17 May 2014

Malawi: No Presidential Hopeful Visits Likoma District to Campaign - Voters Feel Sidelined

Likoma — With only a few hours before the campaign in the May 20 Tripartite Elections closes, people of Likoma Island have expressed concern that none of the 12 presidential candidates has gone to the district to engage with the voters.

Registered voters on the island interviewed randomly said they feel sidelined because none of the presidential aspirants has gone there to articulate their plans on how they intend to address challenges faced by people of Likoma and Chizumulu islands.

Voters in the hugely infrastructural underdeveloped district hoped to find relief in their ballot on May 20, but the seemingly lack of interest in the islands by the would-be presidents has become a cause for worry to most islanders.

They wonder why most of the candidates have managed to visit other districts several times but not even a single visit to Likoma District.

Incumbent President Joyce Banda was to be the only candidate to visit the islands last

Saturday (May 10) but her trip was cancelled due to the fact that the schedule had coincided with the Njamba Prayers on the same day, where her presence was also highly required.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Vice President, Richard Msowoya, who was tipped to visit the islands on Thursday, May 8, 2014 failed to show up on last minute for unexplained reason.

Out of 10 people (including two local chiefs and business people) interviewed, eight felt the development means they, as Likoma voters, "mean nothing in the eyes of the presidential aspirants".

The other two said it was costly for presidential aspirants to go to the islands saying they would need to spend millions of Kwachas on transport and other logistics.

Brenda Nyirenda of Mnyanje Village said: "it doesn't matter as far as I am concerned because it is MPs who should bring developmental agenda in parliament and not presidents."

But Group Village Headman Mwase and Group Village Headman Chilongola said this was a missed opportunity for the presidential aspirants to appreciate the unique challenges that Likoma District faces.

Likoma and Chizumulu Islands attained district status in 1999. But since then, the district has nothing worthy pointing at to befit its district status.

There are inadequate government offices; there is no district hospital; no banking system; no fuel filling station; no jetty and no permanent road network.

The voters expected the 12 candidates to at least conduct one or two rallies on the island to articulate what plans they have for the islands, and assure them that they are actually not denied the national cake.

"Voting for a candidate that has made no appearance on this island is like paying a bride price for a bride you have never laid your eyes on," said one registered voter.

"To us, it shows we really don't matter. And maybe Likoma is not even part of Malawi according to the 12 candidates.

"We have been ignored for the whole 50 years of attaining independence and the whole 15 years that we have been a district. These polls meant a lot to us. But now we are not sure anymore," bemoaned Akuzike Mengesi of Chimota area.

Likoma and Chizumulu islands are touted by many as tourists' haven if developed. It is believed tourism on the islands would generate forex to the country which relies on donors for budgetary support.

There are about 6, 800 registered voters on the two islands. Since Malawi uses first-past- the- post electoral system, the winning candidate is simply the person who wins most votes, even by mere two votes. Therefore, the Likoma vote cannot be underrated.

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