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Malawi Clergy to Mediate Peace Talks Between Government and Opposition

Members of Malawi’s clergy are expected to meet today (Thursday) with President Bingu Wa Mutharika’s government and the opposition to try to mediate the ongoing political impasse. This comes after tensions reportedly escalated when former President Bakili Muluzi and several members of the opposition were arrested for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Mutharika government. But the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) is accusing the government of attempting to weaken the party ahead of next year’s general elections. George Mtafu is the leader of the opposition UDF in the Malawi’s parliament. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Lilongwe that he hopes today’s negotiations would be fruitful.

“The discussions between the government and the opposition in the past I would say from May to some two and half weeks ago, and those discussions actually collapsed. And that is why there was therefore this idea of bringing in external mediators to try and look at the issues once again,” Mtafu noted.

He said although some progress was made in previous negotiations with the government, there was a need for goodwill ahead of the peace talks.

“There has been a little bit of progress, but definitely not the progress to proceed. So, the mediators who have come in now, I think there is quite some hope that they will succeed. Some of the people on that panel have been mediating in a similar complex matter last year around September. They did not succeed, not that they did not succeed, but that the government side want to sign the agreement, which those people have prepared,” he said.

Mtafu said he is hopeful Thursday’s negotiations would go a long way in bringing down the brewing political tension in the country.

“We hope that with this panel now, which includes two of the people who were mediating last year, I think this grouping of five clergymen will definitely succeed,” Mtafu pointed out.

He said President Mutharika’s government should be willing to compromise to help resolve the escalating tensions in the country.

“I would say that I still do have some hope that government would make some movement. Last year we could not succeed, and that is where the mediators last year could not book a 100% success. But this year, I think government ought to move because as you would remember we were cheated last year,” he said.

Mtafu said the government failed to live up to its side of the bargain after the opposition agreed to pass the budget.

“We (opposition) agreed to make some huge movement, only to be deserted by the government. The government run away without completing the program last year. The program last year was that if we started with the budget we would then come to section 65 and then do the bills thereafter and then confirm senior officers of government. After passing the budget the government just run away, and our fear is that we might be cheated once again this year. The slogan goes or the idiom, “once bitten you are twice shy”. But we hope that the government begins to make some movement,” Mtafu pointed out.