United Nations (UN) has spoken on the political situation in the country saying it was concerned about the increase in violent protests across the country and the lack of a meaningful dialogue to halt the mounting tensions.
In a statement, spokesperson for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville has since urged the government and other relevant actors to urgently engage in a genuine and meaningful dialogue to address the political, social and economic grievances of the population and reduce tensions.
UN observes in the statement released Friday that there is a serious risk the situation would spiral out of control
The country has been experiencing demonstrations since the aftermath of May 21 Tripartite Elections.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has been spearheading demonstrations aimed at forcing Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson Jane Ansah to resign for alleged failure to manage the polls.
UN observes that, while initially peaceful, in recent weeks, some of the protests have become increasingly violent and that they have sometimes been met with excessive use of force.
“In some instances, security forces have resorted to the pre-emptive use of teargas prior to the start of demonstrations. One demonstrator reportedly died after being arrested and beaten by Malawi Defence Forces, and another is in critical condition after being shot by live ammunition, reportedly by police forces,” reads the statement.
The UN says a number of protesters have also been acting increasingly violent and, Tuesday, a police officer was stoned to death during a spontaneous demonstration and they have also received reports of protesters looting shops and attacking government buildings.
“We remind the Malawian authorities of their obligation to respect the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and to distinguish between violent actors and peaceful demonstrators. We urge demonstrators to express their grievances peacefully, without resorting to violence,” UN says in the statement.
UN has also reminded the authorities that the use of force during demonstrations should only be applied in exceptional circumstances, in accordance with applicable international human rights norms and standards, including the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality.
It says, in the case of violent demonstrations, “law enforcement officials may use firearms only when less dangerous means are not practicable and only to the minimum extent necessary and that in any event, intentional lethal force with firearms by law-enforcement officials is prohibited, except as a last resort to protect against an imminent threat of death or serious injury”.
UN has since said all allegations of misconduct by security forces, including those resulting in death or injury, should be investigated in a prompt, thorough, independent and impartial manner.
HRDC Chairperson Timothy Mtambo commended UN for the statement.
“What UN has done is highly commendable, they have been clear in their statement. The issues they have raised are the ones we have been condemning. There should surely be proper and genuine dialogue which has been missing,” Mtambo said.
He said they have been demanding that the international community should intervene.
“If the government is listening, it will take necessary steps. We have openly told leaders, there is absence of leadership, if President Peter Mutharika were a listening president, he could resolve the issue but every time he makes a statement, it is always a blame game,” Mtambo said.
Democratic Progressive Party spokesperson Nicholus Dausi, who is also Homeland Security Minister, said Malawi Congress Party (MCP), UTM and HRDC are the ones who have been orchestrating violent demonstrations.
“Go talk to MCP, UTM and HRDC who have been in the forefront in doing these violent demonstrations. Demonstrations are supposed to be peaceful, so let them stop,” Dausi said.
UTM spokesperson Chidanti Malunga said yesterday he was yet to read the statement but he welcomed it.
“The major issue here is the leadership of the country which has shown no dialogue. The President happens to be the main player in all this. The violence which has been happening in the country, there has been no concrete word from the President. He has been silent and there is very little interest from the government to move with dialogue,” Malunga said.
Malunga said the statements which have come from the President so far during rallies have only ended up provoking citizens.
MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka also welcomed the UN statement on the current situation in the country.
“The statement is commendable and it is long overdue. As MCP, we take it as a balanced statement which is not taking any side and calling for dialogue. There is need for genuine dialogue among stakeholders,” Mkaka said.
He, however, said Mutharika has gone out and made statements that do not go down well in the event of peace and dialogue.
“We need genuine dialogue and talk in this current political situation but, with the statements that President Peter Mutharika has been making, I don’t see it achievable,” Mkaka said.
Minister of Information, Mark Botoman, said yesterday he had not yet seen the statement.
Since Mec declared Mutharika winner of the May 21 polls, tension has been hovering around the country by several quarters who have been disputing the results of the elections.
Mec announced that Mutharika got 1,940,709 votes, representing 38.57 percent of votes cast while MCP’s candidate Lazarus Chakwera got 1,781,740 votes, representing 35.41 percent.
UTM’s Saulos Chilima came third after getting 1,018,369 votes, translating into 20.24 percent of votes counted.
MCP and UTM are challenging the presidential elections in court seeking nullification of the presidential election results.
Recently, Prophet Shepherd Bushiri, who is based in South Africa, also called on leaders in the country to unite for the sake of peace in the country as they wait for the outcome of the elections case.
Public Affairs Committee has also met Mutharika, Chakwera, Chilima, HRDC and Ansah to initiate dialogue and peace in the country but nothing fruitful has come out yet.
Former president Bakili Muluzi has also been involved in initiating dialogue and peace following the demonstrations having met HRDC and Mutharika among others but there has never been progress.