Tag Archives: police

Picture Caption: Comfort Chitseko on the front page of the BNL Times (Malawi newspaper) in October 2011 -- accused of being an activist. / Photo by: Comfort Chitseko

Revamping the Malawi Police Service

Comfort Chitseko on the front page of the BNL Times (Malawi newspaper) in October 2011 -- accused of being an activist. / Photo by: Comfort Chitseko

“I was detained, in jail for 7 days for no reason,” said Comfort Chitseko, who was arrested by Malawi police in October for allegedly conducting demonstration without authority consent and seditious act (according to Malawi police).

“I was having lunch with my cousin before I was arrested. They put me in the local jail cell and then they eventually transferred me to Maula Prison. I did absolutely nothing wrong,” he said.

During the time of Comfort’s arrest, the country was in chaos. The July 2011 protests caused tension across the nation.

Comfort now awaits a court hearing for the false accusations. He is not the only one who has experienced the flagrant abuse of power by the police.

“Time and time we experience that the society is saying that we mishandle suspects,” says Commissioner Nelson Bophani from Malawi’s Police Service in Lilongwe’s central region.

Since the infamous July 20, 2011, protests, the Malawi Police Service has yet to recover from their unjust and violent reputation.

Many police authorities recognize Malawians’ criticisms of police’s arbitrary arrest and even brutality. The Police Service understands that kindling a relationship with the public is what the nation needs.

“The public is expecting a lot from us,” said Detective Lucy Mkute from Kanengo Police Service.

She feels that changes are already being made within the Police Service. “We are respecting human rights and the rule of law,” she said.

Many changes have been made in government administration since the leadership of Honorable Joyce Banda, including the replacement of the Inspector-General of the Malawi Police Service.

Since being appointed, the new Inspector-General, Commissioner Loti Dzonzi has initiated an ‘Investigative Interviewing Skills’ workshop for all investigators and prosecutors in the Police Service.

“It is the desire of the inspector-general that we change the image of the Police Service,” said Commissioner Bophani. “His intention is to do it by imparting skills to all investigators and prosecutors.”

Commissioner Bophani stated the Inspector-General believes that implementing a course in Investigative Interviewing Skills may also help reduce police violations.

“The Police Service needs to avoid using torture and violence – instead we should use our skills. It’s what Malawi needs.”

Ghanaian police covers up child abuse, says legal expert

A child abuse case is being covered up by Tamale’s Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DVVSU), a Ghanaian legal expert says.

Saratu Mahama of the International Federation of Women’s Lawyers (FIDA) says the unit is not pursuing the case because of outside influence.

“I believe there was some pressure,” says Mahama, from FIDA’s office in Kalpohin Estates. “I think there is someone, either from the family or an opinion leader, that is coming in to withdraw the case.”

Mahama learned this information last week during a phone conversation with a DOVVSU staff member.

The case in question involves the vicious beating of an 8 year old girl. On April 13, a witness reported that the victim was beaten by her uncle, says Inspector Lawrence Adombiri.

[Editorial note: The name of the suspect has been withheld as he has not formally been charged.]

The witness heard screaming from a neighbouring house and forced himself inside. He found the girl’s grandmother barricading a door shut. The child’s screams could be heard from within. The neighbour forced the door open and the girl ran outside, blood rushing down her face. The uncle followed her out of the room, a car fan belt in hand.

The victim suffered a fractured right wrist, deep abrasions on her back and a gaping head wound. The girl was treated at the Seventh Day Adventist’s Hospital and released into her father’s care.

According to Adombiri, the suspect told police that his niece is a “spoiled child” and she was being punished for stealing 2 cedi (approximately $1 CAD). Despite this testimony and the eye-witness’ report, the suspect is out on bail.

As a condition of the suspect’s release, he is required to report to the police daily. The suspect did not report to police on April 20, says Insp. Adombiri. He says his unit is continuing to investigate the case.

As a case-worker on domestic abuse issues, Mahama says she frequently sees cases that are not investigated properly.

“Most of the time, we see the [alleged] perpetrator being freed, without being presented in court and it’s very frustrating,” says Mahama.

Iddrisu Inusah of the Commission for Humans Rights and Administrative Justice says the suspect should have seen a judge before being let out on bail.

Yet, Inusah says it is difficult to investigate and prosecute domestic violence cases in the Northern Region. He says victims frequently withdraw their statements, for fear of being ostracized by their families or communities.

“The family they will decide ‘oh no, no … this matter shouldn’t go through the court systems, this shouldn’t go through the police’,” says Inusah.

Body kept in parking lot at Kumasi Police HQ

The corpse of a suspected car thief lies in the parking lot of the Ashanti Regional Police Headquarters, a car mat with a pool of blood just feet away.

What I learned from initial whisperings around the police station was that three car snatchers were caught in Kumasi, having stolen a taxi in Accra. The vehicle was tracked using a new software, which was released by police just weeks before the incident in an attempt to reduce the increasing incidents of car theft in Ghana’s cities.

