A United Nations (UN) delegation on Thursday met former president Bakili Muluzi as part of a series of meetings it has lined up for mediators and stakeholders involved in the anti-Jane Ansah demonstrations.
UN resident coordinator Maria Jose Torres in a written response on Thursday confirmed the meetings, saying they are aimed at understanding how the UN can best support and intervene in the situation.
She said: “The meeting with Muluzi happened [on Thursday morning]. The UN has embarked on an effort to meet the main Malawian stakeholders on the current context. The objective is to listen to all and understand how the UN can best support.”
This is the first time the UN has engaged in this process since demonstrations organised by civil society organisations (CSO) groups under the banner Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) started in June to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to resign.
According to Torres, the humanitarian body will this week meet political party leaders, Public Affairs Committe (PAC) and the CSOs involved.
Muluzi confirmed in an interview that he met UN officials, but refused to divulge details on what they discussed.
Said the former president: “I can confirm that they came to see me as one of the stakeholders who took an initiative to mediate and meet with the people involved in the demonstrations. We have discussed a number of issues, which I cannot tell you now. This is an ongoing process and I believe that we will keep talking.”
Muluzi has been holding mediation talks and so far has met HRDC leaders and President Peter Mutharika, separately, to defuse the post-election tension in the country.
Last week, HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo rebuffed Muluzi on his request for a meeting to discuss their plans to hold anti-Ansah protests at the country’s ports of entry.
Muluzi first met HRDC on July 23 when he failed to convince the leaders to postpone nationwide demonstrations.
The former leader proposed that the meeting should take place on Friday or Saturday, before the planned protests that were scheduled to start today but have since been stopped by the High Court.
But Mtambo said the HRDC has no time to engage in dialogue that lacks clear direction.
He said after engaging Muluzi last month, they expected him to report to the country on what transpired during the meeting which he held with President Peter Mutharika so that the citizenry are aware of what transpired.
Said Mtambo: “We don’t have time to be attending dialogues of convenience. What did they discuss with Mutharika? Why hasn’t he told the nation about that all this while? We will not meet him.”
But Muluzi said parties must discuss the issues first and that only a communiqué from such engagement must be taken to the media, and not the whole dialogue process.
The HRDC which has been holding demonstrations since the announcement of the May 21 presidential election results, wants Ansah to resign and pave the way for investigations to identify and prosecute those who supplied Tippex that was used to alter election figures on result sheets.
The demonstrations have in some cases been marred by looting and violence.
Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, has dismissed calls for her to resign for allegedly mismanaging the presidential election, saying she would only step down if the court found her leadership to have failed to discharge its duties.
MEC declared Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) winner of the presidential race in the May 21 Tripartite Elections with 1 940 709 votes, representing 38.57 percent.
Malawi Congress Party presidential candidate Lazarus Chakwera came second with 1 781 740 votes, representing 35.41 percent while his UTM Party counterpart Saulos Chilima came a distant third with 1 018 369 votes representing 20.24 percent, ahead of four other aspirants.
Chilima and Chakwera filed a petition in the Constitutional Court seeking nullification of the presidential election results. They cite alleged flaws in the results management process as a key factor for their case.
The hearing is set to continue on September 3 after a week-long break following an 11-day initial process in which Chilima and one witness Mirriam Gwalidi have so far taken to the witness stand.
The next demonstrations were scheduled from August 26 to 30 in the country’s airports and ports of entry to be followed by a “two million march” in the four cities of Mzuzu, Zomba, Lilongwe and Blantyre on September 5 this year. However, the High Court last week granted an injunction to Malawi Revenue Authority, stopping the five-day demonstrations.