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Rafiq Hajat

HRD, Founder & Director
Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI)
Finalist, Front Line Defenders Award

Rafiq Hajat was the Director of the Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI) and was one of the leading human rights defenders in Malawi where the Government sought to repress protests and silence all critical voices in 2010-2011. On 3 September 2011, at 1 am approximately, a petrol bomb was thrown through the window of the IPI office in the Chichiri area of Blantyre, following which the front room of the building caught fire resulting in extensive damage. Rafiq Hajat was publicly accused by former President Bingu wa Mutharika of being an enemy of the state and was forced to go into hiding. However, in spite of the threats against him he continued to speak out about human rights violations in Malawi.


Once considered a country where civil society could express itself freely, Malawi descended into a spiral of authoritarianism which culminated in the targeting of human rights defenders through arrests, prosecution, death threats and the violent dispersal of protests. Tensions between the authorities and civil society reached its climax in 2011. The sudden death of President Mutharika in early April 2012 led to a change of government. Since then, Malawis leaders have moved towards walking back the authoritarian tendencies of their President Mutharika.