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Malawi: Main Opposition Severs ties with President Mutharika

Malawi’s main opposition party the United Democratic Front (UDF) says it has officially severed all ties with President Bingu Wa Mutharika and his ruling party. This follows what the UDF described as the government’s use of the military to stop a recent UDF rally. But the government has dismissed the accusation, claiming the UDF caused the confusion by deliberately holding a meeting that coincide with president Mutharika’s scheduled rally, which was being held nearby in the commercial capital Blantyre.

Sam Mpasu is the spokesman of the UDF. He said the UDF decided to cut all ties with the president when he ordered the army to stop its meeting.

“We have what we call, Public Affairs Committee (PAC), which has no political axe to grind, and they have been acting as referees. They have been very active recently to get the two sides talking. But what happened last week when the president asked soldiers to come and stop a UDF meeting, the UDF lost confidence that the government is genuine about talking because you don’t talk with someone who wants to kill with soldiers,” Mpasu said.

He accused the soldiers of beating up supporters of the UDF.

“It is a traumatic experience in a country like Malawi, which has always dealt with the police and not the army because when the soldiers are out of the army, they have no time for talking, they shoot. And in fact, many of our members in Blantyre were beaten up very badly by the soldiers,” he noted.

Mpasu said the UDF has always made the effort to have peace talks with President Mutharika, but it has always been disappointed.

“If you look at recent history, it is the government that has not been interested in having any talks with us (UDF) at all. Up until now, we’ve always been willing and we’ve bent over backwards to talk with the government and they’ve always found excuse after excuse not to meet us,” Mpasu pointed out.

He dismissed accusations that the UDF is to blame for the alleged confusion at its recent rally.

“It’s utter nonsense. We’ve always had peaceful rallies in this country; at no time did we have any riot because one part was having a meeting here and the other there. For example here in Blantyre, you can have a party holding rally in one township and another party holding a rally at Makunda, it has always happened that way in the past… why should they come up now and say that a rally that was going to be held 80Kilometers away was going to interfere with a rally by the president in Blantyre? It’s just excuses, its nonsense,” he said.

Mpasu said the government should rather be blamed for using the military to disrupt UDF’s rally.

“The government tried to stop the rally, we went to court, the court agreed with us and issued an injunction to stop the police and the government ignored that and sent the army instead. Now, what do you think of a government that ignores a court’s injunction that its own police force says no sir, we cant do this, it’s illegal, it’s unconstitutional and they still used soldiers in place of the police to stop the rally?”