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‘Government, CSOs can work together’

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By Stevie Chauluka:

The government and civil society organisations (CSOs) that are critical of its policies can bury the hatchet and work for the common good, human rights defender Undule Mwakasungula has said.

Mwakasungula was commenting on the relationship between the government and some CSOs.

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“If CSOs present a petition to the government, there has to be a follow-up, and that follow-up should be in the form of engagement and not writing each other petitions. They should be meeting to discuss [issues]. CSOs should, as well, be involved in implementing some of the things they want to change. Things will only change if either side swallows its pride and goes for dialogue in order to achieve a common goal,” he said.

Recently, some CSOs have been accusing the government of giving a deaf year to their petitions.

President Peter Mutharika recently mocked CSOs that organised demonstrations under the banner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), saying low turnout was an indication that Malawians were tired of demonstrations.

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This was after, on September 17 this year, Office of President and Cabinet Principal Secretary (Administration), Cliff Chiunda, invited CSO leaders to a dialogue over issues they raised April 27 2018 demonstrations.

However, four hours to the commencement of the dialogue, chairperson of the grouping, Timothy Mtambo, told the media that they would not be part of the same because the government had ignored terms of engagement they had proposed.

“HRDC has noted with great concern that government has chosen to undermine the seriousness of the matter by using half-hearted calls for dialogue to frustrate our preparations for mass demonstration slated for September 21,” Mtambo said.

But Mwakasungula bemoaned the working relationship between the government and CSOs, saying it is clear that they are not working together.

“Sometimes, I wonder if the CSOs are, indeed, representing [the interests of] Malawians; sometimes they are calling for the impeachment of the President and the question is, is that what Malawians want? CSOs should be there to provide checks and balances,” he said.

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