Thursday, June 13, 2024

MK400mn for repatriating enslaved women in Oman grow wings…Foreign Affairs Minister given seven days to update Malawians on the matter

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By Iommie Chiwalo

What was seemingly to be a positive response by government in response to Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives’ (CDEDI) campaign dubbed “Operation Rescue Campaign” has been turned into a disappointment as K400 million allocated for the exercise cannot be traced.

CDEDI Executive Director, Sylvester Namiwa, has since penned Foreign Affairs Minister Nancy Tembo to update the nation on the same by asking her to treat the matter with the urgency it deserves.

Namiwa says it is disappointing after learning from impeccable sources that Foreign Affairs officials reportedly decided to use the money for other purposes that were neither disaster nor unforeseen circumstances in nature.

Namiwa says his organisation expects a prompt action since the issues are bordering on matters of life and death.

“We are therefore giving you seven days to make sure that the funds have been reverted. In the same vein CDEDI and indeed well-meaning Malawians expect Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) in copy of this letter to act swiftly, now that we know the funds were already made available for this mission,” he said.

CDEDI demands are coming after details have emerged that cabinet released MK2 billion to DoDMA from which MK400 million was set aside for the rescue mission of these enslaved women, as it had done before at the height of Xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

Strangely, in what is discovered to be an empty rhetoric, nothing has been heard or seen about the said money while the women in question continue suffering in Oman.

“It is against this background that CDEDI writes you Hon minister, to intervene by flashing out whoever is sitting on this money at your ministry, to immediately transfer it back to DoDMA so that it should be used for its intended purposes,” he said.

For the sake of transparency and accountability, Namiwa has reminded the Minister in question that through Access to Information (ATI) Act, Malawians have a right to know the identity of the official who is sitting on the taxpayers’ money, including his/her intentions for doing so.

Namiwa wonders why the country’s daughters are still enslaved in Oman, while Government dutifully set aside MK400 million for the repatriation of 50 women trapped in slavery in the Middle East.

Capital Hill sources confirmed to this reporter that the K400 million set aside to bring back home the enslaved women was included in a MK2 billion budget that Cabinet approved for Dodma.

And according to Namiwa, CDEDI is also reliably informed that some officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs took the MK400 million in the pretext that they would travel to Oman to rescue the trapped women.

“But as we speak the enslaved women are still crying for help. Strangely, the moment CDEDI announced the launch of ‘Oman Rescue Campaign’ appealing to well-wishers to join hands to save the enslaved women, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Malawians that it had secured 50 air tickets for the women to return home. Today, almost two months down the line, none of the trapped women has been flown back home, and the question is: Why is government not treating this matter with the urgency it deserves,” wonders Namiwa.

In a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister, Namiwa has highlighted that it is the intention of CDEDI to see government coming out in the open on what it is doing about the plight of the entrapped women.

“We seek transparency and accountability on the MK400 million that was earmarked for bringing back home the enslaved women and the 50 air tickets the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said had purchased for the women to be flown back home,” he said.

He also trusts that, as a matter of public interest, Dodma will equally feel duty-bound to explain its side of the story regarding the MK400 million included in its allocation for the repatriation of the enslaved women.

Namiwa has, therefore, taken the matter surrounding the matter as an opportunity to report that the ‘Oman Rescue Campaign’, has not yet achieved the intended result.

“It is our honest belief that the appeal, which coincided with the fall of Tropical Cyclone Freddy that hit most districts in the Southern Region, shifted the attention of most of those we thought would support the initiative. But we remain committed and hopeful to the noble cause,”

Government is yet to give its side of the story on the matter but disclosures shows that letter from CDEDI is now in the custody of the Minister in question pending for her response.

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