Malawi Army Braces for Airport Shutdown Amid Calls for Ansah Resignation

Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson Jane Ansah (file photo).
19 August 2019

The Malawi Defence Force (MDF) says its soldiers will be deployed from the barracks to airports and borders to provide security in anticipation of violence and vandalism as the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) plan five-day vigils from August 26 to 30 2019.

HRDC has been leading nationwide demonstrations to demand the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah whom it accuses of overseeing a rigged vote in May whose results were marred by use of correction fluid to alter figures on results sheets.

Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, has dismissed calls for her to resign, saying she would only step down if the Constitution Court hearing an elections petition case found her leadership to have failed to discharge its duties.

The election returned President Peter Mutharika to power -- a result that has sparked four previous demonstrations and is being challenged in court by the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the UTM Party. Previous protests have turned violent and the government has said the police lack the capacity to manage them.

Speaking in an interview with a local radio on Monday, MDF spokesperson Paul Chiphwanya said the soldiers are ready to assist the Malawi Police Service (MPS) during the protests if requested to so.

On the other hand National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said they are also putting in place measures to make sure that there is security during the demonstrations.

HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo has warned that his group would hold "high level" demonstrations in strategic places such as border posts and airports if Ansah remains in office.

The airport demonstrations will be followed by a "two million march" organised in the four cities of Mzuzu, Zomba, Lilongwe and Blantyre on September 5 this year.

Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central African Presbyterian (CCAP) has since given the demonstrations its blessings, with its general secretary the Reverend Levi Nyondo the church will not sit and watch people protest the electoral fraud, arguing doing so would mean promoting injustice.

MCP publicity secretary the Reverend Maurice Munthali and his UTM Party counterpart Joseph Chidanthi Malunga said in separate interviews that they support the HRDC plan to hold demonstrations at airports and border posts.

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