Malawi church leaders urge end to political violence

Church leaders in Malawi have urged calm in the face of rising political tensions before the 2 July 2020 elections. Last week a building belonging to the United Transformation Movement (UTM) was firebombed, killing members of a family that resided on the premises.

General elections were held in Malawi on 21 May 2019. Incumbent President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party was re-elected, with his party remaining the largest in the National Assembly. However, on 3 Feb 2020, the country’s constitutional court annulled the election results due to evidence of irregularities, and ordered fresh elections. The UTM led by President Saulos Chiima after he broke with President Mutharika in 2018 is the president’s main rival.

The Public Affairs Committee (PAC), Malawi’s interfaith coalition, released a statement last week denouncing the rising political violence.  “The incident is condemnable in strongest terms as it violates human rights and aims at intimidating the democratic contestation of ideas and at silencing alternative voices”, the statement signed by its chairman Msgr. Patrick Thawale, Vicar General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Lilongwe and Publicity Secretary Bishop Gilford Emmanuel Matonga from the Evangelical Association.

The “barbaric, cowardly and uncivilized acts of violence manifest a sense of desperation as Malawi moves towards the fresh Presidential Election”.

They called for an investigation into the attack “so that perpetrators are held accountable for their actions without discrimination”, and called “for an open and inclusive dialogue in dealing withpolitical disputes – a mechanism that has full support of all peace-loving Malawians. We also call on all citizens to remain law-abiding and eschew all forms of political violence.”

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