Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Justice Jane Ansah on Saturday hailed the presidential candidates for their commitment to ensure that there should be no violence during the polls and hailed those who attended prayers for peace and peace declaration signing which Public Affairs Committee (PAC) organised in Lilongwe ahead of the May 21 elections.
Presidenial hopefuls at prayers for peace and peace declaration signing which Public Affairs Committee (PAC) organised in Lilongwe
Those who have signed the peace declaration are Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, UTM's leader Saulos Chilima, United Democtratic Front's Atupele Muluzi, John Chisi of Umodzi Party, Revelend Hardwick Kaliya (Independent) and Peter Kuwani of Mbakuwaku Movement for Development (MMD).
President Peter Mutharika shunned the prayers for peace and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have not signed a peace declaration document.
"Attending these prayers is not only a testament of your faithfulness in God, but your commitment to credible, fair, transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections," said Ansah, a faith leader in her own right.
" The commission is pleased with this commitment because it underscores all our preparations and management for the elections," she said.
Mutharika's running mate Everton Chimulirenji was however at the event but rather obscure.
MEC chaiperson Ansah believes the elections will be free and fair and without violence since the process has been committed in God's hands.
She, however, reminded aspirants that they should bear in mind that there can be only one winner.
The Lilongwe Peace Declaration (LPD) document that the leaders have signed is compelling them to put to an end to the polarisation, divisions, conflict and intolerance that have recently characterised the country's politics.
It is also asking them to build a society that is free of violence, fear, intimidation, hate, patronage, corruption but rather to build a community that is founded on justice, fairness, openness, transparency dignity and equality.
"We do declare that ahead of and immediately following the tripartite elections on May 21, we shall emphatically and publicly speak out against all acts of elections-related-violence, impunity and injustice. We will seek to collaborate with the Malawi Police Service (MPS) and allied law enforcement and security agencies to professionally discharge their duties without fear or favour," reads the declaration in part.
PAC chairperson Reverend Felix Chingota said the quasi-religious body believes all leaders who have signed the document will be guided by their own conscience.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident coordinator Maria Jose Torres commended political party leaders for committing themselves to a peaceful electoral process.
"I commend you for your commitment to sign here today an agreement pledging to uphold peace during and after the elections. I also commend PAC for taking this initiative, which highlights PAC's steadfast dedication to strengthening structures for peace. Today's events builds on previous PAC initiatives such as the 2014 Lilongwe Peace Declaration which was an important tool in fostering dialogue and building trust during the previous election and recognized internationally as an example of best practice," she said.
Torres said the elections present yet another opportunity for Malawi to demonstrate to the world how mature its governance processes have become and that elections can indeed take place peacefully.
"Let us all be reminded that maintaining peace and security, upholding human rights and democracy, is a collective responsibility. And together, we need to get it right. It is the long term good of the nation that is at stake as well as progress on the country's development agenda. Political violence and the turbulence this would cause to the country would do much short and long-term harm to the nation and its people."