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Malawi Clerics Urge Muluzi to Withdraw From Presidential Race

A group of Malawian clerics is calling on former President Bakili Muluzi to withdraw from participating in next year’s presidential elections. The group, which is called the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and comprises Christian and Muslim clerics, says Muluzi’s plans of representing the opposition United Democratic Front in next year’s general elections would be detrimental to the country’s young democracy. Muluzi reportedly stepped down in 2004 after unsuccessfully trying to change the constitution to run for a third consecutive term.

Reverend Boniface Tamani is the head of the Public Affairs Committee. From the capital, Lilongwe he tells reporter Peter Clottey that former President Muluzi should shelve his ambition to allow the country’s young democracy to flourish.

“The first reason is that I think it is the spirit of our constitution. The historical background, the idea was that Dr. Banda had stayed in power for too long; he even was saying there was nobody there to rule this country except him alone. So, the drafters of our constitution were working with that in mind. They didn’t want to see someone who comes into power and thinks he is indispensable,” Tamani said.

He reiterated that Malawians would want the country’s leadership to change hands when the maximum constitutionally allowable terms are satisfied.

“So, people wanted to have a president who would come and go and give an opportunity to other people to come and lead, people who would not think they are the only ones who have the wisdom to lead this country, but who would also want to consider other people that they have the same wisdom and diligence to kind of contribute positively to this country,” he noted.

Tamani said although former President Muluzi’s eligibility to contest in next year’s presidential elections is in court, his group has the right to tell of its displeasure with the former president’s move.

“Yes we can say that we should leave it to the court, but he himself (Muluzi) has been saying he believes that the law allows him to, and that is what he says. And this is the matter of national interest, and if he is able to comment like that, we don’t see why we cannot comment as well to say that some of us believe that the law doesn’t allow him to. But I think the constitution is a public document and therefore we have the right to comment on this, especially because the Public Affairs Committee was part and parcel of the discussion that surrounded the making of our constitution. So we know the historical background to it and therefore in a very good position to explain what was happening that time, the principles that underlie this constitution are. I think former President Bakili Muluzi is going against these principles,” Tamani said.

He denied that all Malawians regard former President Muluzi as a hero.

“I think not actually many people do say that he is a hero. May be he is a hero for some people, but for other people he is not. But even if the whole nation regards him as a hero, Clinton was a hero in America yet when time came for him to go, he went. And that is the spirit that we would like to see in our country. We want to entrench democratic principles whereby leaders come and once they go, they go out there and contribute towards peace... and not wanting to come back and making it difficult for those people who are ruling that time because they want to come back to make sure that those people fail,” he pointed out.

Malawi clerics have reportedly played a significant political role in Malawi. Calls by Christian leaders for the government to respect democracy and human rights were widely believed to have helped pave the way for the 1994 departure of former President Hastings Kamuzu Banda.