Civil society organisations (CSOs) in Malawi have set a March 28 2012 deadline for the ongoing dialogue with government, warning that if no progress is made by then, Malawians will decide the next course of action.
CSOs, led by their spokesperson for negotiations with government, Voice Mhone, on Friday said March 28 is the cut-off point and government is expected to have addressed all the 20 points that were raised on July 20 2011.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“At the rate of three issues addressed in seven months, it will take us another two years to complete dialogue which was not the intention of Malawians when we opted for this route than demonstrations,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Mhone.
The three issues are the opening of Chancellor CollegeÃ¢â‚¬â€a constituent college of the University of Malawi; availability of drugs in public hospitals and the reference of Ã¢â‚¬Å“repressive lawsÃ¢â‚¬Â to the Law Commission though Mhone said the last two are not fully addressed.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We already have a road map that after 28 March, we know who to ask as we are negotiating on behalf of Malawians. When that day comes, all dialogue stops and we all expect all the points addressed,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Dorothy Ngoma, a member of the CSO Negotiating Team.
Steve Duwa, another member of the CSOs Negotiating Team, said CSOs could not go on with the talks when the situation was not improving on the ground, with government attacking them on podiums and other channels.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Some issues can be addressed within an hour if those with authority decide to do so,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Duwa, adding that threats and intimidation of human rights defenders was contrary to the spirit of the dialogue as agreed at the start last September.
But addressing a separate news conference the same day, the Presidential Contact and Dialogue Group chairperson retired Anglican archbishop Bernard Malango said they had completed compiling responses to the petition and they had expected to present the feedback the same day.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are ready with responses to all issues and the report was to be given to the civil society only that they [CSOs] opted to walk out. There has been commitment to address the issues,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Malango.
CSOs walked out of the United Nations mediated dialogue at Sunbird Capital in MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s capital, Lilongwe, on Friday, demanding unconditional release of human rights activist, politician and lawyer Ralph Kasambara from police custody.
Kasambara was re-arrested by authorities last Wednesday for allegedly assaulting three men who wanted to petrol-bomb his offices and house in Blantyre on Monday. Police continued to hold on to him despite a court bail. He is currently in hospital at Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.