17 June 2019

Malawi: Free From Fear! Chilima Endorses Cso's June 20 Demos - Warns Police Over Harsh Response to Protests

UTM Party president Saulos Klaus Chilima (SKC) has endorsed the cause of civil society organisations (CSOs) under the banner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) who have organised nationwide mass protests on Thursday June 20 to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah and other commissioners to resign, saying his supporters are free to join.

UTM president Chilima and his vice Usi at the Masintha rally UTM female leaders: Secretary general Patricia Kaliati (l), director of women Shanil Dzimbiri and Anita Kalinde Chilima: Osaopa! UTM supporters should go to the streets and even join up with MCP in peaceful protests Part of the crowds at Masinga ground

The coalition has organised mass protests as they argue that alleges that the current MEC led by Ansah has failed Malawians; hence, the need for the commissioners to resign.

Chilima, who is the country's immediate past vice-president, is backing the calls for the immediate resignation of Ansah for allegedly failing the nation.

And speaking at a 'thank you' political rally he addressed at Masintha Ground in the capital Lilongwe on Sunday, Chilima urged his followers to turn up at the CSO's organised mass protests.

He said people have a Constitutional right and civic duty to hold peaceful demonstrations, saying the police should only protect the protestors and not give harsh response such as spraying "tax-funded tear gas".

"Demonstrations are a right and nobody should limit the space. Let us join the CSOs in the streets on Thursday," said Chilima.

In his televised rally before thousands of supporters, Chilima, who finished third with slightly over one million votes, said: "No one is saying no to demonstrations. It is a right to demonstrate and peacefully without intimidation."

He further said if there will be need for the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) to come in from the barrack, they should also be like Police to exercise their duty to protecting Malawians and that if there will be harsh response from the cops, the soldiers should protect the citizens.

"Let me warn the police to avoid intimidating people. Let the people demonstrate peacefully and don't spray teargas on them. It is their right, there is no need for teargas," said Chilima.

Chilima at the rally kept referencing the National Anthem, highlighting the party which says: "Join together all our hearts as one, that we be free from fear."

Punching his clenched fist in the air as part of UTM symbol, Chilima stressed: "Osaopa! [Free from fear".

Earlier, UTM vice president Micheal Usi said people cannot be subjected to hold their anger, saying they will demonstrate when it's bottled up.

He said people's anger is drawn from MEC's failure to handle elections in a credible manner.

"We should not accept this fraudulent election results. If we accept then we are doomed for 2024. If they used Tippex (white correctional fluid) in this election then in 2024 they will rig results using paint," he said.

Governance commentator Makhumbo Munthali said the Constitution guarantees the right to demonstrate anytime provided the right procedures are followed.

Meanwhile, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) who are also challenging the May 21 Tripartite Elections results in court, have, through their spokesperson the Reverend Maurice Munthali supported the HRDC position.

National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said the police are ready to provide security for the demonstrators once clearance has been given by relevant authorities for the planned demonstrations to proceed.

In Lilongwe, HRDC plans the demonstrations to start from Lilongwe Community Centre ground through Mchesi-Kamuzu Central Hospital-Parliament to Civic Offices while in Blantyre, the planned route is from Kamuzu Stadium upper ground through Masauko Chipembere Highway to the Blantyre district commissioner's office.

In Mzuzu, the demonstration is scheduled to start from Katoto via Mzuzu Clock Tower to the Mzuzu City Council Civic Offices and in Zomba from the community ground through Mponda Primary School ground to Zomba District Council offices.

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