Inspired by Kenya, Malawi Religious Leaders Propose “Handshake” to Key Political Rivals

Mediation team in Malawi meets President Peter Mutharika on dialogue toward peace
Credit: Public Domain

The March 2018 unexpected decision by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and main leader of opposition coalition Raila Odinga to put their differences aside and unite through a “Handshake” that restored peace in the East African nation after months of divisive post-elections politics has inspired religious leaders in Malawi.

The religious leaders who have been meeting to seek ways to restore peace are calling on political rivals in their country to come together in the interest of moving the landlocked southeastern African country experiencing months of post-election turmoil back on its two feet.

 “We are encouraging a “Handshake” between the government and other political party leaders,” the chairman of the mediation team in Malawi, Archbishop Thomas Luke Msusa told ACI Africa.

“We want the political leadership to take the example of handshake that was done in Kenya to help the country,” Archbishop Msusa added, recalling the cessation of hostilities following the coming together of Kenya’s key political rivals after two disputed and quite divisive 2017 elections.

Malawi has been witnessing divisions and unrest that take the form of violence following the May 21 disputed elections that saw the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) declare the incumbent President Peter Mutharika winner with a narrow margin

“We are trying to have dialogue with the government and other political party leaders but it is very slow,” Archbishop Msusa said.

“I know it takes time, but we are hopeful that through this dialogue the country will experience peace once again,” the prelate said expressing the need of encouraging the seeking of common grounds between the different party leaders, guided by what unites more than what divides.

The mediation team spearheading the dialogue process comprises three representatives of the Islamic faith, three representatives of the Malawi Council of Churches and the Catholic Church represented by Archbishop Msusa.

The Public Affairs Committee (PAC), which is the mother body of all religions in Malawi appointed the various religious representatives. The Executive Director of PAC is part of the mediation team.

“We have finished the first round of dialogue, we met with the human rights commission, the leaders of the three prominent parties each on its own and then we met the president,” Archbishop Msusa told ACI Africa in reference to the stakeholders in the peace mediation efforts in Malawi and added, “each group explained why they are demonstrating and why they are not happy.”

A common concern being the election process as overseen by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), the Malawian Prelate confirmed, “All the parties raised their concerns and what came out is that, some people feel that elections were not managed very well, that there was too much rigging and the Electoral Commission did not follow other laws that were supposed to be applied.”

“Other political parties do not recognize him (President Mutharika) as the president of the country but the president of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP),” Archbishop Msusa said.

Reporting about the results of the previous meetings, he said, “We have compiled the feedback we received in the first round of dialogue from all the parties, the human rights and the president. We have given each party even the president the compiled copy to go through.”

“In the second round we are going to invite two leaders from each party who are going to meet and iron out the issues to be discussed or not to be discussed from what we (mediation team) have compiled,” Archbishop Msusa disclosed and added, “after that we will then find a neutral place for the president of the country and the presidents of other parties to come and face each other.”

“Apart from meeting the president and other political leaders, the mediation team has also met with Electoral Commission who were managing the elections,” he clarified.

This is the first time that Malawi is experiencing post-elections violence, the Archbishop confirmed saying, “We took for granted that Malawi is the warm heart of Africa … it is a wake-up call that we should not take for granted especially now that 60% of the population are young people who do not have jobs and want to participate in these public wars it is really a wake-up call in Malawi.” 

The judgement on the disputed elections results, which is still in court, is expected to be delivered in December.

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
[email protected]