UK asks Bingu to allow ‘legitimate democratic debate’

By Wanga Gwede, Nyasa Times

Following a serious stand-off between President Bingu wa Mutharika, his government and the civil society organizations, Britain has expressed concern about the situation in Malawi, asking the Head of State to show restraint ahead of the nationwide demonstrations on August 17.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a  media statement made available by the British High Commission to Malawi’s Political Affairs Officer Lewis Kulisewa, that: “I remain concerned about the situation in Malawi.”

He added: “I urge President Mutharika, the democratically elected head of Malawi’s Government, to allow legitimate democratic debate and to open a genuine dialogue with civil society organisations.  This is essential to address the serious challenges the country faces.”

Mutharika earlier told a gathering at the official opening of the Sagecoa Golden Peacock Hotel, that he would sniff out demonstration organizers.

Hague: Exercise restrain

“I will meet you on the streets. If you are saying this is a threat, yes it is,” he said in a live broadcast of the event on national broadcasters MBCtv and radios.

But Hague has called for restraint on both the President and the organisers of the protests.

“The UK does not take a partisan position in Malawian politics. I call on all parties to exercise restraint over the coming days,” Hague said.

“Civil society organisations should not to let their movement be used for criminality or looting and the Government should ensure that the forces under its control allow peaceful demonstrations to go ahead freely and let the media report on them,” he said.

The statement added: “Malawi’s grave economic crisis can only be tackled if the Government works with the international donor community. If this doesn’t happen, the economic and social progress made in recent years will be lost.”

Government recently instituted what it calls the Zero Deficit Budget (ZDB) after traditional donors including Britain pulled off its budgetary support and others cut it – some down by half. Mutharika has challenged Malawi at 47 years of independence can do without donor aid.—(Additional reporting by Simbani Media)

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