Abducted Malawi Rights Campaigner Found Safe

A Malawian rights activist has been found safe a day after his reported abduction led to the cancellation of an anti-government protest. 

An eyewitness said five men abducted Sylvester Namiwa, the head of the Center for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI), as he was leaving a press conference Wednesday.

He was found alive Thursday afternoon in a bush in the Nathenje area on the outskirts of Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe.

Edwin Mauluka is the spokesperson for the CDEDI.

“I was this morning with him as we escorted him to police. The issue is in the hands of police because we reported that matter to police, that Mr. Namiwa has found there at Nathenje,” said Mauluka.

Namiwa spoke to reporters after his re-appearance Thursday.  He said he would not give details on his alleged abduction until he talked with his lawyers and family members.

However, he said he believed the abduction was a government ploy to silence dissenting views.

“I am betting my last drop on my blood to defend this democracy…. Chakwera and his Malawi Congress party are a threat to democracy but I will not be intimidated,” said Namiwa.

Police said Friday they have taken a statement from Namiwa and are conducting an investigation.  Harry Namwaza is the deputy spokesperson for the Malawi Police Service.

“After taking a statement from him, there are other things we should do like visiting all scenes where he was allegedly taken to,” said Namwaza. “So, once we are done with our investigation, we can give an update in terms of what we found and what will be the way forward because we also have to identify those behind these abductions.”

The abduction of Namiwa ignited a war of words in parliament Thursday.

The minister of Homeland Security accused the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of carrying out the abduction to tarnish the image of the government.

DPP lawmakers accused the government of abducting Namiwa to foil an anti-government protest that was planned for Thursday.

The protest was canceled in Lilongwe but demonstrations went forward in other areas, where police fired teargas to disperse people who allegedly wanted to loot shops and vandalize property.

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