PRESS STATEMENT: BUILDING A PEACEFUL NATION FOR A FREE AND FAIR ELECTION
For Christian mother bodies of Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) and Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM)
The three Christian mother bodies in this country, namely Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) and Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) and members of Side by Side movement, are concerned with the recent reports of politically motivated violence which is on the increase in this nation especially this time as we move closer towards 21st May, 2019 Tripartite General Elections.
There have been reports of people being harassed for belonging to other political parties or holding different political views. The whole essence of multiparty system of governance, we embraced in 1994 as a country, was the respect and tolerance of different political ideas. This violence must not be nurtured to take root in our nation but quickly and completely eradicated if we are to develop as a nation.
2. OUR OBSERVATIONS
2.1 Lack of issue-based campaigning
Political rhetoric at party campaigns has focussed on tarnishing the image of political opponents rather than dwell on real issues which would emancipate and unshackle people from poverty and the myriad of challenges they are currently facing in our nation. All our political leaders, both from the ruling and opposition parties, are culprits of this conduct. A nation cannot be built nor progress on hatred and intolerance. Such practice breeds resentment, tensions and conflicts. If not quickly addressed and controlled can lead to serious civil unrest and social disorder.
2.2 Silence by some political parties in condemning political violence
We have observed with dismay that despite reports of political violence in several districts, leaders of some key political parties, allegedly involved in these barbaric acts, have either been silent or not acted swiftly to address the situation. As we move towards elections such procrastination to curb political violence, can be catalyst for anarchy in the country. This must be avoided at all cost.
2.3 Conduct of primary elections
The Church Mother Bodies note with great concern the lack of intra-party democracy in our political parties during the recent primary elections across the country. This has not spared any of our major political parties in the country. We observe that most of these internal conflicts have not been resolved, resulting in serious divisions in the parties.
The primary elections across the country have been characterised by alleged disputes, heavy discontentment and fraud; a clear evidence that our democracy is retrogressing instead of maturing. It will not be surprising if this year’s Tri-Partite Elections will probably have the highest participation of independent candidates in the history of elections in Malawi.
The perception that incumbent leaders are not supposed to lose elections, breeds conflicts and deprives the electorate of their right to democratically elect a leader of their choice. Free choice is a key fundamental principle for democracy. Whilst this practice has been associated with the primary elections, there is likelihood of spilling over to the forthcoming elections in May, 2019.
2.4 Impact of such violence on disadvantaged groups such as women
The Church mother bodies are particularly perturbed that some people have started to target our women insulting them on political platforms and even to level of dehumanising them as per the incident in Mangochi where a woman belonging to one of the political parties was humiliated in a manner that can be described as an insulting and completely unacceptable in a civilised society like ours. Such barbaric acts can have a negative impact on the participation of women in the whole electoral process. This is counter-productive in view of the recent campaigns to promote women in political positions in this country.
3. OUR APPEAL
3.1 To leaders of political parties
The Church Mother Bodies therefore appeal to all political parties to adhere to principles of intra-party democracy acknowledging that any citizen has the right to occupy any politically elected office.
We further call upon leaders of all political parties to reject any form of violence and actively discourage their members from engaging in such uncivilised acts.
Political party leaders should avoid using inflammatory language, hate speech, or any words which have the potential of inciting violence.
3.2 The citizens
The Church Mother Bodies urge the general public to reject and not elect into office political leaders who promote or condone politically motivated violence by their party members. Such leaders are dangerous and do not genuinely love our mother land – Malawi.
We call upon all the citizens of the country, including our political leaders, that we protect, respect and promote our women and other disadvantaged groups.
3.3 The police and other law enforcers
The Christian Mother Bodies appeal to the Police and other law enforcers to conduct themselves in a manner that is not biased or divisive. We call upon those in power not to interfere with the role of the police as they discharge their duties professionally.
3.4 The media
The media can be a powerful agent for national building and social development. However, some media houses, both private and public, have been catalysts for inciting politically violence during electoral periods, due to their unethical reporting and political partisanship.
We would like to commend the Minister of Information for recently instructing MBC to open up to all political parties and stop the current bias, which is a recipe for violence. As Churches we will be observing with keen interest the sincerity of the Minister’s comments in the days ahead. We therefore appeal to all Media houses in this country to conduct themselves in a manner that builds our nation together and not tearing it apart along cheap political party lines as currently is the case with some of our media houses.
3.5 The church
The Church Mother Bodies urge Christians everywhere in the country to earnestly pray that God will intervene for a peaceful, free and fair elections this year. In this regard, we request that beginning this coming month of February until July this year, every second Sunday of the month shall be dedicated to praying for Malawi. Christians are encouraged to include prayers for the country during their services of worship in the mornings. In the afternoons, they should organise joint interdenominational prayers at central venues in each district or area.
We further request the Church to preach unity and peace and be the agent of peace and reconciliation in the society.
We ask the Church to educate the masses what is good leadership and encourage citizens to elect in offices only leaders of integrity who are not promoters of violence or corruption.
We request all Christians to promote Gender Justice and promote greater participation of the churches in the fight for gender justice particularly for women aspirants.
We call for collaborated effort in addressing this vice in our country. We are calling for all Malawians and those who live in it to put Malawi first. Law enforcement agents, political leaders, all key electoral stakeholders, Development partners, the Church and traditional leaders, and Malawians of faith and none in general should play our critical roles in changing the current trend of political violence in the country. Together, with the help of God we can achieve free and fair, credible and peaceful elections.
May the Lord bless Malawi and keep it a land of peace.
Rev. Dr. Fr. Henry Saindi
Secretary General | Episcopal Conference of Malawi
Rev. Gilford Matonga
General Secretary | Malawi Council of Churches
Rev. Francis Mkandawire
General Secretary | Evangelical Association of Malawi
25th January 2019