What will Malawi learn from Kenya?

‘I will do a Kibaki’, says Malawi leader
Nyasa Times Jan 4, 2008

President Bingu wa Mutharika has praised Kenya’s ‘illegitimate’ President Mwai Kibaki and insinuated at Malawi’s opposition parties promising to apply what he described ” Kibaki tactics” during the 2009 general elections in order to hold on to power.

A source who attended Mutharika lavish New Year’s party organised for his relatives and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials at Sanjika Palace on Monday, heard the President talking to Minister for Presidential and Parliamentary Affairs, Davis Katsonga and acting DPP Secretary General, Hetherwick Ntaba.

“After getting sloshed, the President was loudly heard telling [Davis] Katsonga and [Hetherwick] Ntaba that he is resigned to do ‘a Kibaki’ in 2009 polls,” said our source, opting for anonymity.

The Malawi leader chose Malawi Electoral Commissioners – charged with the task of holding a free and fair 2009 general elections – without consultations with the opposition parties, a move aimed at having commissioners who can easily be twisted by his orders.

The opposition Malawi Congress Party [MCP] and United Democratic Front [UDF] cried foul and obtained an injunction restraining Mutharika from swearing in the commissioners for clearly breaching a constitutional provision.

The High Court Judge Healey Potani is yet to pass a ruling on the matter.

Kibaki, sworn-in for another presidential term in Kenya’s disputed polls, did a similar move by single-handedly appointing a 22 man electoral commission which has failed the democratic process plunging the country into turmoil.

Mutharika – a product of rigged votes – expects stiff competition next year’s polls from formidable candidates in MCP’s John Tembo and UDF’s Dr Bakili Muluzi – former two-term state president.

Malawi is expected to hold presidential and parliamentary polls in less than 17 months time but stakeholders have complained of poor preparations and lack of levelling the playing field with public radio and television favouring governing party.

The Malawi Electoral Commission currently has only one commissioner, Chairperson Justice Anastasia Msosa, whose term expires this year. The Commission currently has no meaning, as it cannot make any decisions sanctioned under the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Act, which requires seven commissioners to form a quorum.

“The remaining two commissioners had their term of office expiring in November. This means we only now have the chair. Once their terms of office come to an end, the commissioners stop working, that is the position now at the commission,” Chief Executive Officer David Kambauwa told Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee last month.

The Commission has failed to hold by-elections in many constituencies as they fell vacant due to lack of the required numbers though the Constitution provides a window period of 60 days for the same to be held after falling vacant.

“This is why the commission has not conducted by-elections up to now, it is because of lack of a quorum. Everything being equal, we were supposed to hold the by-elections after the funds were provided in July 2006,” Kambauwa said to the Committee chaired by Respicious Dzanjalimodzi and deputised by Aleke Banda who expressed concerns.

The only major preparatory work for the 2009 general elections is registration of voters due to start in April.

Meanwhile, Malawi government chief spokesperson Patricia Kaliati, has described as unfortunate Kenya’s post-election ethnic violence that has since paralysed the east African nation and so far claimed over 300 lives of people.

Kaliati has since urged Kibaki and the one whose victory has been allegedly stolen, Odinga to find a lasting solution to the violence before more people lose their lives.

Speaking to the state radio, MBC, Kaliati said elections were supposed to be source of inspiration and not conflict as is the case in Kenya.

She said it was sad that hundreds of innocent have died in the ethnic clashes between Odinga’s followers and Kibaki’s supporters, mainly his tribesmen, Kikuyus.

Kaliati said it was the responsibility of the two leaders to ensure that they reach an agreement and immediately stop more bloodletting as the chaos is also affecting other neighbouring states.

The minister then Malawians should also learn a lesson from Kenya by loving one another as the nations draws near the 2009 general elections.

“This is a message to the continent that when conducting elections we have to conduct in a free and fair manner,” she said.

Political parties and civil society groups in Malawi have since sent a timely warning that the Kenya violence should serve as a wake up call for the authorities as the nation gears up for next year’s general elections. (Additional reporting by Josh Ashaz)

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