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Malawi court acquits former president’s son over charges involving death of 29 suspected Ethiopian migrants

The mass grave where the bodies of 29 migrants believed to be Ethiopian national were found. Photo: Malawi Police

Addis Abeba – Tadikira Mafubza, the step-son of Malawi’s former President Peter Mutharika, has been acquitted of all charges in a case involving allegations of human trafficking and aggravated manslaughter.

Tadikira, along with seven other men, was arrested in November 2022 after police connected them to the deaths of 29 suspected Ethiopian immigrants, whose bodies were discovered in an unmarked mass grave.

Malawi police suspected at the time that the victims were being transported to South Africa via Malawi. Local people in Mzimba area, around 250km north of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, informed the local police about the mass grave, which at the time was believed to have been less than one month.

“We are pleased with the outcome,” the BBC quoted Tadikira’s lawyer as saying on Wednesday. “To be honest, we saw it coming as the evidence [against our client] was disjointed.”

However, Dzikondianthu Malunda, an official for the Directorate of Public Prosecution, said the ruling had “come as a surprise”, the report said.

The police in the Northern Region of Malawi said between January and September 2022, they had intercepted 221 migrants, 186 of whom were Ethiopian nationals.

Malawi is a country of transit located on the overland route to South Africa, also known as the ‘Southern Route’. According to the IOM, the route is mainly used by irregular migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia looking to find economic opportunities as far down as Cape Town. Hence, they have to travel through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, or Mozambique before entering South Africa.

Barely a month after the tragedy in Malawi, Zambian police found the bodies of 27 men who were believed to be Ethiopian nationals, “dumped” in a farming area on the outskirts of the capital. “Members of the public discovered 27 bodies in Ngwerere area, they alerted the police who rushed to the scene and found the 27 bodies with one gasping for life,” Zambian Police deputy spokesperson, Danny Mwale told local media at the time.

A study by IOM found the ‘Southern Route’ to be fraught with significant protection risks due to the long distance traveled, the multiple border crossings, the reliance on brokers, and the switching of intermediaries along the way. The migrants are often detained in harsh conditions following by threat of deportations.

This week, Malawi’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services said it was preparing to deport 238 Ethiopian immigrants who were detained in prisons within the Northern Region. AS

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