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US threatened economic sanctions against Malawi over Chizuma arrest

Ambassador Young with Chizuma on the day she was arrested

The United States of America was ready to impose economic sanctions against Malawi following the arrest of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General Martha Chizuma last month.

This is according to a report by the commission of inquiry into the arrest of Chizuma over a leaked audio clip.

Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda told the commission that after Chizuma was arrested on December 6 last year, United States ambassador in Malawi David Young demanded government to ensure her release or face sanctions.

“The US Ambassador had demanded the unconditional release of the DG of ACB and that if this was not done, the US Government would subject the people involved in the arrest to travel bans and impose economic sanctions on the country,” reads part of the report.  

British High Commissioner Fiona Ritchie also told the Malawi Government to ensure that the Director General was released.

Chizuma who was arrested at around 4AM by 19 police officers at her home in the capital city, was driven in a police vehicle to Namitete Police Station which is 48 kilometres outside of the city.

She was placed in a cell for several hours before being charged by police with making use of speech capable of prejudicing a person against a party to judicial proceedings which is contrary to Section 113 (1) (d) of the Penal Code. She was later released on police bail.

Government came under fire from various quarters following the arrest of the ACB director which happened days after the ACB had arrested Vice President Saulos Chilima on corruption allegations.

Amid the criticism, Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo said the charge against Chizuma would be withdrawn.

However, Director of Public Prosecutions Steven Kayuni whose complaint led to Chizuma’s arrest told the commission of inquiry that “he had no reason to believe he would withdraw the complaint.”

The Deputy Inspector General of Police responsible for Administration Happy Mkandawire, who was acting inspector general at the time of Chizuma’s arrest, also informed the commission that the case was ‘’still live’’ and that if instructed the Police would call back Chizuma.

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