Malawi rights group censure Mutharika on warmongering over lake dispute with Tanzania

Human rights campaigners have added their voice  to condemn  opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader Peter Mutharika on his reported warmongering remarks on  Malawi’s lake dispute with Tanzania.

Mutharika—a former Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation minister under his brother’s old  regime— reportedly told a campaign  rally this week that Tanzania is taking advantage of Malawi’s “weak leadership” to claim Lake Malawi, which  is known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania.

He vowed that if voted into power in May 2014, he will not tolerate Tanzania’s muscle flexing, saying the ownership of the lake is “non-negotiable”.

The DPP leader’s statement has been condemned by opposition MCP and UDF including critics, fearing that the tough talk was a war cry.

Peter Mutharika: Under attack over his remarks

Peter Mutharika: Under attack over his remarks

On Thursday, Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Centre for Development of the People (CEDEP) also censured Mutharika on his remarks and threw their weight behind Malawi President Joyce Banda’s the position that she has taken in resolving the matter.

“As human rights defenders, we at CHRR and CEDEP recognise the importance of freedom of expression towards the nurturing and consolidation of our hard-earned multi-party democracy as ably enshrined in both the Republican Constitution and the various international protocols and statutes that we are party to.  Through the correct, effective exercise of this right the country has been able to resist some dictatorial acts, tendencies or decisions which posed [and of course, continue to pose] a serious threat to the foundations of our hard-earned democracy.

“We at CHRR and CEDEP also realise that for all citizens in a country to fully enjoy the benefits of freedom of expression, there is a need to exercise such rights with a sense of dignity and responsibility. Informed by such an understanding we at CHRR and CEDEP join a cross-section of patriotic peace-loving Malawians who have voiced out their concern against the recent remarks made by Democratic Progressive Party President Peter Mutharika about the controversial Malawi-Tanzania lake dispute, stating there was no need for negotiations between the two parties,” a statement from the two rights groups made available to Nyasa Times reads.

The statement, signed by CHRR’s Acting Executive Director,  Timothy Mtambo  and head of CEDEP, Gift Trapence, said by declaring his inmost resolve against the principles of contact and dialogue in the current saga, the DPP leader has “not only shown his current desperation to ascend to the throne come 2014 even if attaining such a feat involves costing the lives of many but also his party’s philosophy which is clearly against any form of contact and dialogue. “

The rights campaigners noted that “memories are afresh amongst many Malawians of how the DPP, during its golden era, tramped on their democratic rights through its confrontational or physical approaches in resolving matters of national interest particularly against its critics.”

CEDEP and CHRR said: “… such insentive, divisive remarks must not be tolerated as they have the potential to derail or frustrate the progress on the contact and dialogue between the two countries.”

They groups said “Mutharika’s insensitive, divisive remarks have no room in the modern pluralist democratic dispensation, and must hence be condemned in strongest terms.”

CHRR and CEDEP said President Banda’s government has demonstrated maturity and commitment towards resolving the issue in the general interest of all Malawians irrespective of their political divide

“ We at CHRR and CEDEP candidly hold that taking such a stance does not in any way smack cowardice or ‘weak leadership’ on the part of the government but rather braveness, rationality, soberness and respect of both the domestic law and international protocols and statutes that govern bilateral or international relations.”

But Mutharika later clarified that he did not say the dispute was as result of weak leadership.

He also denied agitating for war.

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