Profile: Peter Chinoko - activist for freedom in Malawi

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Peter Chinoko, Executive Director of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), is one of the leading figures in a review being undertaken in Malawi of the constitution and procedures for monitoring national elections.

The review has asked for new structures to be put in place, which CCJP believes are fundamental in upholding the dignity of a human being.

Chinoko is championing people’s rights to participate fully in formulating the legislative framework of Malawi while simultaneously exhorting the government to fulfill its duties to the people in the name of good governance.

Current issues in Malawi

In a recent speech in Copenhagen, Chinoko highlighted some of the fundamental barriers that are preventing people from participating in the democratic process in Malawi: compromised freedom of expression, lack of consultation on key issues, poor economic performance, repressive bills/laws and the absence of genuine dialogue.

The lack of freedom of expression in the country has been compounded by a recent presidential decree that people must deposit US $14,000 before holding a peaceful demonstration, and a general lack of interest from the government in issues raised in civil society petitions.

Role of civil society in Malawi

Peter Chinoko stresses that civil society – not least faith-based organisations - in Malawi must be advisory to politicians and other leaders, be objective and guide citizens.

However, the clampdown on citizens has been harsh, as witnessed at a recent event, where thousands of demonstrators rallied against the government. The police used live bullets and 20 people have so far died because of gunshot from the police.

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