Five political parties have signed a peace commitment agreement to bind them to peacefully co-exist in the run-up to the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
The initiative, facilitated by the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD), has seen major political parties, including those represented in Parliament, committing themselves to 12 principles to guide their conduct in the election campaign.
The initiative comes weeks after Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) set out to meet party presidents to lobby for their support and inculcate a culture of peaceful co-existence among their followers by discouraging hate speech during rallies.
Led by its chairperson Jane Ansah, the electoral body met President Peter Mutharika of DPP, his predecessor Joyce Banda of PP, the country’s Vice-President Saulos Chilima of UTM, Atupele Muluzi of UDF and MCP president Lazarus Chakwera, among others.
In an interview yesterday, CMD chairperson Greselder Jeffrey, who is also governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secretary general (SG), confirmed that five political parties signed the peace commitment deal in the presence of political party SGs.
The signing ceremony took place at Linde Motel in Mponela, Dowa on December 10 this year, according to a published statement. The parties that have appended their signatures at regional level are DPP, MCP, PP, UDF and Alliance for Democracy (Aford).
Among other principles, parties have committed themselves to take a leading role in advising political party district leaders and all followers, including the youth, on the need for a peaceful co-existence in the run-up to the crucial elections.
In the commitment, the five parties pledged to engage their top political party leaders so that they should be able to practice intra-party politics and that they should be tolerant and show respect for each other.
In an interview, political commentator Humphreys Mvula commended parties for signing a peace commitment, but he cast doubt if they will walk the talk considering that the deal has been signed at a lower level.
He noted that political parties have been signing commitments since the country ventured in multi-party democracy, but little has been done in preventing political violence.
Mvula said: “The idea to sign a peace commitment is a welcome idea. From my knowledge, this has been happening in the political landscape since 1999.
“We have still noted that there is violence and use of vulgar language during the campaign period. Senior party members are the ones promoting the behaviour. We will see senior party members mobilising people to go and cause mayhem in other districts.”
With that view in mind, he demanded that senior party leaders and presidents should be involved if the initiative is to materialise.
Mvula cited an example of the recent attacks and abuse of language where DPP regional governor for the South Charles Mchacha verbally abused UTM followers, branding the grouping led by Vice-President Saulos Chilima of comprising of satanists, prostitutes and thieves.
But commenting on whether CMD has developed any sanctions against those who will act in contravention to the peace commitment, Jeffrey said the political grouping has not yet come up with any sanction to give those who will breach the commitment.
In his remarks, a quasi-religious Public Affairs Committee (PAC) chairperson the Reverent Felix Chingota said his committee has not yet seen contents for the document, which will be similar to the one his body is developing for presidents.
Last month, National Peace Architecture (NPA) chairperson Apostle Madalitso Mbewe warned that there will be violence in the run-up to 2019 elections if political parties could not commit themselves to doing their campaign peacefully.
Recently, MCP and the newly registered UTM complained that some unknown individuals pulled down their flags in some areas such as Mangochi and Ntcheu where they held rallies. Two weeks ago in Chikwawa, Chilima publicly faulted one of UTM leaders for engaging in hate speech.