CSOs, govt conclude dialogue

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Civil society organisations (CSOs) and the Presidential Dialogue and Contact Group (PDCG) on Tuesday said they have concluded United Nations (UN)-mediated dialogue on the 20-point July 20 2011 petition.

However, in a joint statement, the two sides failed to agree on the country’s foreign exchange shortage and the unfair coverage on State-owned Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) radio and television.

In an interview on Tuesday, head of the CSO negotiation team Voice Mhone said his side is yet to meet to decide whether agreements made so far would satisfy Malawians and to find a possible way forward.

The joint communiqué by the two sides released through the UN office in Lilongwe said among the issues resolved or concluded are the reopening of the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, the motorcade for the Vice-President, First Lady’s compensation package, Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) scandal, unexplained public servants’ wealth and President Bingu wa Mutharika’s assets declaration.

But the communiqué fell short of explaining how the other issues have been resolved, with Mhone saying the two sides are expected to unpack their resolutions at a press conference in Lilongwe on Wednesday.

“We have indeed concluded the process and reached a consensus on each of those issues except two—the forex shortage and the MBC issue. Some of the questions and how we have resolved the issues will be answered during the joint press conference,” he said.

According to Mhone, the joint communiqué is just a summary of the resolutions while this Wednesday, the two sides are supposed to present a substantive position paper.

On the March 28 deadline which the CSOs gave government to resolve the issues raised and which expires this Wednesday, Mhone said after presenting and explaining the agreements in detail, CSOs will call a conference to discuss the outcome of the dialogue.

On how the CSOs dialogue process fits into the recent resolutions from the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) asking the President to resign within 60 days or call a referendum on his leadership within 90 days, Mhone said the CSOs’ interest was mainly to see the dialogue process concluded.

The communiqué, signed by Mhone himself, head of the PCDG retired Anglican Archbishop Bernard Malango and the facilitator, UN under-secretary and director general of the UN office at Nairobi, Sahle-Work Zewde, follows a meeting between the two sides on Saturday and Sunday in Lilongwe.

The statement says the primary objective of the meeting was to chart and agree on a roadmap for the dialogue process and outline realistic targets, clear benchmarks, time frames, monitoring mechanisms and strategies to engage with the wider constituencies and other stakeholders.

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