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Government ‘hijacks’ CSOs march

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The parade by some civil society organisations (CSOs) that took place in Lilongwe Tuesday— led by Citizen Alliance—was actually organised by the office of Presidential Adviser on Non- Governmental Organisations, it has been revealed.

This is despite earlier indications that the CSOs were not being influenced by any individual to march which some observers said was organised to counter a Billy Mayaya-led demonstration whose destination was the same Lilongwe Civic Offices.

The Citizen Alliance march dubbed ‘SDGs Caravan’ was apparently aimed at urging different stakeholders, including CSOs and opposition political parties to work together with government in the implementation of the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

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In an interview after presenting the petition to Minister of Information, Tourism and Civic Education, Jappie Mhango, one of the rights activists who took part in the march, Luther Mambala, said he saw nothing wrong in an office under the presidency organising the march.

“I don’t think it is right to say we were sponsored by government,” said Mambala when asked if he could confirm that the march was fuelled by the current administration, “but the office of the [Presidential Adviser] on NGOs, which is under the Office of the President [is], the one that actually organised this parade.”

Mambala also denied that the SDGs parade was systematically positioned to counter the Mayaya-led demonstration.

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“We can develop as a country if we avoid jostling one another. We saw this as an opportune time to sensitise Malawians on these SDGs. It is not about government only, but all of us. We are in one boat and if it sinks, we are all going to sink,” he said.

Earlier on, before the parade started, the CSOs threatened to pull out after suspected Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cadets thrust themselves into the march with placards which attacked leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera and challenged that President Peter Mutharika will not resign.

Citizen Alliance Executive Secretary, Wilson Asibu, condemned the ‘political hijack’, arguing that the placards sent a wrong message which would be construed that the organisation has political interests.

“We, the CSOs, organised this function, but we can see that it has been overtaken by political party cadres. This is painting a bad picture of Citizen Alliance,” said Asibu, refusing to name the political party which was attempting to hijack the march.

He also refused to admit that government had taken over the march, challenging journalists to use their own reason to determine it themselves.

When asked why DPP supporters invaded a CSOs march, Mhango said he could not effectively comment on such allegations because he was not aware of such a development.

The government spokesperson als o dismissed assertions that the fact that Mayaya’s petition was received by officials about 20 minutes after the protesters had arrived at the Civic Offices meant government was only interested in the SDGs march because it had sponsored it.

“I don’t want to speak for other entities. I am speaking for government as government spokesperson. These [marchers] asked me to receive their statement and I came here specifically to see what is in it… I don’t want to speak about demonstrations that I have no idea about,” said Mhango.

There was heavy police presence during the SDGs march which had considerable pomp with people riding lorries, minibuses and even tricycles. Some placards which the marchers were waving carried messages which praised Mutharika for affirming the SDGs on behalf of Malawians.

At the Civic Offices, Mhango was flanked by Presidential Adviser on NGOs, Mavuto Bamusi, and Presidential Chief Economic Adviser, Collins Magalasi

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