Malawi’s opposition United Democratic Party (UDF) is accusing President Bingu Wa Mutharika for undermining the country’s young democracy after some party members were arrested over allegations of coup de’tat. President Mutharika recently announced he had uncovered a plot by former President Bakili Muluzi and his supporters to overthrow his government. But the opposition says the arrests of its supporters are aimed at weakening the party ahead of next year’s general elections. Some political observes believe the UDF would be a formidable challenge to President Mutharika in next year’s elections.
The government however, said plans by the leadership of the UDF to overthrow the current government are treasonous. Humphrey Mvula is the director of research for Malawi’s opposition UDF. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the commercial capital, Blantyre that he is facing possible arrest by the police in the coming days.
“As UDF this has come as a serious set back in the democratic process because at no time were they anticipated and the manner in which they were carried out leaves quite a considerable doubt and genuiness or the truth of what may have happened. The arrests involved persons that live very valid and very diverse background. We have been told that a few brigadiers of the army have also been taken on board, and there are several other individuals who are due for arrest,” Mvula pointed out.
He said the arrests come as a shock to most Malawians.
“As a country or the UDF we are shocked, particularly since coming off in the midst of some mediation talks government and the opposition on the issues of parliament. And also if you come to think about the 12 months ahead of us where we are going to have our next elections in 2009. So, I mean this leaves a serious doubt as the political under step and where we would be going, and as and whether within the next 10 months or 12 months we should be able to reconcile and face a free and fair election,” he said.
Mvula denied being part of a plot to overthrow President Mutharika’s government as the president alleges.
“That is a serious allegation. As an individual, I have never in my life considered issues of assignation. I’m a pure democrat, and the UDF is a democratic party. I can tell you that I have been arrested 10 times during the past four years the last one was two weeks ago. I don’t hold grudges against the president, I always believe that come 2009, we can go to the polls and the winner would be decided then,” Mvula noted.
He accused the government of using the coup plot as a ploy to weaken any opposition ahead of next year’s election.
“What must be true is an attempt by the incumbent leadership to disable the opposition parties. So that come 2009, these parties are completely weakened,” he said.
Mvula described as unfortunate the opposition’s inability to stop what the government plans.
“There is very little that the party can do... I think we have been dragged back into a one-party state. We believe though that we all deserve to be part of this country. Malawi is for everyone, whether you are in UDF, MCP (Malawi Congress Party), DPP (ruling Democratic Progress Party) or whether you don’t belong to a party, this is your country,” Mvula said.
He accuses the government of preventing the attorney for those arrested to see his clients.
“The situation is dire. We’ve been briefed by the attorney in Lilongwe, Fahad Assani who has been trying to meet his clients since morning and from this late afternoon to now, but he has not been able to. The most worrisome is that all the individuals are quite advanced like myself in age and we suffer various ailments. Fahad Assani had carried medicine for the former general, but it was not given to the general,” he said.