Britain has warned that the Constitutional Court judgement on the presidential elections nullification petition could lead to more violence in the country unless political parties enlighten their supporters on court processes and outcomes.
Through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Department for International Development (DfID), the United Kingdom (UK), Malawi’s former colonial master, has since urged political leaders to coordinate clear messages to their supporters highlighting respect for the court process.
FCO Africa director Harriet Mathews and DfID director for Western and Southern Africa Debbie Palmer made the remarks at the end of their visit to Malawi from November 6 to 8 this year.
Their appeal comes after the Malawi Law Society (MLS) and South Africa-based Malawian Prophet Shepherd Bushiri of Enlightened Christian Gathering (ECG) in October asked political leaders to prepare their supporters to accept the decision of the court.
In a statement on the officials’ visit dated November 10 2019 signed by British High Commission communications officer Benson Linje, Palmer and Mathews are quoted as having said they were concerned with the state of affairs in Malawi.
The two officials stressed the need for the elite to move beyond the politics of exclusion, tackle corruption and prioritise the interests of all Malawians.
Reads the statement: “Specifically, the directors noted the concerns of all stakeholders that the upcoming High Court ruling could lead to further violence in the country.
“They strongly encouraged all political leaders to coordinate clear messaging to their supporters highlighting respect for the court process and outcomes, and calling for peace and unity in Malawi.”
Palmer and Mathews also expressed concern over reports of violence in the country which has left others dead or injured, property damaged or stolen since announcement of the May 21 Tripartite Elections results.
“In particular, they [Palmer and Mathews] noted the allegations of violence against human rights defenders, the security services, political leaders, women and girls; and the tensions between regional, tribal and religious groupings.
“They condemned any form of violence and urged all allegations of violence and criminal acts to be investigated promptly and impartially.
“Malawi has a strong history of finding peaceful resolution to disputes and tensions. The UK will continue to work side by side with all stakeholders to support Malawi through this period of instability as well as on the longer-term challenges facing the country,” reads the statement.
In its follow-up letter to political leaders dated October 20 2019, MLS said the current impasse and disruptive violence is quite manageable under the law, but observed lack of political will across the political divide.
Reads the MLS statement: “However, if not managed it may degenerate into more chaos and unrest which could affect more vulnerable members of the public such as children and the elderly if duty bearers fail to genuinely anticipate and prepare the people and the legal framework for the possibility of either outcome from the Constitutional Court challenge.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) also warned that the post-elections impasse could spiral out of control if government and other relevant actors do not urgently engage in a genuine and meaningful dialogue.
In an interview yesterday, UTM Party spokesperson Joseph Chidanti-Malunga said they have always prepared their supporters on court matters.
He said: “We in UTM know very well the court processes, and actually, we have been to the court several times. In the present case, we know that there are two answers, a Yes, or a No and our supporters know this. So, yes in UTM we are preparing our supporters on that and we didn’t need someone to tell us that because for us, it’s an obvious thing.”
On his part, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson Nicholas Dausi, who is also Minister for Homeland Security, said his party has always been peaceful.
“DPP has always looked at Malawi first. We are a peaceful party and all our prayer is that Malawi must be peaceful,” he said.
In an earlier interview, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera said he has always asked people to closely follow the court proceedings and accept its verdict.
He said: “I have always been advising people to respect the courts and that am not making any comments with regard to what is in the court.”
Currently, the quasi-religious group, Public Affairs Committee (PAC) is facilitating a dialogue process to find a lasting solution to the impasse.
PAC already met all the relevant stakeholders, including President Peter Mutharika, embattled Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah and leadership of major opposition parties and Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), and is expected to meet them for a second phase of dialogue.
Demonstrations, organised by HRDC and supported by main opposition parties, started following the disputed May 21 election results.
MEC declared President Peter Mutharika of DPP winner of the presidential race with 1 940 709 votes or 38.57 percent. He was trailed by Chakwera with 1 781 740 votes (35.41 percent) while Saulos Chilima of UTM Party came third with 1 018 369 votes or 20.24 percent and ahead of four other candidates.
Chilima and Chakwera are seeking nullification of the results over alleged irregularities. The Constitutional Court is currently hearing the case.