NGOs challenge Mutharika on ‘regime change’ claims

Malawi’s human rights watchdogs have reacted to President Bingu wa Mutharika’s Friday parliament opening address, trashing his  ‘hot air’ claims that the civil society organisations are conniving with external forces to bring about regime change in Malawi.

The  Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Centre for  Development of People (CEDEP)  said in a joint statement made available to Nyasa Times that the remarks by President Mutharika  are “cheap propaganda”  and that they do not befit “the solemnity of the occasion on which they were made. “

CHRR and CEDEP media release signed by vocal human rights defenders, Undule Mwakasungula and Gift Trapence, called on Mutharika to  refrain from making sweeping statements which are grounded in sheer speculation rather than facts.

Undule: Let Bingu prove his claims

“If he has evidence against any civil society organizations which are plotting regime change, then we challenge him to come forward with the details of the miscreants and provide evidence alongside details of the plot,” said the statement. “That would be somewhat more credible than simply uttering unfounded allegations with a view to alienating the civil society and seeking sympathy from the suffering Malawians.”

Accountability

In the same address the President also raised the issue about accountability among CSOs. He proposed that Parliament should provide a legislative oversight over the NGOs on the utilization of resources they receive from donors.

Reacting to the remarks, CHRR and CEDEP said donors have their own mechanisms which they use to check whether their resources are being put to good use or not.

“Given  the prevailing distrust between government and civil society, we are of the view  that this concern over utilization of resources is not genuine; rather it is a  smokescreen of the broader agenda which the government is trying to advance as regards civil society organizations,” said the statement.

The watchdogs fear that permitting Parliament to exercise that so called “legislative oversight” is the beginning of a process towards systematic elimination of civil society organizations which the government considers to be a thorn in its flesh.

“Excuses such as failure to properly account for funds will be invoked to explain away what was otherwise a premeditated de-registering of an organization. This is unacceptable and as part of the NGOs community we will fight for our existence for the livelihood of Malawians,” the statement reads.

The groups also pointed out that Mutharika exposed himself that he has “scanty knowledge” about the various stakeholders in a democratic dispensation.

They also accused Mutharika on giving answers on the questions regarding the fateful July 20 anti-government demonstrations which claimed at 19 lives.

“If he already has answers, then we wonder why he instituted the Commission of Inquiry in the first place.”

Missed opportunity

The groups also said the presidential statement did not inspire confidence among Malawians.

“The President did not articulate what his government is doing as regards the many economic challenges facing the country, including forex and fuel shortages.  The President simply told the House and indeed the nation that his government was working day and night to find solutions to the crisis,” the statement noted.

The NGOs said as is always the case, Mutharika hastened to highlight his real and perceived achievements in recent years, notwithstanding the challenges.

“As CHRR and CEDEP evidently, we note once again that the President’s address did not inspire any confidence or optimism. It was in many ways the same old story that the nation has been told by his government for far too long, the same litany of achievements which the President and ruling party officials spell out at every opportunity.”

They noted that the harsh realities of life in Malawi under Mutharika regime were as usual “passed off merely with a wave of hand while the achievements, both the real and phony ones, were overemphasized.”

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