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Peace: invaluable asset in governance

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Peace, if there are others who need to be reminded, is the fuel that runs democracy.

Where there is no peace, people cannot even talk about good governance, since only those who are at peace have time to think about other things, including how their lives are being run.

I was not surprised, therefore, with the turn of events on Thursday last week when the world was commemorating the International Day of Peace, in partnership with international partners such as CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

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Malawians who marched on the streets of Blantyre on Thursday— during a peace parade organisers, the People’s Federation for National Peace and Development (Pefanap), themed ‘Peaceful Elections, National Security, Satisfactory Social Service Delivery Is Fundamental To Our National Development’— were doing so to remind us that no progress can be made without peace.

The theme offered Malawians the opportunity to reflect on their experiences in the context of elections, national security, satisfactory social service delivery, among others.

The issue of elections is timely, considering that, shortly, Malawians in some parts of the country will be participating in by-elections. For example, our friends in Nsanje- Lalanje will be voting for a Member of Parliament, just like those in one constituency in Lilongwe.

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In Dedza, some people will be voting for councillors in Local Government Elections, just like those who stay in one of the wards in Ndirande, Blantyre.

Therefore, it was encouraging that tens of thousands of people came together at hundreds of events in almost 80 countries, as part of a new global campaign to give a voice to everyone, everywhere.

From youth summits to informal dinners, public mobilisation campaigns to private meetings, national dialogues to music festivals, others chose to commemorate the day under the banner of SPEAK!: a global campaign aimed at amplifying the voices of ordinary people who are speaking out to counter repression of fundamental freedoms.

In Malawi, the event was commemorated in many ways. For example, during one event, reputable private security companies, religious groups, youth groups, the Salvation Army Brass Band paraded in the heart of Blantyre, from the Southern Region Government Headquarters to Ginnery Corner.

The day of action came at a critical moment, as world leaders meet in New York, United States of America, to mark the second anniversary of the Global Goals (SDGs). These collective actions will send a clear message: the voices of ordinary citizens are powerful and essential in ensuring a just and sustainable future for all;now it’s time for governments to listen and act!

Elsewhere in the world, those who share the values of ‘Together For Peace: Respect, Safety And Dignity For All’ shared the cause of CIVICUS in advocating interventions that may make the world a better place for everyone.

The theme was hatched as part of promoting respect, safety and dignity for everyone forced to flee their homes in search of a better life. The initiative unites the organisations of the United Nations (UN) system, 193 member states of the UN, Malawi inclusive, the private sector, civil society organisations, academic institutions and individual citizens in a global partnership in support of diversity, non-discrimination and acceptance of refugees and migrants.

It was initiated during the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants on September 19 2016.

The encouraging thing this year is that the International Day of Peace focused on engaging and mobilising people throughout the world to show support for each other.

The day further highlighted solidarity with refugees and migrants and showcased the shared benefits of migration to economies and nations, while also acknowledging legitimate concerns of host communities.

Ultimately, it brought people together and reminded all of us of our common humanity.

Lessons for Malawi

Now that the International Day of Peace is past, us what lessons can we draw from the same?

To begin with, Malawians must learn to appreciate the free commodity of peace which we have. There are many countries that wish they had something close to the peace we take for granted but are not that lucky.

Sadly, Malawians do not seem to appreciate the peace we have. This, probably, is why we have cases of violence in the run up to, during and after elections.

In the past, youths— who are supposed to be tools of development— have largely been used, which defeats the purpose of preparing them for the future.

As we draw closer to by-elections, there is need to safeguard the peace we have by ensuring that the elections are free from violence or any sort of intimidation.

The other issue we should consider is that of health rights. It has become common for workers in the health sector to down their tools, in the hope that their action may force the government to act on their grievances.

While industrial action is one of the remedies recognised by the courts and labour rights activists, sometimes, industrial actions hurt the very people we serve. In other words, such actions disrupt the provision of social services.

There are a number of issues we can focus on, as we prepare for the 2019 elections. Most of all, we must safeguard the peace we have; for it is the fuel that makes Malawi go round.

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