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UA 86/92 - Malawi: legal concern: Simon Mhone, Sydney Kwelepeta, Sam Chirwa, Mr Chirambo, Archbishop James Chiona, Bishop F Mkhori, Bishop M A Chimole, Bishop A Assolari, Bishop A Chamgwera, Bishop G M Chisendera, Monsignor John Roche, Chakufwa Chihana

, Index number: AFR 36/005/1992

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AFR 36/05/92
Distr: UA/SC
Please bring this action to the attention of the person in your section responsible for
outreach work as it is felt that appeals from journalists' organizations, church bodies
and trade unions for the relevant cases may be particularly effective.
UA 86/92 Legal concern 12 March 1992
MALAWI Simon MHONE, journalist
Sydney KWELEPETA, employee of Export Promotion
Sam CHIRWA, employee of Malawi Oil Company (Oilcom)
Mr CHIRAMBO, employee of Blantyre Polytechnic
Archbishop James CHIONA, Roman Catholic Archbishop of
Bishop F MKHORI }
Bishop M A CHIMOLE }
Bishop A ASSOLARI } Roman Catholic bishops
Monsignor John ROCHE, Roman Catholic priest
Chakufwa CHIHANA, trade union official
Amnesty International is concerned about the above named who have been arrested in Malawi
for urging the introduction of a multi-party political system. The first four named
reportedly remain in detention, apparently without charge. Archbishop James Chiona and
the other members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and Chakufwa Chihana, an international
trade union official, were detained briefly by police and released without charge, although
the bishops' movements may still be restricted.
Simon Mhone, a journalist formerly employed by the government Department of Information,
was reportedly arrested in December 1991 after he had contributed news reports to the
international news agency Reuters. Sydney Kwelepeta of the Malawi Export Promotion Council
was reportedly arrested at about the same time after he had been overheard in a Blantyre
hotel arguing against the existing single-party political system. Sam Chirwa of Oilcom
was reportedly arrested during the week beginning 24 February 1992 after he had been overheard
in his office advocating a multi-party system. Mr Chirambo was arrested at about the same
time after he had been overheard in a bar expressing similar sentiments. Amnesty
International has received reports of a student at Blantyre Polytechnic arrested for the
same reason in late February, although his name is not yet known.
Chakufwa Chihana, the secretary general of the Southern African Trade Union Coordination
Council (SATUCC), was arrested at Namitete Bridge on the Malawi-Zambia border on 1 March
1992, as he was leaving the country to attend a trade union meeting. He was detained for
six hours and questioned by security police. A former prisoner of conscience detained
without charge for several years in the 1970s, he has emerged as a prominent representative
of those advocating political change in Malawi.
Archbishop Chiona, the five other bishops and Mgr Roche were the signatories of a Lenten
pastoral letter read out in Roman Catholic churches across the country on Sunday 8 March
1992, which criticized the government's human rights record. On 10 March, they were summoned
to police headquarters in Blantyre and reportedly questioned for eight hours. According
to one report, since their release they have all been restricted to the Archbishop's House
in Blantyre. Another report suggests that representatives of other Christian denominations
have also been summoned for questioning by the police.
Malawi is a one-party state which has been governed since independence in 1964 by
Life-President Dr H. Kamuzu Banda. The control of the ruling Malawi Congress Party over
political life is complete, with extensive networks of informers reporting upon anyone
who expresses dissenting views. Indefinite detention without charge or trial is permitted
under the Public Security Regulations and is frequently invoked. The government has
responded to international criticism of its human rights record by releasing about 90
political detainees during 1991 and others - possibly as many as 50 - in January 1992.
However, Amnesty International has information about more than 20
remaining long-term detainees and the total number of political prisoners is probably much
There has been little indication that the government envisages any liberalization of
political debate, but informal public discussion of multi-party politics has increased
in recent weeks. The Roman Catholic bishops' pastoral letter, which criticized government
restrictions on freedom of speech and other aspects of its human rights record, was the
first public criticism within the country in more than a quarter of a century. The
authorities have reportedly ordered that citizens hand in any copies of the letter - more
than 16,000 were printed. Unofficial tracts are suddenly circulating, calling for an end
to the one-party system and drawing attention to detention and unlawful killings of
government opponents.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/airmail letters:
- expressing concern at the reported arrest and continuing detention of Simon Mhone, Sydney
Kwelepeta, Sam Chirwa and Mr Chirambo. Seeking information about their place of detention
and the legal basis for their imprisonment and calling for them to be released unless they
are to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence and brought promptly and fairly
to trial;
- expressing concern at the arrest and brief detention of Chakufwa Chihana and Archbishop
Chiona and other members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Stating that it appears that
they were detained solely for their advocacy of a multi-party system and their criticism
of human rights violations. Seeking assurances that they are under no form of continuing
restriction and that neither they nor other members of the Malawian churches will be detained
for the expression of their opinions;
- seeking assurances that no one will be arrested and prosecuted for possession of the
Lenten pastoral letter, which is a non-violent expression of religious and political
1) H E The Life-President Ngwazi Dr H. Kamuzu Banda Your Excellency
Office of the President and Cabinet
P/Bag 301
Lilongwe 3
Telegrams: Life-President Banda Lilongwe, Malawi
Telexes: 4389 PRES MI
2) Hon. J Z U Tembo Dear Minister
Minister of State in the Office of the President
P/Bag 301
Lilongwe 3
Telegrams: Minister of State Tembo, Lilongwe, Malawi
3) Mr MacWilliam Lunguzi Dear Sir
Inspector-General of Police
P/Bag 305
Lilongwe 3
Telegrams: Inspector-General of Police Lunguzi, Lilongwe, Malawi
Most Reverend James Chiona
Archbishop of Blantyre
PO Box 385
Southern Africa Trade Union
Co-ordination Council
PO Box 1271
The Editor
PO Box 133
and to diplomatic representatives of Malawi in your country
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section
office, if sending appeals after 23 April 1992.

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