UN mediator to Malawi revealed as Ban welcomes 'positive developments'

By Thom Chiumia, Nyasa Times

United Nations representative involved in the dialogue between government and civil society organizations is Joao Honwana, director of the Africa I Division (Southern and Eastern Africa) of
the UN Department of Political Affairs, Nyasa Times has learnt.

Malawi UN mission in United States disclosed the identity to Nyasa Times after an earlier story , which was swiftly  put offline, suggested the official was not sanctioned by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

“I can confirm that the UN representative leading the dialogue is Mr Joao Honwana,” an official at UN offices identified himself as Griffin Phiri told Nyasa Timeson telephone Wednesday evening.

Honwana: UN mediator

Malawi’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Brian Bowler, also confirmed that Honwana was officially delegated for the dialogue, saying it very “vital” for stakeholder to hold talks.

Civil society groups cancelled the planned August 17 vigil and agreed to United Nations-facilitated mediation.

The first meeting between Presidential Committee on Dialogue and the civil society took place in Lilongwe on Tuesday.

The civil society has put pressure on President Bingu wa Mutharika because of his bad governance which has resulted into many challenges driving Malawians back to dark ages.

NGOs have since warned Mutharika of another vigil on September 17 should he relax on solving the problems the country is facing due to his bad and autocratic leadership.

“Parties agreed that the vigil could be held within a period of four weeks,” read a joint statement issued by the groups, government side and U.N. negotiators on Tuesday.

In a statement issued on UN website , the Secretary-General said he considers the communiqué “an important step towards a dialogue process.”

He calls on the Malawian stakeholders to continue their efforts to create a political and social atmosphere conducive to addressing the multifaceted challenges in the country.

“The Secretary-General is pleased with and strongly supports the facilitation role played by Mr. João Honwana, Director at the United Nations Department of Political Affairs.”

He reiterates the United Nations’ readiness to continue its facilitation efforts as requested by the parties.

Civil rights groups want the president to declare his wealth, solve dollar and fuel shortages that have hit the economy and restore diplomatic relations with the country’s former colonial ruler and major aid donor, Britain.

Malawi security force killed 19 people when they cracked down on rallies during the July 20 nationwide demonstrations, a development human rights activists say merit indictment for authorities for crimes against humanity.

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