Here is a statement published this week by the Malawi Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace regarding emerging political violence. The statement is titled “An Outright Condemnation.”
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The Justice and Peace Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, an institution mandated by the Catholic bishops to ensure works for and promotion of a just and peace Malawian society is hereby condemning categorically the acts of violence that have resurfaced in this immediate past as evidenced by the fracas and subsequent loss of life in Thyolo-Goliati over the weekend and the beating in a private hotel (but on an open place) of an opposition politician in Blantyre on Monday night, due to apparently politically motivated reasons. CCJP emphatically states that no one must lose his or her life or get disfigured due to violence emanating from political rallies. The right to life and safety supersedes the right to political association and assembly as such; no amount of political differences and verbal provocation should lead to any acts of violence and sudden deaths or wounding of any person.
OUR SERIOUS CALL TO ALL
We, the Justice and Peace Commission, therefore, call upon all political leaders, their supporters, the state security functionaries, traditional leaders and the general citizenry to remember always to work for peace and calm at all times; and that during these hyped- elections times, all must ensure safety and security of all that come to listen to campaign issues that seek to ensure an informed citizenry that will make its choice of leaders on May 20, 2014 based on their assessment of the leaders that have successfully won their hearts not by intimidation, nor coercion. We also call on the youths to refuse to be abused by political leaders to perpetrate violence.
ISSUES THAT MALAWIANS MUST REMEMBER
With this important basis, we therefore remind fellow Malawians the following:
1. The laws of Malawi allow for plural politics meaning different political parties will always exist and operate in Malawi. The same laws do not allow political parties’ ownership of some geographical zones or territories. Freedom of assembly is agreed and acknowledged for all without political discrimination.
2. The laws of Malawi allow political parties to conduct political meetings anywhere and anytime as far as notices to right authorities are given so that they do not book more than one party at a given venue.
3. The Malawi Electoral Commission has encouraged Malawians- just like CSOs and FBOs including the academia have an issue-based campaign- so that political players do not exploit people’s ignorance by telling them non-essential issues like name calling, bad-mouthing, there will be no inflammatory vocabulary; how good or bad another leader is looking, who is appropriate or inappropriate to be or not to be a leader in Malawi. But that political campaigns should offer alternative views on policy and developmental issues; as such, there will be no
4. Malawian youths must not be used by political leaders to incite political violence. The youths have a role in Malawi and this is in development and leadership strides of our country. The current violence reminds us of the nasty situation in 1999 when Alick Makina died during fracas between NDA AND UDF, in 2004, innocent Epifania Bonjesi in 1999, on 20th July, 2011 20 lives were lost. We regret that the youths who are being used in these acts are ending up being victims of their own acts. In view of this, we call upon the youths to desist from being used by barbaric politicians. We are a nation that maintains social values of respect for others, peaceful co-existence, settlement of our differences, communal dialogue and our social cohesion as the warm heart of Africa should not be sacrificed by political bigotry and sycophancy. We need to love our political parties, yes, but we need not be zealots and blind loyalists even at the expense of our brothers or sisters’ life.
Ours therefore is a call to Malawi Electoral Commission to make sure that measures are put in place and reinforced to allow parties to comply with best standards of conducting their political rallies. We also appeal for justice in all such cases since we believe in the saying “where there is no justice, there is no peace.”
1. We call upon all leaders of political parties to condemn any acts of violence and to continue encouraging their supporters to remain peaceful.
2. We call upon Malawi Electoral Commission to find ways of disciplining parties in a very tangible way including disqualifying potential candidates, if indeed proven to having perpetrated political violence.
As our Catholic Bishops reminded us in “Strengthening the Vision of Our Destiny” December 1st, 2013 pastoral letter that “The forthcoming tripartite elections provide us with the best opportunity for strengthening the vision of our destiny. Essentially this entails conducting elections that are free, fair and credible and electing leaders that have the desire, commitment and capability of turning our country around. It also entails that the electorate can get out of chronic object poverty by electing leaders who can enable them to do so”.
Furthermore, our Bishops recently reminded us that “When we began the journey towards our independence, we dreamt of ushering in a new era…we envisioned a country emancipated politically and economically. Peace is one of the values we envisioned as clearly expressed in the National Anthem: ‘O God bless our land of Malawi, keep it a land of peace’…” (Strengthening our destiny, 1st December 2013, p. 3) We conclude by emphatically saying that we need an environment of peace, calm and freedom to campaign, articulate real issues, to participate in these campaigns without fear, favour and prejudices. God Bless Malawi.
SIGNED ON BEHALF OF CCJP BY: Chris Chisoni-National Secretary: 18th March 2014.