President Bingu Wa Mutharika of Malawi addresses the media after closing the AU summit in Uganda's capital Kampala. (File Photo - July 27, 2010)
President Bingu Wa Mutharika of Malawi addresses the media after closing the AU summit in Uganda's capital Kampala. (File Photo - July 27, 2010)

A two-day conference of religious leaders aimed at finding solutions to Malawi?s economic and political challenges is scheduled to end Thursday in the commercial capital, Blantyre.

Reverend Maurice Munthali, a leading member of the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) of religious leaders, which organized the summit, denied the objective of the meeting was to demand a change in government.

?We had two presentations, the first one being the political scenario and status of Malawi, and then we looked at the economic status of our country,? said Munthali.  ?We are looking forward to today?s presentation on the political gaps and opportunities, and it is our belief and hope that the conference is also going to deliberate on these very comprehensively before we can come up with suggested solutions and recommendations.?

The government declined PAC?s invitation to attend the two-day meeting. Religious leaders, who have attended, have come under intense pressure after government officials said the summit will propose a referendum on President Bingu Wa Mutharika?s failure to address the country?s problems.

But, Munthali said the summit doesn?t have any objectionable motives, except to highlight what he said are the lamentations of citizens.  He said the mandate of PAC?s conference conforms to Malawi?s constitutional provisions.

?We hope to get the views from Malawians about the way things are in Malawi today.  There is nothing sinister in it,? said Munthali.  ?When the conference concludes today, there will be all sorts of recommendations, suggestions and even demands by Malawians of good will.  It is our hope that every suggestion that is going to come out of this conference is going to help the economy, politics and the social life of the government.?

Munthali said it was an unfortunate decision by the government not to attend the two-day conference.

?They are the key players in as far as implementing the recommendations coming out of this conference are concerned,? said Munthali.  ?We do not understand that a very peaceful conference like this one, and very conservative in nature, cannot be attended by players from the government side.?

Mutharika?s administration is under pressure by the opposition, as well as civil society groups, to resolve what they call the ?crippling economic crisis? the country faces.

Supporters of the government say the conference is a pretext to call for mass demonstrations against Mutharika?s government.  But, Munthali maintains the objectives of the summit are to find pragmatic solutions to the country?s problems.

?Those views [from Malawians] as anyone else can predict are a lamentation of the situation at hand today.  People are lamenting over our declining and nose-diving economy [and] over the political status which is in disarray,? said Munthali.  ?When people are lamenting over what is happening in their daily lives that cannot be deemed as opposing the government.  Nobody is going to clap hands when they are going hungry.?