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Sustainable peace ahead of 2019 polls

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By Watipaso Mzungu, Contributor:

NAPHIYO — Misunderstandings have potential to work against peace

With less than eight months before Malawi’s second tripartite elections, the temperature continues to rise on the political scene.

In homes, drinking joints and temples, politics and the polls make the foremost topic of discussion as people interact.

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However, one sticky issue Malawians do not discuss is how they will maintain peace and tranquility during and after the elections.

National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Public Trust Regional Civic Education Officer (RCEO) [Centre], Christopher Naphiyo, says this is where the problem is.

Naphiyo warns that an election is an emotive exercise and the probability of it driving people into conflict is high as aspiring candidates battle for positions.

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He observes that although Malawi has relatively been peaceful, incidences of violence, hatred and intimidation have been common. Political violence is the most common and revolves around elections and electioneering.

“Some political campaigns have been marred by cases of harassment and intimidation after political hate speeches that have encouraged some misguided party followers to engage in acts of violence.

“Misunderstandings emanating from acts of recording details of and snatching of national identification cards and voter registration certificates also have the potential to work against the peace that Malawi has enjoyed over the years of independence,” he says.

Naphiyo adds that block booking of campaign venues is another vice that may plunge some parts of the country into chaos.

“This was experienced even during the latest by-elections in Milonde Ward in Mulanje District,” he says.

On September 21 every year, United Nations (UN) member states commemorate International Day of Peace to recognise efforts of those who have worked hard to end conflict and promote peace.

The UN General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and people.

On this day, people around the world organise and take part in activities centred on the theme of peace.

These include peace prayers, public debate, panel discussions, observing ceasefires, peace vigils, media out-reach programmes, peace forums and lighting of candles.

Additionally, UN member states adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 because they understood that it would not be possible to build a peaceful world if steps were not taken to achieve economic and social development for all people everywhere and ensure that their rights are protected.

The SDGs cover a range of issues, including poverty, hunger, health, education, climate change, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, environment and social justice.

Young Politicians Union (YPU) National Director, Clement Makuwa, says this year’s theme calls for key stakeholders to move to the rural areas where messages and the need for peace has to be emphasised.

Makuwa adds that political intolerance might be a recipe for fierce political violence.

“Failure to engage the masses on peace ahead of the 1999 elections resulted in violence. This should not happen again. It will be unfortunate if it does,” he explains.

There is no denying that politicians contribute significantly to the breakage of peace in Malawi.

For instance, there is a tendency among politicians to create ‘fortresses or strongholds’ and they would do anything to safeguard them against any ‘invasion’ by other parties.

This calls for institutions like Nice Trust, Public Affairs Committee, Church and Society, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Islamic Commission for Justice and Freedom to assume a bigger role in the national quest for sustainable peace.

CCJP National Coordinator, Boniface Chibwana, says incidents of violence registered so far are not welcome as Malawi progresses towards 2019 elections.

“This scares away people. We implore all electoral stakeholders to guard against any use of inflammatory,” Chibwana says.

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