Malawi Lawyers Protest As Chief Justice Forced To Retire Before Vote
Hundreds of lawyers demonstrated in Malawi on Wednesday against interference with the judiciary, after the president sent the country’s chief justice on early retirement two weeks before a historic election re-run.
Donning black gowns and dark cream wigs, they were joined by law students and lecturers on the streets of the capital Lilongwe and the cities of Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu.
Peter Mutharika’s office issued a notice on Friday sending the country’s chief justice Andrew Nyirenda into early retirement, 18 months before he was due to leave.
Nyirenda had led the Supreme Court decision which rejected Mutharika’s bid to overturn a landmark ruling quashing his controversial re-election.
In the judgement last month, Nyirenda said “some of the grounds for appeal were not just fictious but purely unprofessional, disrespectful and distasteful”.
The country returns to the polls on Tuesday for the new vote.
The lawyers carried banners and placards calling for the separation of powers, telling the executive “keep your hands off our judiciary”.
“Our courts should be able to deliver judgements freely and independently without interference,” said lawyer Bernadette Malunga, who led the Lilongwe march.
The decision by Mutharika’s administration sparked widespread criticism from lawyers’ and judges’ organisations in Malawi and abroad.
Main opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera said the president’s action was “a tragic case of interference” and alleged that it could be a “way of capturing the judiciary in anticipation” of a poll loss next week.
“It’s a very poor attempt that has greatly embarrassed him. They are trying to get justice perverted in this nation,” Chakwera said.