In the three hours I waited with my colleague at the station, no official police statement was issued. According to news articles the following day, the man and his two suspected co-conspirators opened fire, unprovoked, on police officers, who returned shots. The man was killed and two of the other suspects wounded. While one suspect escaped arrest, the others were taken to the police headquarters, where the body was placed in the parking lot as police waited for the Ashanti Regional Police Commander to assess the body.

One of his suspected co-assailants is guided onto the back of a police vehicle. His foot, shoeless and badly injured during the incident, leaves a trail of blood between where the police were holding him and the truck. The third assailant in custody stands in the centre of the growing crowd, tears streaming down his face just metres from the body.

“Hey, human rights!” A fellow journalist calls out at me, as we hover outside the office of the Ashanti Regional Police’s Public Relations Officer. Knowing that I work with Journalists for Human Rights he wants to know my opinion on the shooting. I tell him that since they haven’t made a statement yet, I don’t really know what led to police opening fire on the suspects.

What concerns me isn’t that a man was shot during a police chase, but that there is a body lying in the parking lot of the police station with hundreds of people casually strolling by. In the three hours we stand around waiting for someone to make an official statement the body remains lying in the lot; moved slightly when police officers with gloves do a quick examination.

Journalists and one of the police’s public relations officers snap pictures of the body. I leave my camera in my bag while at the police station. I didn’t check the papers to see if photos of the body appear the following day, but I know it’s likely to have accompanied the stories. In Ghanaian newspapers it’s common to see pictures of people who have hanged themselves, or bodies of car crash victims.

After three hours standing around the station without an official police statement, I head back to the station. Within half an hour my colleague joins me, as the crowd of journalists had dissolved, needing to get back to their respective newsrooms. When I was leaving the station the body remained in the lot, moved only slightly during the police examination. The group of journalists speculating about when a nearby pickup truck would finally transfer the body to the hospital morgue.

Abuse of police powers exposes ineffectiveness of reform training

Capital FM reporter Jane Kaonga sits down with Mama Florence Abraham as she recounts a time when police unlawfully beat her son. Photo by Denis Calnan.

By Jane Kaonga and Denis Calnan

Maclean Panje scrolls through photos of his nephew, 27-year-old Emmanuel Kafele, on his cell phone. The pictures document parts of Kafele’s body: his ear, forehead, arm and leg. The photos were taken after he was beaten to death in March, allegedly at the hands of Maurice Kamphade, a police officer with the Zomba division.

Kafele was brought into a Zomba police station mid-March for trespassing. Kamphade is now charged and on remand at Zomba Maximum Prison for Kafele’s death in a prison cell.

“There was a stab wound on the forehead, and there was another one on the left ear, behind the ear; and also several stab wounds on the left elbow,” says Coxley Chaheka, the doctor who conducted the post-mortem on Kafele’s body.  Chaheka confirmed that these and other injuries were caused by a blunt object. The final cause of death was loss of blood.

“This one was, I think, a strange one, because it was done within a government institution – a police station,” says Chahecka.

The case is not as strange as some would think.

“It is a concern that is becoming a growing one,” says John Kapito, referring to cases of police brutality in Malawi. Kapito is the chairman of the Malawi Human Rights Commission, an organization very aware of cases like these all over Malawi.

“A lot of resources have been spent by so many stakeholders,” he says of the police reform program that was started by the British government in 1997. The program was supposed to improve the quality of work by Malawi’s police force, but Kapito says many are now questioning the effectiveness of the program.

In a Blantyre suburb, Mama Florence Abraham sits solemnly in her house recounting the story of how her son, Dalitso, was beat by a police officer in that same house.

Abraham owed Officer Ntali’s wife money. When Ntali threatened to arrest Abraham if the money was not paid back soon, Dalitso questioned why an arrest was warranted for a small issue like this.

Ntali later came to Abraham’s home in the middle of the night, searched the house for Dalitso, and beat him.

Abraham says when Dalitso was in prison, the officers took turns beating her son. Upon release, he had a broken arm.

Kapito says that there are cases where inmates are said to have committed suicide, but upon examination it is clear they were killed.

Nicholas Gondwa, a police spokesperson in the Eastern Region, wants to ensure that public justice will be done.

“We arrested him on the same day,” he says, confirming that Kamphade is alleged to have killed Kafele and that he is being held in Zomba Maximum Prison. The case is now before the High Court.

Kapito says it may take a while before a reformed police force will be seen because the older generation in the police force has autocratic ideas of how to enforce the law. He says their “understanding” of police work is to beat a person.

Kapito says the younger generation has more of an understanding of human rights. “Maybe in the next ten years we are going to see a reformed police service.”

“I don’t know why the police are using themselves as torturing grounds,” says Panje, “Emmanuel was a fine boy.”