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Zimbabwe human rights row in Malawi
Kondani Magombo, The Chronicle (Malawi)
October 30, 2006 

Malawi's Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) has lashed out at Information Minister Patricia Kaliati for accusing Malawi's Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) of "poking their nose in Zimbabwe's problems" saying the Minister needs civic education to understand that the issue of Zimbabwe is a SADC problem.

CHRR Executive Director Undule Mwakasungula said this Monday in an interview with 'The Chronicle' in reaction to remarks made by Minister Kaliati Friday last week. Ms Kaliati accused civil society organisations of intervening in matters that she said do not concern Malawi instead of looking at own problems back home.

"Why concentrating on Zimbabwe's problems when we have our own problems here? They [Zimbabweans] have their own media, civil society etc. The problems of Zimbabwe are for the people of Zimbabwe," said Minister Kaliati, referring to the joint press conference CHRR had in Malawi's capital Lilongwe with a Zimbabwe civil society body, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, three weeks ago.

But the CHRR Executive Director said Monday that he was disappointed at how the Minister was viewing the Zimbabwe issue, which he said was a problem for the whole Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

"Kaliati is mixing up things," said Mr Mwakasungula. "She needs to be civic educated: Human Rights issues know no border, no boundaries. It is universal. Zimbabwe's problem is a SADC issue. We are talking about SADC integration; but how can this be achieved and how can countries in the region prosper economically if there's no peace in other countries?" queried Mr Mwakasungula.

He further stressed that civil society would continue to comment on any issue, be it local or be it from across the borders because human rights were a global issue. "Just because Kaliati doesn't want to talk about human rights violations in Zimbabwe, doesn't mean we should all remain quiet," said Mr Mwakasungula.

On a lighter note, Minister Kaliati in her attack on civil society further said it would not be wrong to conclude that civil society was behind the theft of the Mugabe signpost on the Midima Road, which was named after the Zimbabwean President.

CHRR and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition three weeks ago told the press in Lilongwe that SADC leaders had failed the people of Zimbabwe as they experience the most trying times of the "collapse of the socio-economic and political set-up" in that country.

A renowned Lilongwe-based activist who preferred anonymity concurred with CHRR and dismissed Ms Kaliati's remarks as "very unfortunate" and contradictory as regards international relations. "The whole world has now become a small village. There is no way one can say what concerns Zimbabwe is none of our concern. If the Minister really means it, then why did [Malawi] President [Bingu wa] Mutharika spend time campaigning for Taiwan's readmission into the UN grouping? Was that not poking one's nose in other people's business?"

"Besides, why did the President participate in security matters concerning Côte d'Ivoire just recently? And why are SADC countries concerned about Darfur? Kaliati needs to be schooled on such matters otherwise I think she is contradicting Mutharika in his involvement in matters concerning other countries other than Malawi," said the activist, who runs an organisation that fights for the women's and children's rights.

President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe government, which is receiving heavy criticism throughout the world for its lack of compassion for human rights issues, has banished private media, many civil society organisations and all other entities fighting for democratic principles that seem to be at odds with Mr Mugabe's policies.

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