‘President has to commit himself to the process before we can go ahead’
As most people feared, the United Nations facilitated dialogue between Malawi’s rights groups and government, has reached a deadlock within a space of a week since the process started last week. “We can’t start talks until the other side (government) commits itself to this dialogue,” Voice Mhone leader of the activists in dialogue with government said. The rights groups are angry about recent war threats made by President Bingu Wa Mutharika. “The dialogue failed to start yesterday (Monday) because we felt the President has to be told to stop issuing threats of war while the mediation is going on…we want him to apologise and allow the process being facilitated by the UN to continue without interference,” Mhone said. The groups postponed their August 17 protests to give mediation a chance and engaged the UN to facilitate the process. The President in Blantyre declared war on his critics saying that he is ready to face them. The groups have given the President a September 21 deadline to listen to their demands, promising fresh protests if he does not address the chronic poverty that has ensnared most of the southern African country’s 13 million people. They also want the President to explain his wealth, restore diplomatic relations with Britain, and sale the private jet that he bought in 2009. Mutharika, a former World Bank economist, has seen his country lose close to $1 billion in foreign aid due to rising tension with donors made worse by his government’s violent crackdown on the July protests that left 19 people dead. The UK also suspended aid after Malawi expelled its ambassador during a diplomatic spat.