NGOs call for genuine dialogue

By Charles Mkula, Newstime Africa

Civil Society groups in Malawi Thursday made fresh appeals for genuine dialogue to discuss the way forward to address the socio-economic and political governance problems facing the southern African nation before they take the citizens back into the streets on August 17.

Speaking at press conference in Lilongwe, Civil Society for Quality Basic Education (CSQBE) executive director Benedicto Kondowe called on the government to take a serious approach to the issues raised in a petition presented on July 20 in order to bring back hope and reconciliation in the lives of Malawians.

“The mandate to govern is based on trust of the people,” he said asking authorities to “desist from uttering sarcastic and threatening statements that do not offer hope but only serve to infuriate further the people who put them in power.”

Kwataine: Police haven’t gone after ruling party militias who on July 19th drove around brandishing pangas and warned people against demonstrating against Mutharika.

Kondowe appealed to the country’s leadership to respect the rights of Malawians and institute an independent commission of enquiry to bring to justice elements that brought death to 18 people and caused injuries to over 200 people.

He also asked the government to investigate people who issued threats to civil rights activists and opposition political leaders.

Following president Bingu wa Mutharika’s outburst during a police pass out parade two days after the nationwide demonstrations that sought to bring to the attention of the head of state the social and economic plight of Malawians, unknown people have been issuing death threats to the rights’ leaders through anonymous telephone calls.

President Mutharika threatened to deal with the demonstration organizers who warned to go back to the streets if government did not respond to the people’s concerns by August 17. The president charged that the demonstrations were intended to overthrow his government.

However, Martha Kwataine, executive director of the Malawi Health Equity Network (MHEN) quashed Mutharika’s assertions that the demonstrations were intended to overthrow the administration.

“The statements made by the president just showed his un-statesmanship,” she said questioning Mutharika for congratulating the police for a job well done,” she asked. “Such statements should not be entertained.”

Kwataine also took a swipe at the country’s first lady Madam Callista Mutharika who on Monday told civil rights leaders “to go to hell” and stop cheating villagers whom she said do not need fuel because they do not have cars.

But Kwataine said that fuel in needed in the rural hospitals to ferry drugs and pregnant women to seek better medical care.

“Prices of commodities are escalating because of lack of fuel so are mini bus fares,” she said calling on the leadership to check their language and be reconciliatory.

Kwataine warned the authorities against taking Malawians for granted saying they should avoid forcing them from taking other unspecified actions.

“We employed them to serve us and not to smoke us.”

Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) executive director, Dalitso Kubalasa called on the country to draw lessons from the July 20 debacle and avoid dragging the country in the mud again.

“Let the incidents call for our true pursuit for patriotism and the realisation that Malawians should not be provoked and that when pushed too far Malawians are able to speak out,” he said.

Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) coordinator Chris Chisoni said the conference was called to add value to the voices of Malawians and the leaders of the July 20 demonstrations.

“We want to add value to what others have already done so that Malawians should reflect on situation of the country in the past two years,” he said.

Government authorities could not be reached for comments but the Indigenous Business Association of Malawi (Ibam) has welcomed the appeal “It is only dialogue that can serve the country from further economic damage and deaths as witnessed on July 20,” said Ibam Chairperson Mike Mlombwa calling on government to accept the olive branch.

Organised by CCJP, MEJN, MHEN, CEYCA, CSC, the conference denounced death threats issued to the 20/07 demonstration leaders and asked government to address the downturn in parliamentary performance, socio-economic situation and reverse the passing of draconian laws.

They called on civil society groups to continue conscientising citizens on their rights to demand development and improvement in livelihood. They further called on the media to report without bias so that citizens are enlightened in order to make informed choices.

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