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Bishop rejects govt charges of sedition: The Church of England Newspaper, March 23, 2012 March 23, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of Central Africa, Politics.
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Bishop James Tengatenga

The Bishop of Southern Malawi has repudiated government claims that a meeting of the country’s religious leaders last week sought to foment a coup against President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Bishop James Tengatenga told the opening session of Malawi’s Public Affairs Committee (PAC) held at the Limbe Catholic Cathedral parish hall on 14-15 March 2012 the stated theme of the meeting: “Time to reclaim our destiny-seeking redress to our political and economic challenges,” was not a call for insurrection.

The meeting of church and civil society leaders, academics, and aid workers and businessmen sought to find “effective solutions and plans” to resolve the economic and political “plight” of Malawi.

“Reclaim does not mean remove…the word does not imply any intention to stage a coup on the current regime,” the bishop said, according to reports of his speech printed in the Malawian press.

However, the Church of England Newspaper was told that police searched those entering the building, and throughout the conference riot police patrolled the streets of the country’s two principal cities: Blantyre and Lilongwe.

Last week presidential spokesman Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba told reporters the PAC meeting was a gathering of “plotters and opposition politicians who are plotting regime change” with the help of foreign aid donors.

In his keynote address to the PAC meeting, Bishop Tengatenga said: “We gather here today to take a resolve to maintain the original vision of consolidating democracy, and to rekindle the original motivation to reclaim the future we have always wished to see.”

In a democratic a society the people had the right to question the authority and competence of “any regime at any particular time–for all leaders rule based on trust bestowed upon them by the Malawian society.”

Citing the text of the country’s constitution, the bishop said “the authority to exercise power of the state is conditional upon the sustained trust of the people of Malawi and that trust can only be maintained through open, accountable and transparent government and informed democratic choices.”

These words gave groups like PAC the right tocriticise authorities or to withdraw the authority to govern.”

Since the 2009 elections that cemented the power of President Mutharika and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party the country has seen a sharp deterioration of its economy, primarily caused by skyrocketing fuel prices.  The government has clamped down on criticism, which led to a break in relations with many foreign aid donors including the U.K.

“Things have fallen apart economically and politically,” the bishop told the meeting, and it was not time to “reclaim our destiny.”

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

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