Chasowa’s Death:Police Implicated

Young Chasowa lies dead at campus

Malawi police had recruited Robert Chasowa, the fourth year student who was killed on campus last month, to help stop civil society groups from staging the planned August 17 protests against President Bingu wa Mutharika’s rule, Weekend Nation  is reporting

The revelations about Chasowa’s alleged dealings with the police top brass offers an insight into why police rushed to the scene and called his death a suicide after removing all the evidence.

It also raises doubts about how police are going to carry out an independent investigation when the actions by the Inspector General of Police may have put him [Chasowa] in harm’s way.

Chasowa’s group and police had agreed on a fee if the operation was successful but the failure by police to fulfil the agreement riled the young activist who started phoning senior police officers and top party and government officials demanding payment.

This apparently left Chasowa with some powerful enemies in the form of police and senior ruling party officials.  Seeking revenge, Chasowa joined Youth for Democracy group which was writing against President Mutharika and accusing him of graft.

But before that, Chasowa worked with Ducan Nawoza Phiri, president of the New Vision Youth – a grouping formed in 2001 to empower youths economically.

This is the group that police recruited to help stop the demonstrations by convincing youths and other activists not to participate in the planned demonstrations.

“We were concerned about the death of people and looting that occurred on July 20…we wanted to help in the negotiating on behalf of government to convince people not to go on the streets,”  Phiri is quoted as saying in the paper.

Phiri reveals that Chasowa and himself accompanied Southern Region Police Commissioner Rodney Jose to Lilongwe on August 7 to met the Inspector General (IG) Peter Mukhito.

“He gave us some beer and K50,000 each…we demanded that we get an office, means of transport and some computer equipment  and K300,000 petty cash,” he said.

Phiri also discloses that the IG promised them K10 million if demonstrations were stopped. The Commissioner of Police confirmed to the newspaper  that he worked with Chasowa and his group but dismissed as lies that his boss promised the youths K10 million.

Early this week two police officers speaking on condition of anonymity said that they know who killed Chasowa. They claimed that they couldn’t effect any arrests because the suspects are well connected to the top

The Chasowa case has piled pressure on Mutharika, who faced international condemnation after his security forces killed 20 anti-government protesters in July, which led to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid for his cash-strapped country.

President Mutharika also faced pressure from the European Union, a major source of aid, to investigate.

“The European Union is concerned about a number of recent incidents of apparently politically motivated violence in Malawi. In particular, the violent death of student activist Robert Chasowa is worrying,” it said in a statement this week.

Police ruled the death a suicide but civil society groups said it was a political murder and accused authorities of trying to cover it up.

Activists believe he was killed by the state because of his writings in a campus newsletter where he accused the president and his officials of corruption.

Activists, threatening a new round of protests, want the president to respond to a petition calling on him to account for his wealth, address the chronic fuel and dollar shortages that have added to the misery of the poor and restore diplomatic ties with former colonial master and major aid donor Britain.

“We know that the young man received several death threats because of what he was writing about. Police did nothing about this,” Billy Mayaya, a human rights activist, said.