President Peter Mutharika yesterday shunned prayers for peace and peace declaration signing which Public Affairs Committee (PAC) organised in Lilongwe to encourage peaceful co-existence of parties as the country inches towards the May 21 elections.
Only six political parties—excluding the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)have signed a peace declaration document.
The Lilongwe Peace Declaration (LPD) document will bind political party leaders running for president on May 21 to resort to dialogue and mediation for peaceful political settlements in view of political challenges emanating from the polls.
Those who have signed the peace declaration are Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, UTM’s leader Saulos Chilima, United Democtratic Front’s Atupele Muluzi, John Chisi of Umodzi Party, Revelend Hardwick Kaliya (Independent) and Peter Kuwani of Mbakuwaku Movement for Development (MMD).
State House press secretary Mgeme Kalirani requested for more time for comment on why Mutharika, who was reported campaigning in Mzuzu yesterday, decided not to attend the prayers.
To a greater part, the declaration that the leaders have signed is compelling them to put to an end to the polarisation, divisions, conflict and intolerance that have recently characterised the country’s politics.
It is also asking them to build a society that is free of violence, fear, intimidation, hate, patronage, corruption but rather to build a community that is founded on justice, fairness, openness, transparency dignity and equality.
“We do declare that ahead of and immediately following the tripartite elections on May 21, we shall emphatically and publicly speak out against all acts of elections-related-violence, impunity and injustice. We will seek to collaborate with the Malawi Police Service (MPS) and allied law enforcement and security agencies to professionally discharge their duties without fear or favour,” reads the declaration in part.
During one of the electoral stakeholders meeting, National Peace Architecture chairperson Apostle Madalitso Mbewe warned that this year’s elections could be marred by violence as such he appealed for prayers for peace during the electoral processes. While taking some minutes reflecting on the scripture, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Justice Jane Ansah hailed the six leaders for their commitment to ensure that there should be no violence during the polls.
“Attending these prayers is not only a testament of your faithfulness in God, but your commitment to credible, fair, transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections. The commission is pleased with this commitment because it underscores all our preparations and management for the elections,” she said.
Being the last meeting to be held following several others in the past, Ansah believes the elections will be free and fair and without violence since the process has been committed in God’s hands.
She, however, reminded aspirants that as voters are moving towards elections, leaders should bear in mind that there can be only one winner.
On rumours about vote rigging, Ansah expressed concern that the proliferation of such careless utterances has the potential to throw all the positive gains that have been realised towards implementation of electoral activities.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident coordinator Maria Jose Torres commended political party leaders for committing themselves to a peaceful electoral process.
“It is an opportunity to continue setting up an example to the world. We know Malawi as a country that always identifies itself as people with peace,” she said.
But commenting on what is likely to happen to the leader who will be found breaching the declaration, PAC chairperson Reverend Felix Chingota said the quasi-religious body believes all leaders who have signed the document will be guided by their own conscience.
PAC has been carrying people’s voices since the dawn of multiparty democracy. In 1993, it championed the movement from one party system to a multi-party era and it was also at the forefront in shooting down the Open Term Bill which former president Bakili Muluzi wanted passed in Parliament, so that he could seek re-election after his two consecutive terms expired.