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Malawi Opposition Accuse President of Inciting Violence

A prominent member of Malawi’s opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) said President Bingu Wa Mutharika’s call on his supporters to “aggressively” defend him is an incitement to violence.

Humphrey Mvula, vice president of the UDF, said many Malawians are expressing concern over what he describes as Mutharika’s dictatorial tendencies.

Mutharika has often accused international donors of funding and supporting the opposition to destabilize Malawi, charges political parties have dismissed as without merit.

He has also accused civil society groups and some media organizations who oppose his “leadership style” of causing anarchy. Mutharika called on his supporters to defend him from opposition attacks and insults.

“[Mutharika] called on his supporters to defend him and to attack anyone who spoke against him, or who held him accountable in any corner of life. Being the president of the nation, he is supposed to be held accountable by the electorate and those that speak for the electorate,” said Mvula. “That is the real reason why the opposition is making those accusations that he has delivered [incendiary rhetoric] this year and last year.”

The president’s supporters said reserves the right to urge them to defend “their father” from opposition attacks. But, Mvula said Mutharika’s call was unfortunate and out of place.

“The situation is becoming unbearable where the president wants to deal with the opposition or members who don’t belong to his party, it becomes dangerous,” said Mvula. “Just imagine, if the president is asking his supporters to defend him, assault other people, [then] what will happen to all other political leaders? And, if we all start saying we should be defended by our own supporters, is that not causing anarchy?”

Mutharika has come under increasing pressure to resolve what opponents say is the economic crisis. They blame him for failing to resolve disputes with international donors, who are withholding funds to the southern African nation.

Donor support constitutes about 40 percent of Malawi’s annual budget. Analysts say the country’s previous economic gains could be derailed if the donors continue to withhold funds

Mvula said the president is to blame if the country is plunged into violence and political instability. He blames Malawi’s economic crisis on what he called Mutharika’s bad policies.

“The economic policies that worked during the first term have been thrown through the window,” said Mvula. “We don’t have a program with the IMF, we don’t have a program with the World Bank, and we are not receiving aid from the traditional donors. These are basically governance issues, bad laws and poor economic policies.”

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