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Lilongwe, Nsanje top in violence

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By Mandy Pondani:

Malawi Electoral Integrity Programme (MEIP) newly released report says Lilongwe and Nsanje are leading on occurrence of electoral conflicts and violence in the build-up to the May 21 Tripartite Elections.

MEIP is a programme which involves civil society organisations (CSOs) such as Youth and Society, National Elections Systems Trust, Tiphedzane Community Support and Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (Chikwawa Diocese).

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The organisations provide reports on the state of affairs in the buildup to elections.

The report, derived during the reporting period from February 1 to April 30 2019 in 13 targeted districts, shows that Lilongwe and Nsanje lead the conflicts score card with nine and seven incidences, respectively, within the period in question.

The incidents have been verified by International Foundation for Electoral Systems which is supporting the early warning/early responsive programme aimed at enhancing mitigative measures for violence-free election.

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“As of April 30, a total of 45 incidents have been reported and verified in 12 out of the 13 districts. Lilongwe and Nsanje districts reported the highest number of cases at nine and seven, respectively. Salima and Mulanje each have five verified cases,” the report reads.

Other conflict-prone districts that are being monitored through a combined network of over 75 monitors are Chikwawa, Rumphi, Karonga, Zomba, Mangochi, Mwanza, Chiradzulu, Blantyre and Kasungu.

Most of the cases reported are, according to the report, group clashes involving mostly youthful political party supporters embroiled in various types of violence including harassment, destruction of property especially party material and disruption of rival rallies.

“The most prevalent type of conflicts were group clashes (31 percent), harassment (31 percent) and hate speech (22 percent), especially directed at women candidates. These took place in public places such as schools and markets, where campaign meetings were being held,” the report adds.

The report, which is being disseminated through a digital platform called Chisankho 2019, however, observes that there are weak interventions and response mechanisms, with few arrests being made by police.

The six CSOs have lamented that responses to most cases are only aimed at dispersing crowds and not finding lasting solutions to the vice.

The report corroborates a recently released Long-term Observation report by Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn) which raises alarm on continued cases of electoral violence in Nsanje, Mulanje and Mzimba, among other districts.

Mesn National Coordinator, Andrew Kachaso, Tuesday urged the police to ensure peaceful campaign period.

Reacting to the report, Malawi Electoral Commission Director of Communication and Public Relations, Sangwani Mwafulirwa, Tuesday said they would continue to engage political players to abide by the electoral code of conduct which they signed.

National Police Spokesperson, James Kadadzera said: “Police is committed to providing security to every eligible Malawian taking part in the elections and their supporters.”

Tuesday, The Nation published a story quoting a report by Henry Chingaipe, Horace Chingaipe and Joseph Thombozi suggesting that DPP is the perpetrator of political violence. Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace commissioned the research.

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