Malawi police have arrested Tadikila Mafubza Mutharika, the stepson of Peter Mutharika, who is the former president of Malawi, for a mass grave that is suspected to contain the remains of 30 Ethiopian migrants.
The mass grave, which was found in October, is said to contain the bodies of 30 Ethiopian men who were “illegally” traveling through Malawi to get to South Africa.
The mass grave was found in Mtangatanga forest around the town of Mzimba, located 225 km north of the capital of Lilongwe, and it contained the bodies of 25 Ethiopians aged 25–40, according to local media reports in Malawi. Five more bodies were then found near the first burial site, bringing the total body count up to 30.
Initial evidence suggested that the victims suffocated in a van while being transported to South Africa through Malawi. Police arrested Mutharika after discovering evidence linking him to the mass grave during an ongoing investigation.
Peter Kalaya, a spokesperson for the Malawi Police Station, gave a statement to VOA News, saying that they have evidence that Mutharika is connected to the case that they were investigating after the bodies were exhumed.
Peter also added in his statement that they have received a preliminary report from the pathologist examining the bodies, but they are not in a position to release this information to the public.
VOA reported that SIM cards from Ethiopian mobile phone network providers were found in the preliminary investigation of the bodies that were found at the grave site.
A pathologist conducting the investigation stated that the evidence should be released to the public by the end of this month, according to the BBC. It was also reported that Mutharika handed himself in at the Malawi Police headquarters during their search for him in connection with the crime.
The route from Ethiopia to South Africa, also called the “southern route,” is said to be one of the most dangerous and is feared to have a high death toll for immigrants.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported earlier this year that approximately 51,000 Ethiopian and Somali migrants had gone missing during their migration to South Africa since 2016.
The report additionally states that migrants go “missing” when they become delayed or jailed while traveling through Kenya, the United Republic of Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia on their way to South Africa.