UN mediates in Malawi conflict

Facing protests

The United Nations in Malawi yesterday facilitated the first meeting between civil society groups and a committee appointed by President Bingu wa Mutharika to end the emerging political crisis in the southern African nation. A joint statement between civil society groups and the Presidential committee on dialogue has since been released.“Parties agreed that the protests could be held within four weeks, they parties further agreed that the date may be reviewed depending on the progress of the initiative of the dialogue,” the communique read in part.The parties also agreed that if dialogue fails, the demonstrations can be held within four weeks. Meanwhile, as the parties were meeting, the Church took on President Bingu wa Mutharika during prayers in Blantyre.“If one person thinks he has all the solutions to the storm we are experiencing then he is the most stupid and foolish…if we feel that we have more authority than everyone and we begin to threaten one another that is wrong,” Bishop Joseph Zuza, chairman of the Episcopal conference of Malawi said.The Bishop made the remarks in the presence of the President and his senior cabinet ministers who attended the prayers.“As a nation, we chose multi-party and let us refuse dictatorship,” he said.President Mutharika has been accused of being intolerant to criticism. The British High Commissioner to Malawi described the President as becoming autocratic which earned him an expulsion from Lilongwe, the first ever in a commonwealth African nation.Tension across the major towns remained high as banks, shops remained closed. There was heavy police presence in Lilongwe, the capital city that witnessed some of the worst riots in recent years.Police killed 19 people died during last month’s when civil rights groups organised protests against President Mutharika’s rule.