Malawian Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have expressed worry over an increased spate of armed robberies, at least three of them being carried out with toy guns.
Malawi is mainly a peaceful country that, just in the recent past, people would be seen flocking to wherever they heard gun sounds -forcing reknowed national creatitive artists into joking that Malawians would one day run to their own death as they seemed to be addicted to guns. But that has since changed since the advent of multiparty politics, as the country has unprecedendently witnessed an increase in gun vilence and armed robberies.
Residents of Manja -a township in Malawi's commercial city, Blantrye, in Southern Malawi, last week had a rude awakening when some of their community members went shopping at one of the townships popular supermarkets, belonging to the wife of former Sports Minister Jaffarie Mussa. Suspected armed robbers took seige of the shop and, for almost two hours, robbed -apparently using a phoney AK47 and pistol- all those who patronised the shop before rocking them in a toilet.
In another incident in the same district, an armed robbery was foiled when, after being forced to sleep on their stomachs at a popular night club, one of the intoxicated patrons just stood up and asked the 'robber' to kill him or it was he who would kill the suspected robber. The robber took to his heels, because incidentally the gun was also a toy.
According to Blantyre Police Public Relations Officer, Elizabeth Divala, police are still investigating the incidents, but CSOs have called for more action.
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) Executive Director, Undule Mwakasungula, said yesterday the current spate of armed violence was an indication that things were going out of hand.
He said it was high time for government to support the Armed Trade Treaty Agreement (ATT) if the problem was to be solved, noting that threatened citizens could not contribute significantly towards national development.
"Let the Malawi Police Service intensify security, especially as we nearer the 2009 elections so that we do not experience a scenario like that of Kenya, when the opposition refused to accept the results of the elections and thus spurred the country into unnecessary chaos and deaths.
"It is also important to join international efforts in this area by supporting the ATT," said Mwakasungula.
An ATT is a proposed agreement aimed at monitoring the flow of arms from the manufacturer to the buyer, to avoid arms from being used to violate human rights, especially in war zones. It follows a United Nations General Assembly meeting in December 2006 when 153 member states agreed on the need to form an ammicable arms trade treaty as part of international efforts to reduce cases of arms falling in wrong hands.
People's Federation for National Peace and Development (Pefenap) Executive Director, Edward Chaka expressed disappointment over increased cases of armed robberies, especially with toy guns, saying the trend showed that robbers were beginning to take the law into their own hands, thus threatening national security.
"Just recently, some armed robbers came to my home. Luckly a Police patrol vehicle was passing by and there was a mouse-cut chase, which shows that these people are losing fear, the police are somehow doing something. Instead of just condemning, we must join hands with them but, otherwise, I am also disappointed with these incidents," said Chaka, whose organisation is a member of the National Focal on Arms, a police and CSOs network aimed at curbing arms proliferatio.