, 01 February, 2020 / 4:59 AM
Against the backdrop of the imminent and much-anticipated court ruling on the presidential election petition in Malawi set for Monday, February 3, Catholic Bishops in the Southeast African country have called on Malawians to understand and appreciate the value of “maintaining peace and order.”
“Now that we are all aware that the Constitutional Court will deliver its long-awaited judgment on the Presidential Election Case on Monday, 3rd February 2020, we, the Catholic Bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) reiterate our call to all Catholics and peace loving Malawians on the importance of maintaining peace and order,” the Bishops have said in a statement issued at the end of their five-day “reflective plenary” Friday, January 31.
“Whichever way the judgment will go,” the Bishops have noted, all citizens will remain Malawians.
They have emphasized, “We urge all people to be peaceful and act as instruments of peace. We believe that our call for peace reflects the aspiration of the majority of the people in this country particularly women and the vulnerable e.g. children and the elderly in villages who are often victims of political violence.”
The election petition was filed at the Constitutional court on August 8, 2019 by the opposition, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the United Transformation Movement (UTM) on grounds of fraud in the May 21, 2019 poll that saw the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) declare the incumbent President Peter Mutharika, leader of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), winner with 38.57 percent of the vote.
MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera garnered 35.41 percent while the country’s former Vice President Saulos Chilima of the United Transformation Movement (UTM) received 20.24 percent of the votes.
“To those for whom the judgment will go in their favour, we say act gracefully and desist from using provocative words and actions that will incite violence,” the Bishops in Malawi have appealed in their two-page collective statement availed to ACI Africa Friday, January 31.
The Church leaders have added, “To those who will be dissatisfied with the court ruling, we say seek peaceful and lawful remedies.”
“To this end, we all have a moral obligation to promote and maintain peace,” the Prelates have stated and reiterated their call peace adding, “Peace is the only true direction for human progress and development built on the foundation of respect for rule of law.”
In the same statement, the Bishops who represent the eight episcopal sees in Malawi decry “the butchering of the elderly suspected to be witches or wizards” and term such acts a manifestation of “the state of lawlessness and disregard for the rule of law in this country.”
The Church leaders affirm, “We Pastors of souls, entrusted with the duty and responsibility of promoting and defending life graciously endowed to us by the Creator, we cannot remain silent in the face of this clear and direct violation of human life.”
The Prelates warn the perpetrators of the murders saying “impunity is a temporary condition” and call on the authorities to prevent further loss of lives, demonstrating “that their first and ultimate constitutional duty is to protect and defend life of all including the elderly.”
“We call upon law enforcers to pursue justice in these matters,” the Bishops have stated and added, “We call upon the Parliament to enact laws and policies that would create an environment where rights of all citizens, including the elderly are protected and defended. We call all perpetrators of these heinous crimes to conversion of heart for God ‘forgives sins’ but also ‘punishes all offences’ (cf. Psalm 99:8).”
The Bishops have also addressed reports indicating that more than 1.8 million people in their country will face hunger this year as well as concerns that some citizens are “exposed to rotten foodstuffs distributed by the very same government agency, mandated by law to provide emergency relief to the affected population.”
“We find it sinful and disheartening to hoard large quantities of precious commodities by vendors and individuals with the intent of benefitting from the future price increase as is the case now with maize,” the Bishops in Malawi state in their January 31 statement.
They add, “Let us always remember that God hears the cry of the poor and He protects the widow and the orphan.”
Decrying the failure of the economic gains registered by the country to trickle down to the grassroots, the Bishops have called on the government to, “translate the economic gains into poverty reduction for rural people and urgently support those in critical need.”
Meanwhile, at a one-day climate change workshop organized under the auspices of Trocaire and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and graced by ECM President, Archbishop Thomas Msusa, the Prelate, on Wednesday, January 29, called on Malawians to “be responsible for using our natural resources responsibly.”
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