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‘Reparations in Malawi’ in ‘The Handbook of Reparations’, ed. Pablo De Greiff

Book/book chapter

Book/book chapter

Malawi’s five methods of paying reparations — court awards, the government’s Disaster Preparedness, Relief and Rehabilitation program, civil service grants, special payments to the political elite, and the National Compensation Tribunal (NCT) — have not brought public closure to past rights abuses and the antipathy they engendered. NCT procedures, which included neither public truth-telling nor the identification of perpetrators, have not fostered democratic consolidation. Growing out of a political compromise during the transition, the NCT has received nearly 20,000 claims and paid interim awards to less than one-third. Eligible are Malawians of any age who, between July 6, 1964 and May 17, 1994, were born in detention or exile, were subjected to wrongful imprisonment, forced exile, personal injury, lost property or business, lost educational opportunities, and/or employment benefits. An autonomous body within the judiciary, the NCT has been consistently underfunded and has limited the bulk of its payments to symbolic “condolences”. While the public is generally ignorant of the NCT, claimants are frustrated by its procedures, its “trivialization” of their pain and suffering, its “favouritism” as well as its failure to offer them full compensation, information about future payments, or a “sincere apology”. The existence of the NCT has allowed politicians to counter periodic public demands for a truth commission by asserting that the NCT is addressing the past and nothing more is needed.

Diana Cammack