afrol News, 12 June - The Embassy of the United States in Lilongwe, Malawi, warns against the controversial process of amending the Malawian Constitution to make it possible for President Bakili Muluzi to stand a third term. Also national organisations step up their fight against the amendment.
In a press release by the US Embassy in Lilongwe - facilitated to afrol News through the Malawian newspaper 'The Chronicle' - concerns are expressed about the political developments in the host country, especially "proposed Constitutional amendment to eliminate limits on terms of office of the President of the Republic."
- We also note with concern imposition of restrictions on assemblies or peaceful demonstrations regarding the proposal, the US statement reads. The growing civil society resistance to the amendment has increasingly been repressed, including threats against the independent press by ruling party activists. Reacting to the increasing violence, President Muluzi banned all demonstrations on the third term issue in a presidential decree - a decree found unconstitutional by one Malawian High Court but was overturned by another High Court last week.
The US embassy reminded the Malawian government of the "impressive achievements since 1994 to replace the former autocratic regime with a free multi-party democracy" realised by "the people of Malawi and their government." Several international donors have already cut their aid to Malawi reacting to the setbacks noted in this democratisation process over the last few years. The US suspended a large part of its development aid to Malawi at the end of last year in response to the deteriorating situation and increasing lack of economic transparency.
The Embassy does not criticise the proposed Constitutional amendment in itself, but holds that it must go through democratic channels as it "clearly represents an important national decision for Malawians with potential far-reaching consequences for the country."
Therefore, the US government "strongly urges a process of careful consideration of this proposal that provides for the open and unhindered peaceful participation and expression of views of all Malawians that may serve to bolster the further democratic development of their country," the communiqué warns.
Meanwhile, Malawi's Christian communities are enhancing their "war against the life presidency," according to 'The Chronicle'. Religious leaders, both Protestant and Catholic, stated they are united in the fight against the amendments, just as they had been in the early 1990's in the fight against the dictatorial leadership of lifetime President Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
Church leader and civil rights groups have also indicated they will ignore the President's ban of demonstrations on the third term issue. As most mass media are state-controlled and only the few independent newspapers report on the opposition to the amendment, the Malawian masses have so far been difficult to mobilise. Church leaders are however now planning to spread the message of protest.
Sources: Based on US govt, 'The Chronicle' through Misanet and afrol archives