, 28 June, 2020 / 11:30 PM
Bishops in the southeastern African nation of Malawi have congratulated the country’s newly elected President, Lazarus Chakwera, following his victory in the presidential election rerun of June 23 and hailed various stakeholders in the electoral process for overseeing the poll.
“We wish to extend our hearty congratulations to His Excellency Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, President-Elect of the Republic of Malawi and Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima, Vice President-Elect of the Republic of Malawi,” the members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) said in a collective statement issued Saturday, June 27.
“We strongly call upon them to live up to their promises and be committed to fighting corruption, enforcing the rule of law and Constitutionalism, quality public service delivery, economic development for all which is a true meaning of leadership which is at the service of citizens and national unity,” the Bishops in Malawi add in their two-page collective statement availed to ACI Africa.
Malawi’s Electoral Commission (MEC) Saturday, June 27 declared opposition alliance leader Lazarus Chakwera the winner of the country's presidential election rerun.
The announcement came four days after Malawians returned to the polls almost five months after the constitutional court annulled the results of the May 2019 vote over irregularities.
Chakwera who was sworn-in Sunday, June 28 secured the required mummers, with 58.57 percent of the votes, beating the incumbent Peter Mutharika who garnered 41.43 percent, according to reports.
“My victory is a win for democracy and justice. My heart is bubbling with joy," Chakwera said after his win was announced. The declaration sparked wild late night celebrations on the streets of the capital Lilongwe, his stronghold.
In their June 27 statement, the Bishops who represent the eight episcopal Sees in Malawi have “duly recognized” the critical roles played by various stakeholders in the holding of free, fair and transparent elections in the country.
“We particularly applaud the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), Malawi Defense Force (MDF), Malawi Police Service (MPS), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), the media and the citizens for attaining this democratic milestone amidst political, institutional and financial hiccups and uncertainties,” the Church leaders say in their statement.
They note that MEC "has displayed a very high level of professionalism in presiding over the fresh election. It is further gratifying and commendable that the newly constituted MEC effectively delivered the election while facing acute financial deficiencies. Such competence and exquisite capacity in handling the polls has restored the public trust in election management in Malawi.”
The Church leaders have also commended the Malawi Defense Force (MDF) “for bolstering the security in safeguarding the vote as well as protecting the citizens, voters and polling staff during polling and subsequent exercises like vote counting, transmission of results and tallying.”
“It is also imperative to note that the Malawi Police Service (MPS) demonstrated exceptional professional standards in dealing with criminal activities during the Election Day,” the Prelates observe and continue, “We commend the MPS for enforcing law and order.”
The Bishops in Malawi, “commend the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and all faith-based bodies for effective observation of the election to enhance its credibility.”
They continue, “Media practitioners, particularly the private media, should also be applauded for professionally informing and educating Malawians on the fresh polls through responsible reporting.”
The Bishops also congratulate Malawians “for being steadfast in jealously guarding against their vote,” adding that “Such vigilant and active citizenship cannot go without notice.”
Chakwera who has won a five-year term as President of the nation of 18 million people will first have to heal a nation that has been through many months of political turmoil.
Malawi, which is the second African nation to annul a presidential election over irregularities, after Kenya in 2017 has been hailed for holding peaceful elections.
It is the first African nation to have an opposition candidate go on to win a rerun after elections had been annulled.
The 65-year-old President has previously served as a Pentecostal preacher and theology lecturer.
Leading a nine-party coalition, the Tonse Alliance, President Chakwera had the backing of former President Joyce Banda as well as the country's vice-president, Saulos Chilima, as his running mate in the polls.
His historic election has attracted reactions from Malawians who are hoping for significant changes in the lives of citizens.
“The new President is a God-fearing man, a Pastor and we have trust in him that he will end nepotism, tribalism and corruption etc, that the former government used to be known for,” Prince Henderson, a Catholic in Malawi told ACI Africa in an interview.
He added in the June 28 interview, “The combination of Dr. Lazarus Chakwera and Dr. Saulos Chilima is very good and I have trust in their leadership that they will obviously deliver.”
Reacting to the election of Chakwera, Nairobi-based Malawian Cleric, Fr. Emmanuel Chimombo expressed appreciation for the electoral process saying, “I feel proud to be a Malawian. It has been a free, fair process that has taken place and I think people should be happy with the outcome.”
“The people have spoken through the way they turned up for this election and the environment was quite conducive, of course, with some challenges and change has come,” Fr. Emmanuel who coordinates the Pastoral Department of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) told ACI Africa Sunday, June 28.
He added in relation to the electoral process, “I know it cannot be good news to everybody but the fact that the process has been followed thoroughly and every mistake that was seen previously has been corrected is a true show of democracy.”
Fr. Emmanuel called on the new regime to “live up to the expectations of the people because they are there to serve the people, adding that the elected leaders "must not detach themselves from what they have promised.”
“Malawians want a good Malawi for them, a Malawi that everybody would be proud of. And the justice that has been shown by the court, by all these people who have taken hand to bring change should be maintained,” Fr. Emmanuel told ACI Africa.
Meanwhile, in their June 27 collective statement, the Bishops in Malawi pledge “to continue praying for peace, unity and harmony in this country,” inviting all the faithful “to continue praying for the same.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa