Horizontal accountability: Bottom-up oversight of public duty bearers in Malawi

Authors: Dan Kuwali and Chikosa M Silungwe

ISSN: 2521-2605
Affiliations: Dan Kuwali holds an LLD (Lund). He is an Extraordinary Professor of Law at the University of Pretoria, South Africa; Visiting Professor, Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Sweden; Adjunct Professor and Executive Director, Centre for Strategic Studies, Malawi University of Science and Technology; Fellow at the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School; and Chief of Legal Services and Judge Advocate General, Malawi Defence Force; Chikosa Silungwe holds a PhD (Warwick). He is a Former Attorney General, Government of the Republic of Malawi and a consultant at the Mizumali Foundation, Lilongwe, Malawi
Source: Journal of Comparative Law in Africa, Volume 9 Issue 1, p. 1 – 23


The principle of public duty requires that public authorities should be held accountable for their acts, omissions, decisions, policies and use of public resources. Focusing on Malawi as a country whose democracy has been tried and tested, this paper locates and dissects the notion of public duty in s 12 of the Constitution of Malawi as an instrument for horizontal accountability that can be employed by the citizenry, based on ss 15 and 41 of the Constitution, for more effective and proactive oversight, as opposed to an ex post facto mechanism exercised by the Ombudsman in terms of s 123 of the Constitution. The central argument of this paper is that those who exercise a public duty do so based on people’s sovereignty and they have an obligation to account to the people for the exercise of State authority. The paper concludes that public duty is a corollary of democratic accountability, and both derive from the protection of individual rights and the rule of law.