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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 November 2005, 16:24 GMT
Malawi campaigner still fighting
Aubrey Sumbuleta
Blantyre, Malawi

Dr Vera Chirwa of Malawi - photo: Aubrey Sumbuleta
Dr Vera Chirwa commands great moral authority in Malawi
Malawi's veteran political and human rights activist, Dr Vera Chirwa, has told the BBC she has no intention of retiring until she sees equality in her country.

At 73, Dr Chirwa, who runs a local human rights organisation, says there is still too much to be done.

"With what is happening," she told BBC Africa Have Your Say, "I will keep on fighting for the people."

Despite Malawi attaining multi-party democracy in 1993, Dr Chirwa believes the country is facing huge democratic challenges, including high levels of poverty, corruption, insecurity and food shortages.

Jailed

Vera Chirwa was jailed alongside her husband Orton for treason for 12 years by the late Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

She was not released until shortly after her husband died in prison.

Both the Chirwas had been staunch advocates of democracy.

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The human rights campaigner pushed much of the blame on the government of former President Bakili Muluzi, who quit office last year.

She says the current government under President Bingu wa Mutharika is showing signs of addressing her concerns, but may go on a campaign if the levels of corruption and poverty are not addressed effectively.

"There was a lot of mess under the Muluzi leadership. I just hope the current government is not going to repeat the same."

Available

The activist had offered to run as a presidential candidate for an opposition coalition before general elections in 2004, but was later turned down.

Critics say she is too independent to be a succesful politician.

She doesn't like mixing with fellow women, preferring to go it alone with her human rights' programmes and this is seen as her downfall because it is felt that if they joined forces they would together be able to achieve more.

It is also felt that if she worked with others it would be easier for a strong younger leader to emerge continue to champion her causes.

This has not happened and it doesn't look likely.

Despite being turned down by the opposition she says she may still come back to seek Malawi's top job.

"I am still available, watching with keen interest. If the current government fails, I will certainly stand as a presidential candidate in the next elections."

Dr Vera Chirwa commands great moral authority in Malawi.

She and her husband Orton were jailed for their role in the campaign for independence from Britain, after which her husband became Malawi's first Minister of Justice and Attorney General, before falling out with autocratic ruler Hastings Banda.

The Chirwas went into exile before they were abducted, put on trial for treason and jailed.





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