Cruelties Go Unchecked in Malawi
LATE in 1975, people around the world were shocked to hear of atrocities committed on a massive scale against Christians—Jehovah’s Witnesses—in the East African country of Malawi. Expressions of repugnance at the barbarism—rapes, beatings, torture of men and women—arose in place after place.
Have these cruelties stopped? Have the law-enforcement officials stepped in to put an end to the robbing of a small religious minority of the freedoms that the Malawi constitution guarantees them? Have the high officials of the land spoken out in condemnation of brutality as a means to advance political causes?
The answer is, No.
Consider what happened in mid-January 1976 to fourteen Christians, members of the Kalilombe Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, situated on the Malawi-Mozambique border. These three men and eleven women were seized by members of the Youth League (a branch of Malawi’s dominant Congress Party). They were viciously beaten behind closed doors for half a day. Nine of the women were then led away by the police for hospital treatment. The remaining Witnesses were held in protective custody. What was their state? Two of them—Josiya A. Chambala and Tennison Joyabe—had their legs and arms broken by the Youth Leaguers. The two women also had broken arms as a result of the beating. Their brutal attackers? They continue to walk about as free men with no finger lifted to bring them to justice, no tongue raised to condemn their cruelty.
Worse yet is what happened to two Christian men, Harry Kampango and Aizeki Zoyaya from Tembenu Village. Their village chief and the Malawi Congress Party chairman, Chintengo, denounced them before the area branch of the party at Jenara. Their crime? They had not purchased cards as members of Malawi’s controlling political party. The two Christians, who were peacefully occupied in cultivating their garden plots, were brought in and handed over to the party branch. The chairman of the Youth League, called Kachoka, bound their arms behind them and shut them in a bathhouse. For three days they were severely beaten and deprived of food and water. Then, on January 2, 1976, these two Witnesses were killed by being mutilated physically, their genitals being cut off. Their dead bodies were thrown into a deep pit.
In time, the police learned of the murders. On January 7 they came to take away the corpses, but were unable to retrieve them from the pit. They told the people to fill it in, burying the bodies. That same day, Mr. Makhumula Nkhoma, the Regional Minister for the South, came from Zomba to the village. He said nothing to the people in condemnation of the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
True, the murderer, Kachoka, was imprisoned. When asked who killed the two men, his reply was: “I killed them myself. Because they were weak from hunger and had no strength, they did not give me any trouble.” But what has been done to assure that similar atrocities will not take place? What of those who had prepared the way for these murders? What public condemnation by press or radio has been made by government or party officials? Again the answer is, None.
If these were rare instances, the situation would not be so repugnant. Instead, this is but a sampling of a massive campaign to destroy a defenseless religious minority, a campaign that has been waged for over ten years now. If you find this hard to believe, consider the following.