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Peter Mutharika, CSOs differ on dialogue

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By Yohane Symon:

President Peter Mutharika has been urged to demonstrate willingness to hold dialogue meetings with local civil society organisations (CSOs) in order to find ways of addressing challenges which Malawians face.

During a non-governmental organisations’ (NGO) Accountability Conference held in Mangochi District from Monday to Tuesday, Presidential Advisor on CSOs, Mabvuto Bamusi, delivered Mutharika’s message to the CSOs, saying he appreciates the importance of dialoguing with the organisations instead of staging demonstrations.

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However, some local CSOs and Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma) have doubted Mutharika’s call for dialogue.

Delivering what he called ‘Good Will Message’, Bamusi said Mutharika appreciates that dialogue between the government and CSOs remains key to solving problems affecting Malawians.

“The President believes that it should not be a tendency by the NGOs to resort to demonstrations and other civil disobedient means whenever there is a disagreement between the two parties,” Bamusi said.

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However, Congoma Chairperson, Steve Duwa, said dialogue works when it is done in good faith, saying CSOs in Malawi are ready to engage the Executive arm of the government.

“I am happy that the issue of dialogue has come from them. But dialogue only works when it is in good faith. [The] government should demonstrate that it is willing to pursue dialogue with the CSOs,” Duwa said.

In a separate interview, Moses Mkandawire of Church and Society of the Livingstonia Synod said, much as he appreciates the importance of dialogue, the current administration has shown that it is not willing to engage in dialogue with CSOs.

Mkandawire said, in most cases, the government closes the door on the CSOs whenever they want to meet the President to bring to his attention problems which Malawians face.

“Sometimes, the government’s attitude forces the CSOs to resort to demonstrations. Demonstrations are our constitutional right and nobody should stop us from demonstrating, as long as we hold peaceful demonstrations.

“The President must demonstrate that he is willing to meet and discuss with us. We wonder why he is interested in dialogue now. Is it because we are approaching elections’ time and somebody does not want to dent his image through demonstrations?” Mkandawire said.

He cited the July 20 2011 demonstrations when CSOs failed to reason with the then leadership on the need for dialogue, arguing that demonstrations were a last resort.

“This is also the case with the current administration. But the government can prevent us from demonstrating if it strives to resolve things which we raise with it,” he said.

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