Norwegian Ambassador Asbjorn Eidhammer has cautioned Malawians against “unfortunate episodes” in the forthcoming 2014 Tripartite Elections and urged them to embrace the tough economic times the country is currently going through.
Eidhammer said this in the capital, Lilongwe on Friday night during celebrations of the Norwegian Constitution Day founded 199 years ago.
Commenting on Malawi’s forthcoming elections, he said despite good experiences in previous elections, he was aware that there are some elements with complaints.
Said Eidhammer: “Of course, the political debate in the year to come will sharpen, accusations will be thrown back and forth, there will be unfortunate episodes, a lot may be said which later will be regretted. It is not up to me as a guest in this country to give advice, but those who write as well as those who speak may want to pay heed to the Chichewa proverb ‘chalowa mkhutu chayaza malo’ which I understand to mean ‘a word once spoken cannot be retrieved’.
“The exchange of words may be tough. But I see no organised youth bands armed with sticks and pangas to harass opponents, which so often happened in the past. Malawians thoroughly rejected violence after events in the July 2011. I trust that it will stay that way.”
Nevertheless, Eidhammer said he believes if all stakeholders, including the Electoral Commission (EC) and the media, play their role in a professional manner as they have done before, the country would experience another free and fair election.
The envoy also attacked the common notion by development partners to focus on negatives. He quoted Achille Mbembe from Cameroon who argues “that Africa in the eyes of the West appears as absence or a shortage, as negativeness. A consequence is, he says, that economics and politics are bound to appear as shortcomings.”
He said the partners should instead focus on what is already there.
The envoy said Malawians should tighten their belts.
He said: “What is happening is an adjustment to reality. I represent a government that often enough has challenged the hegemonic economic thinking of the Washington consensus. It is, however, very hard to see an alternative to the policies the Government of Malawi has chosen in order to re-establish economic balance and stability.”
Commenting on the celebrations, Eidhammer said Norwegians went through tough changes such as economic hardships and governance deficiencies where no woman would be allowed to vote.
Malawi’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ephraim Chiume says government is geared to prevent ugly scenes from marring the 2014 elections.