By: ECM’s Stella Zulu
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) in Malawi has expressed disappointment with the continued cases of political violence and the degree of impunity of its perpetrators as the May 2019 tripartite elections fast approaches
Expressing the worry as a governance and advocacy arm of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), CCJP said it strongly believes that peaceful co-existence, political tolerance and unity form the bedrock of social justice promotion and entrenchment of the human rights culture.
This has been expressed in a statement that was released on the 17th of January, 2019 signed by the CCJP National Coordinator, Mr. Boniface Chibwana. This has been due to the observation that there are systematic and seemingly sponsored groups that are unleashing violence on political opponents as we approach the May 2019 elections.
Titled Escalation of political violence and growing impunity: a recipe for electoral and civil turmoil in Malawi, the statement has condemned political violence on political opponents evidenced by cases of organized violence by overzealous functionaries and operatives of the governing Democratic Progressive Party is now the norm in Malawi
“The current tide of political violence coupled with the worrisome degree of impunity among perpetrators is a worrying situation which may make the management of the 2019 polls chaotic and even plunge Malawi into serious civil disorder. Violence has no place in our democratic society and those orchestrating and shamelessly perpetrating it should be condemned in strongest terms possible and face the law irrespective of their political faces or colours”. Reads part of the statement
CCJP said these sad developments continue to manifest despite efforts by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and other electoral stakeholders in the electoral management cycle to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections. The deplorable trend of political violence is counterproductive and has the real danger of rendering the on-going electoral processes chaotic and fruitless.
“It is noteworthy to state that the reported burning and destruction of party cloth and other property, the beating up and intimidation of members of opposition political parties, using hate and discriminatory speech, harassment of journalists and barring political opponents from attending State functions or events run counter to the common aspirations of Malawians when they voted for multiparty democracy in the 1993 referendum”. Continues the statement
In the same spirit, CCJP went on and condemned in strongest terms the current assault of Hon. Bon Kalindo on the 16th of January 2019 in Mulanje district, by alleged assailants belonging to the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). It has been indicated that, this should not be tolerated by the leadership of the said political party as doing so may imply that the party is sponsoring political violence.
CCJP has also condemned the conduct of the Malawi Police Service in handling the numerous cases of political violence of which legal mandate of the Police is openly being challenged by powerful political agents. They have been reminded that Justice and equality before the law are principal pillars in human rights protection and no one is above the law.
CCJP therefore has demanded the Head of State, who is also the President of the Governing Democratic Progressive Party, should strongly and openly condemn political violence particularly at this critical time when Malawi approaches the tripartite elections, improvement in handling of reported and alleged cases of political violence by the police, The Road Traffic Directorate to ensure all vehicles with unclear and questionable identities are barred from using the Malawi roads as they cause a security hazard, Leaders of all political parties should instill discipline in their youth and other political organs, Political party leaders should avoid using inflammatory language and hate speech which incite political violence, and that all Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) should join hands with MEC in the on-going electoral processes for fair, free and peaceful elections in May 2019.