Fight Against Corruption by Malawi President Divides Ruling Party, Thus Threatening Political Stability



(lilongwe, Malawi November 19, 2004) The fight against corruption led by President Bingu wa Mutharika is dividing the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF), with some experts warning of a threat to Malawi’s stability.

“The division within the UDF is causing a threat to our young democracy. The problem is that there are some big people in the party who think that we are still in the one-party system of government, where there is no separation of powers between the state and party,” said Public Affairs Committee Chairman Father Boniface Tamani.

Tamani, whose religious organisation was highly critical of former president Bakili Muluzi’s record on tackling graft, said, “any sensible Malawian will support the president on the stand he has taken to get rid of corrupt officials”.

“The UDF accuse Bingu of not supporting the party [because of his anti-corruption drive, but] the president is just setting the record straight – he is distinguishing between state and party functions,” Tamani added.

Muluzi, who handpicked Mutharika as the UDF’s election candidate after his constitutionally limited two terms in office ended this year, has retained leadership of the UDF, which he helped to form.

Since Mutharika’s May election victory, splits have emerged between Muluzi loyalists and their cabinet colleagues in Malawi’s new broad-based government. At least five senior UDF figures are currently facing criminal charges, including former finance minister Friday Jumbe.

This week the bickering took a turn for the worse when UDF executive member Dumbo Lemani, together with John Chikakwiya, UDF governor for the Southern Region, alleged that the party had rigged the May elections that put Mutharika into power.

“Where were they all this time, to only now admit the results were rigged? These people are doing it for their own agenda,” commented Tamani.

Political analyst Rafiq Hajat said, “We are at a crossroads. We are seeing a revolution based on parties, based on personality issues. When you personalize political issues, in the long run things disintegrate and this is what is happening in Malawi.

“In an initiative to heal the divisions in the party, government spokesperson Ken Lipenga confirmed that Mutharika had written to Muluzi proposing a committee to sort out their differences. Muluzi, according to Lipenga, has accepted the proposal.

The UDF has been in power since multiparty elections were first held in 1994, after three decades of authoritarian rule under Hastings Kamazu Banda and his Malawi Congress Party.

Copyright UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004 (IRIN). This story was originally published by the “Africa-English” Service of the UN’s IRIN humanitarian information unit at http://www.irinnews.org/Report.asp?ReportID=44242 , but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, contact e-mail: IRIN@ocha.unon.org or Web: http://www.irinnews.org. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Reposting by commercial sites requires written IRIN permission

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