Foreign activists sentenced and deported for investigations into uranium mining

Association

In early April 2017, a Malawian court convicted eight Tanzanian civil society activists on charges of spying and trespassing. On 13th April 2017, the court suspended the sentence and ordered the activists' immediate deportation from the country. The activists had been in Malawi to assess the impact of uranium mining on communities and were detained in December 2016. An investigation by Malawian and Tanzanian lawyers in December 2016 and January 2017 found that after being detained, the Tanzanian activists were denied their legal rights and mistreated by the authorities. Local and international civil society organisations condemned the arrests and called for the activists' immediate release. 

The detention, mistreatment and subsequent conviction and sentencing of the activists has further narrowed the space for civil society and civic activism. In addition, the court's initial negative ruling has had a significant impact on other activists who have conducted or have considered conducting similar advocacy, research and analysis work on the issue of uranium mining in the country. 

Expression

In March 2017, the High Court in Malawi freed three opposition leaders from the Malawi Congress Party who had been accused of exchanging treasonous messages on WhatsApp. Jessie Kabwila, Ulemu Msungama and Peter Chakhwantha were arrested in February 2016 but were released after more than a year of delays in their trial. The court subsequently cautioned the police against arresting people before finalising investigations. The court's ruling was welcomed by free expression advocates.

Peaceful Assembly

On 2nd March 2017, several civic organisations planned a demonstration in Lilongwe against government impunity and corruption; however, very few citizens participated due to fear of violent repercussions from the state. Many feared a repeat of the 20th July 2011 mass anti-government protests that left 18 Malawians dead and many other injured when police fired on protesters.

The main organisers - the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, Centre for Development of People, Youth and Society and Church and Society (Livingstonia Synod) are planning to hold more protests over several days, starting on 28th April 2017.