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Constitutional crisis in Malawi averted, Bishop reports: The Church of England Newspaper, April 22, 2012 p April 26, 2012

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

Church leaders have joined Southern Africa’s first female head of state in calling for calm in the wake of the sudden death of Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika. The chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, Bishop James Tengatenga of Southern Malawi told The Church of England Newspaper the “situation is hopeful” as a constitutional crisis appears to have been averted. However, “we would appreciate more prayers and support in whatever possible ways in influencing decisions” to restore “relations between the UK and Malawi.”

On 12 April 2012 the 78-year old president was reported to have died after a heart attack. However, the government did not confirm the president’s death for three days, prompting fears of a potential coup.

Concerns over a democratic transition of power to the then Vice President, Joyce Banda, were heightened after Information Minister Patricia Kaliati on Friday said Mrs Banda could not take over as head of state because she had gone into opposition. Elected vice president in 2009, in 2010 Mrs. Banda broke with the president and his ruling Democratic People’s Party (DPP). The DPP subsequently expelled Mrs. Banda from the party, but she retained her office in government and formed the opposition People’s Party.

The UK, US and African governments pressed the DPP to honour the constitution, and Mrs. Banda was sworn in to office after President’ Mutharika’s death was announced. Among her first actions was the sacking of government and police officials responsible for the harsh crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

Mr Mutharika governed Malawi for eight years, but had come under pressure from church and civil society leaders for mismanaging the economy and adopting an increasingly autocratic rule. The president expelled the British High Commissioner last year, after wikileaks published a harsh appraisal of the president sent by the High Commissioner to London. The Cameron government responded by cutting off direct aid.

Bishop Tengatenga told CEN that “all is well with us after a trying tridium. The Lord who loves the people and the land of Malawi saved us from a possible chaotic situation after the death of our president.”

“Our hope is that peace continues in our land and that the leadership works for the good of the nation,” the bishop said, adding that it was the hope of the country’s civil society leaders that the new government will take quick steps to address the “challenges facing our nation.”

“The economy needs to be set on the right path of recovery. That will require mending the fences and rebuilding the bridges that the former leadership burned as a first step. In that we hope that we can get the help that the country badly needs. It will certainly take a long time to bring the country to even keel but the first steps have to be taken. Secondly in this matter of economy, it is imperative for the new government to consult with all stake holders in order to find common solutions to our problems. Solutions exist if only the leadership will make use of all the brain power we are blessed with,” the bishop said.

Bishop Tengatenga, who was the keynote speaker at a pro-democracy conference last month stated the new government knows “what the people’s agenda is and they need to listen to the people and do their best to keep the rule of law.”

“If they will not heed that call they will find it difficult to lead the nation and we will have a turbulent two years before the general elections. They have no choice but to fulfill the necessary calls for reform,” he added.

“As we mourn our late president we cherish your prayer support so that all goes according to plan and he is buried with all the dignity he deserves,” the bishop said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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