‘Campaign responsibly,’ Malawi Anglican Church tells political parties

By Bellah Zulu
Posted Apr 2, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church in Malawi has called on all political parties in that country to campaign responsibly and avoid violence before, during and after the election time.

This follows the violence that erupted at a recent rally held by the Republican President Joyce Banda in Malawi’s Thyolo district where it was reported that two people died and many others were injured.

In a recent media statement, Bishop Brighton Vita Malasa, chairman of the Anglican Church in Malawi, condemned the violence saying it was “very unacceptable and uncalled for.”

“The incident remains traumatic to the families of the deceased and those who witnessed it,” he said. “It is very inhuman to have someone brutally killed with an axe…and by a gun. Death by whichever means is not acceptable as no one is mandated to take somebody’s life.”

Malasa also called on the government and all the relevant authorities to make sure that the perpetrators of the violence are held accountable and “brought to book making sure that no one is shielded.”

“Let the law take its course on all those found to have supported and perpetrated the political violence as this should not happen again in our country,” he said. “Violence will just bring fear among citizens and they will shun the campaign rallies and we will end up having people voting without being well informed.”

He added: “Now that the official campaign period has started, we are calling on all political parties to conduct their campaign in responsible manner. Political parties should advise their members to refrain from violence before, during and after the campaign and election time.”

The bishop reminded all political parties that supporters of all parties in Malawi are Malawians who are entitled to the democratic freedom of association. He told political parties to refrain from growing “party zealots and over-zealous irresponsible groups in their respective political parties.”

“Malawians should be free to attend any political campaign rally without fear of being killed or assaulted,” he said. “We urge all political party leaders to avoid derogatory and provocative language and remarks during the campaign rallies.”

“We are calling on all political leaders to concentrate on issue-based campaigns and not on insults and belittling of others. Respecting each other should be the order of the day. It is the points in manifestos that will help and guide Malawians to decide who they want to vote for and not the insults against others,” he said.

Malasa further said that Malawians want to hear of the strategies that have been put in place to develop their country, which has remained in “dire poverty even after 50 years of independence.”

The Bishop called upon all stakeholders including the Malawi Electoral Commission, chiefs, faith leaders, the state police, political parties, civil society and voters to create a conducive environment and peaceful campaign atmosphere.

“The police should tighten the security for all political parties during campaign regardless of whether they are ruling or in opposition,” said the Bishop. “The District Commissioners and chiefs who are responsible for political rally venues are called upon to perform their duties fairly and without favor for a particular political party.”

“We are calling upon all political parties not to treat some areas within Malawi as their bedrooms and no go zones,” he said. “Malawi as a country is for all Malawians and surely all political parties should have the freedom to conduct their campaign rallies anywhere and everywhere within the boundaries of Malawi.”

He also urged political parties to use the right bodies for security like the police which “we believe do exist for all Malawians regardless of their political affiliation.” Malasa also discouraged the abuse of the youth before and during election times.

“They are supposed to be the productive citizens of our country and not for disorder in the country. What we are sowing today is what we shall reap tomorrow–we want a violence-free and orderly Malawi,” he said. “We need a peaceful co-existence among the general populace.”

“Before we are members of different political parties, we are Malawians first and that must always be remembered and upheld,” said the bishop. “Political violence is retrogression and a threat to our democracy which we all chose through a referendum in 1993.”

The bishop also reminded Malawians that “we have only one Malawi which is our home and hence the need to keep Malawi a land of peace.” He added, “Peace is easy to destroy and yet it can take years to build back. We have seen countries like Libya and Egypt destroying peace within a short period of time. See how they are struggling to bring it back!”