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Widespread violence ahead of presidential poll

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By Audrey Kapalamula and Rebecca Chimjeka:

JAMES KADADZERA

Waves of political violence have characterized the first month of the campaign period as Malawi races towards the court ordered Fresh Presidential Election (FPE), which is likely to take place on June 23, 2020.

In the recent incidents, running mates of the two major electoral alliances have been targeted.

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After the convoy of State Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima was attacked in Phalombe and Mulanje on Friday, there were ugly scenes of violence at Mponela in Dowa yesterday, where angry people reportedly intended to block the convoy of Atupele Muluzi running mate to President Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

Chilima is partnering Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) on the presidential ticket under the Tonse Alliance.

The irate people started blocking the M1 road at Lumbadzi in Lilongwe, through to Mponela in an alleged attempt to stop Muluzi from proceeding to Kasungu where he conducted a whistle stop rally.

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MCP’s Secretary General Eisenhower Mkaka, said in an interview that people who blocked the road at Mponela were not organized, but indicated the party suspected that they were reacting to the violent attacks on Chilima and Daudi Suleman in Machinga.

Saying: “Our suspicion is that the people reacted to the stoning of Dr. Chilima in Phalombe and Suleman at Liwonde. In this day of technology information is travelling at the speed of light.

The information about the stoning went to all the corners of the country as soon as it happened. It was even reported by BBC.”

The move was however foiled by police, with Muluzi later making it to Kasungu on his way to Mzuzu, under heavy security escort by the Malawi Police Service military vehicles.

While Chakwera and Chilima preached peace at their rally in Zomba, Muluzi flashed the blame card during a press briefing he held at his Area 3 residence before his departure to the Northern Region.

“I want this to be known to the whole world that these are people that have been perpetuating violence for the past twelve months, it’s very unfortunate that this is the type of Malawi they want. It is very clear that they recognise that they will lose this election,” he said

National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera yesterday confirmed the chaotic scenes of violence but did not divulge more information.

“The ugly scenes by some irate people were our police officers went on the ground and managed to control the situation. We should thank other stakeholders in safety and security who came in with their support to control the situation,” he said

Muluzi in his address seemingly towed a line of blame game initiated by Mutharika, who in a statement on Friday, through his spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani said the violence in Phalombe and Mulanje was in retaliation to the verbal attacks by opposition leaders at a rally in Blantyre on the ruling party.

“The political violence on Friday comes on the background of opposition party leaders and their supporters celebrating and praising the violence opposition-sponsored hoodlums inflicted on innocent DPP supporters who were innocently escorting the President’s convoy in Ndirande Township recently,” Mutharika’s statement adds in part.

Reacting to Muluzi’s remarks, Malawi Congress

Party’s (MCP) Publicity Secretary Maurice Munthali brushed off Muluzi stressing the Tonse Alliance is an embodiment of peace.

“He must be very ashamed to have said those words. We are peaceful as Tonse Alliance and we have been preaching peace. Why there must be change in this country is because people are tired of political violence, corruption, nepotism and killings. He should stop taking Malawians for granted. Who does not know that their parties have been synonymous with violence,” he said

Writing in a separate statement signed by its Publicity Secretary Joseph Chidanti Malunga, the UTM has called on its supporters to remain calm even when provoked.

“What we are witnessing is a series of acts of a cabal of thieves and thugs who will stop at nothing to avoid the imminent elections… their wishes must not be granted because the bigger story is the emancipation of Malawians from the myriad of problems being faced at the moment,” reads the statement in part.

Meanwhile, Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiative has condemned the violent acts while calling on Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) to warn political parties to desist from such actions as the country heads towards the FPE.

Acting Executive Director for the organisation Sylvester Namiwa also said pleaded with political parties and their youth to follow all necessary procedures backed by law and present their grievances other than taking revenge which might affect innocent Malawians.

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