapy can be used preventatively and could be particularly helpful to people who respond poorly to immunization shots. It said that 75% of the participants in the trial had chronic conditions, including some with a lower immune response to vaccinations.

In South Africa, officials opened vaccine eligibility to all adults as they sought to protect the population from a surge fueled by the highly contagious delta variant.

Sri Lanka began a 10-day lockdown on Friday in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The nation recorded its highest single-day COVID-19 death toll of 187 on Wednesday.

In Israel, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett received a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, as the country began administering additional shots to people ages 40 and older to combat an increase in coronavirus infections.

The United States on Friday extended the closure of its land borders with Canada and Mexico for nonessential travel through September 21. The move comes despite Canada’s decision to open its border to vaccinated Americans.

Officials in San Francisco Friday began a program of requiring proof of full vaccination against the coronavirus before entering indoor restaurants, gyms and concert halls. The city is the first major U.S. metropolitan area to require full vaccination at such venues and goes further than a New York rule, which requires people to be at least partially vaccinated to attend many indoor activities.


Source: Voice of America

Cameroon Military Raids Separatist-Held Roads, Kill Seven Self-proclaimed Separatist Generals

YAOUNDE, CAMEROON – Cameroon says its military has killed seven self-proclaimed separatist generals who blocked traffic for a month on roads in the central African state’s English-speaking western regions. The military says during a two-week operation, it recovered 70 vehicles the fighters had seized from civilians and rescued several women and children held hostage in separatist camps.

Cameroon said Friday its military had eliminated separatists from roads the fighters had illegally occupied in the English-speaking North-West region since July. Lieutenant Conrad Onana says he commanded government troops in one of several operations to neutralize fighters blocking roads.

Onana says a heavy exchange of fire lasted for over two hours starting at 1 a.m. Friday, when government troops attacked the fighters in Bafut. He says many of the separatists and their five self-proclaimed generals killed by government troops had been wanted by the military.

Onana did not give the total number of separatists killed in the raid.

He said the military rescued several women, including a pregnant woman, and a nursing baby held hostage by the fighters. He said at least six men were arrested for collaborating with separatists.

General Nka Valere is commander of government troops fighting separatists in the North-West region.

Nka says several hundred government troops took part in operations in which two self-proclaimed generals were killed in Bali in addition to the five in Bafut, towns in the North-West region’s Mezam Division. He says the generals killed by the military are called Small Pepper, Stone, Small Bible, Ibobe, Prince, Kobet and Babilla. He says his troops recovered many weapons and seized material the fighters were using for homemade bombs.

Nka said he is asking civilians to collaborate more than ever before with the military by reporting suspected separatist fighters hiding in their communities.

Separatists have said on social media that some of their fighters and generals were killed but have given no further details. The fighters say many government troops were also killed.

Nka said a few government troops sustained light injuries, but none were killed.

In July, Cameroonian officials prohibited use of motorcycles in Mezam. The officials accused separatists of using motorcycles for crimes, including the ambush and killing of five police officers in Bali July 18.

Cameroon said the separatist fighters also used motorcycles to attack and raze military positions, police stations and government offices.

On social media, separatists claimed responsibility for killing the police officers and burning buildings occupied by the military. The fighters also imposed a ban on motor vehicle traffic and promised to lift the ban when government officials allow motorcycle traffic.

The military said the separatists seized over a hundred vehicles that defied the ban and used the vehicles to erect road barricades.

The government said it ordered the military to clear the roads of separatist fighters because thousands of people who use the roads daily were stranded.

Deben Tchoffo, governor of the North-West region, said 70 vehicles were removed from the road. He said all the roads blocked by separatist fighters are now safe and useable. Tchoffo said Cameroonian President Paul Biya has reiterated that fighters who surrender and drop their weapons will not be prosecuted.

Twenty-four-year-old truck driver Innocent Njikong says it is the sixth time since 2015 that the government is assuring travelers that roads in the North-West region are safe. He says he is very certain that the fighters will not drop their weapons.

“How do you meet and convince them [fighters] when they are still staying outside? They [the military] have burned their [fighters’] houses,” Njikongsaid. “We are pleading to the government, let them [the military] drop their guns. We need to sacrifice in order to bring peace.”

Njikong said by sacrifice, he means that the government should declare a cease-fire.

Cameroon has always said its military is not involved in any wrongdoing and that it will crush separatists who refuse to surrender.

Violence erupted in 2017 in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions when teachers and lawyers protested alleged discrimination by the French-speaking majority. The military reacted with a crackdown and separatist groups took up weapons, claiming that they were protecting civilians.

The United Nations says over 3,000 people have been killed and 550,000 displaced in Cameroon and neighboring Nigeria since the conflict began.


Source: Voice of America