The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) will in March meet all the nine presidential candidates to make them sign a commitment to conducting a peaceful campaign.
PAC executive director Robert Phiri said in a written response yesterday that plans to host the presidential contenders for the peace pledge were at an advanced level.
The quasi-religious body, which already met President Peter Mutharika in December last year, according to Phiri, believes that by signing a peace declaration, the presidential candidates will set the tone for a violence-free political campaign in the run up to the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
Said Phiri: “A peace declaration is one of the components in conflict management especially during electoral processes. In our case it is a goodwill document which serves as a stepping stone for mediation and dialogue should an electoral crisis emerge. This can be during voting or announcement of results and beyond.”
He added that PAC’s focus was on attempts to deal with political violence from a high level perspective having conducted a similar exercise in 2014 when presidential candidates signed the Lilongwe Peace Declaration on May 10.
The country has already seen a number of initiatives aimed at achieving peaceful elections such as the signing of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Political Parties Code of Conduct, an initiative aimed at ensuring peace throughout the elections period, and plans of a presidential prayer breakfast organised by some church leaders.
Organiser of the presidential prayer breakfast Apostle Madalitso Mbewe of Calvary Family Church (CFC) said in an interview yesterday that though coming late, the efforts were having a positive impact.
But a Chancellor College-based political analyst Gift Sambo, in a telephone interview, observed that the initiatives were missing a crucial element that could fully address the problem of political violence in the country.
“My view is that it is not enough to bring together opinion setters and have them sign a peace declaration, leaving grass roots structures where perpetrators of violence are found,” he said.
Since January this year, the country has already seen a number of political violences such as the beating and stripping of a UTM Party female member and the assault on a Malawi Congress Party (MCP) member in Blantyre.
These cases of violence mirror events that happened in the run-up to the 2014 Tripartite Elections. In March of that year, two people died after former president Joyce Banda and her People’s Party (PP) held a rally at Goliati Trading Centre in Thyolo, the home area of President Peter Mutharika.