The Arrest of Kasambara

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Kasambara did what? Geez, ours is really a yo-yo democracy!

Created on Sunday, 19 February 2012 05:06

Written by RAPHAEL TENTHANI

”SUCH actions show contempt for the rule of law and the protection of human rights, which further taints the already compromised human rights record of Malawi” reads a statement from the International Commission of Jurists in reaction to the continued illegal detention of former Attorney General Ralph Kasambara. That statement alone shows that despite all the harrumphing in the executive circles that Malawi is the best run country in the region our image out there is severely damaged.

Just look at the contradictions Kasambara’s arrest has brought in the open. First, police say they can’t respect court orders to release the outspoken lawyer on bail because courts are on strike. Notwithstanding that, police go and search with a tooth comb for offensive weapons at Kasambara’s offices and residence armed with a warrant issued by the same courts that are on strike. Does it follow then that police should have been barred from conducting the searches because their warrant of search was suspicious since courts are on strike?

Talk of contradictions, Alexious Nampota – the lawyer who heads the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) – summons lawyers Wapona Kita and Jonathan Kara to appear before the state corruption-busting body to account for their role in the Kasambara bail imbroglio. And yet he doesn’t summon any police officer to explain how they obtained the search warrant while the courts were on strike. Selective justice?

But Nampota isn’t done with his slew of contradictions. He takes to the public airwaves to essentially accuse the judicial system in Malawi – to which he is a key player – of corruption. Without proffering evidence he says Kasambara has given huge sums of money to judges and magistrates on behalf of his clients. The question is: as the anti-corruption supremo how can he sit on such allegations and wait until Kasambara is on the wrong side of the law to expose his illegal machinations? If I were Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo, I would protest loudly against such dangerous insinuations.

Granted, nobody in Malawi is above the law, be they presidents, lawyers, journalists, MPs or the ordinary man on the streets. But Kasambara’s arrest could have been laughable were it not absurd. Alleged thugs attack you, you defend yourself and police reward your dexterity by detaining you and give VIP treatment to your attackers? The would-be assassins are actually escorted to hospital and a police spokesperson tells the world – without batting an eye – that actually no charges have been proffered against the hoodlums. C’mon, good people; only in Malawi can this be true, trust me…well, maybe in Somalia or North Korea or Myanmar!

President Mutharika, when making a knee-jerk attempt to hoodwink the world that he is not a tin-pot dictator but a tolerant democrat, has been saying there is no political prisoner in Malawi jails. Well, if he has forgotten about Cassim Chilumpha, Bakili Muluzi or Kamlepo Kalua or any such Malawians whose arrests were nothing but political in nature, he has to revise his speeches quick for Kasambara is nothing but a political prisoner.

If you disagree, tell me what system of government ignores court rulings not once but twice if not a dictatorship? Kasambara might be culpable of a crime but if courts say he can be freed on bail pending trial what system of government can deny him such a right if not a dictatorship? If government genuinely thought Kasambara’s release was irregular why did it not challenge it in the same courts? Someone just issues orders that court rulings be disobeyed and you tell me we are still in a democracy?If you still have hope that we are far from dictatorship tell me what kind of democracy ignores court rulings not once but twice?

The British government, for example, was forced to release Abu Qatada from Long Lartin top-security jail in Evesham. Qatada is one of the UK’s most dangerous extremist preachers but after the European Court of Human Rights said it was against his human rights to deport him to his native Jordan, London acquiesced. If it were the Mutharika administration, David Cameron could have easily ignored the dictates from Strasbourg and life could have gone on as usual.

Detentions without trial are attributes of dictatorship. Bingu’s dictatorial tendencies were publicly displayed when he overruled numerous Parliamentary decisions between 2004 and 2009. Does he not seem eager to confirm that he is in fact worse than the much-maligned Dr. Banda by overruling the Judiciary as well?

But Malawians deserve much better than that. When Archbishop James Chiona and his colleagues put their collared necks on the chopping block in 1992 to publicly denounce three decades of dictatorship, they were not laying ground for more dictators. Banda can be excused because he ruled during one-party dictatorship where he was the law unto himself. Unfortunately Bingu doesn’t have – and must not be allowed – such luxury.
Today it is Kasambara, tomorrow it may be the Muckraker, but who will be next? May be Bingu himself…?

…Nobody wants such yo-yo democracy!

Tags: Ralph Kasambara  Bingu wa Mutharika  Alexious Nampota  Jonathan Kara  Wapona Kita  

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Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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