Envoy’s of various governments in Malawi have expressed concern with the growing political tension in the country and called for unity and respect for the rule of law “at this important moment in the country’s history”.
In a joint statement issued yesterday, the envoys of Japan, Norway, Nigeria, Tanzania, United States, United Kingdom, European Union (EU) as well as EU Heads of Mission in Malawi, Germany, Ireland and Iceland state: “This means abiding by both the letter and the spirit of the law and the Constitution, and for authorities to uphold it consistently in all cases.”
They have further called on political parties, the civil society, religious and traditional leaders to refrain from using inflammatory language but instead, engage in dialogue and peace building, warning deepened divisions could undermine the unity of the country.
According to the statement, the foreign governments believe that for Malawi’s democratic progress, there is need to refrain from using inflammatory language and to show restraint when it is used by others.
“We, therefore, call on political party and community leaders to work together to de-escalate the situation and focus on the common history and experiences that unite Malawians which are far greater than what divides them,” reads the statement.
They have also urged all stakeholders to deeply reflect on the principles of national policy under the Malawi Constitution, especially Principle 13 (L) which calls for peaceful settlement of disputes through negotiation, good offices, mediation, conciliation and arbitration.
Chapter 13 (L) on settlement of disputes reads in part: “To strive to adopt mechanisms by which differences are settled through negotiation, good offices, mediation, conciliation and arbitration.”
Since Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) announced the results of the May 21 2019 presidential election which declared governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) President Peter Mutharika the winner, there has been protests in the country led by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to demand the resignation of MEC chairperson Jane Ansah and her commissioners for presiding over a poll marred by irregularities.
The tensions heightened after the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) ruling on February 3 this year annulled the presidential election and ordered a fresh one within 150 days of the judgement.
Prior to the ConCourt ruling, Malawi Congress Party leader Lazarus Chakwera and UTM Party’s Saulos Chilima, who both petitioned the High Court for the election nullification, said they would respect the court ruling as did Mutharika.
DPP leadership has of late come under fire for remarks against the Judiciary and opposition parties, as well as for arresting HRDC leaders Timothy Mtambo, Gift Trapence and McDonald Sembereka.
DPP threatened to deal with the HRDC leaders for calling for shut down of State Residences to force Mutharika to sign the bills that Parliament passed in accordance with the ConCourt ruling.
In an interview yesterday, political analyst Michael Jana observed that DPP was supposed to be in the forefront in respecting the laws.
He observed: “However, in their political contestation, the [governing party has] actually abused the laws and people’s rights.”
DPP, in their political rallies, have justified their actions, saying there was a conspiracy between opposition political parties and the HRDC to dethrone a lawfully constituted government and has vowed to resist.